Tony Stark is a cool Exec with a heart of steel: unfortunately, his hardened heart is stealing his life. Jon Favreau directs this heavy metal sequel that is poisoned with clichéd characters and mind-numbing CGI sequences that are as difficult to follow as a speeding bullet, but he fortuitously allows Robert Downey, Jr. enough screen time to resurrect the boring narrative.
I won’t repeat the awful intricacies of this trite and predictable plot, but Stark must battle a poorly written racial caricature in a larger suit of armor…hey, didn’t we see this already? The movie only becomes interesting when Downey takes over the scenes, filling the empty spaces with quick-witted quips and witticisms, imbuing Stark’s enormous ego with just the right amounts of bravado and compassion. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper his Advisor/CEO/Love Interest perfectly contrasts his machismo with her dominant femininity, a woman whose skin is much stronger than his iron sheath. Sam Rockwell turns in another great performance as Justin Hammer, an industrious wannabe who indirectly challenges Stark’s empire, a tough-talking nerd who isn’t quite smart enough to figure it out…but wants all the credit. He is the antithesis of Stark, declaring moral bankruptcy for the big payday. Scarlett Johansson’s overdeveloped beauty belies her aggressive physicality but her character is underdeveloped and laughable: the whole Avengers subplot frays the already threadbare plot until it unravels. Ms. Johansson is given dialogue more apt for the typical dumb-blonde than a fiery redhead, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury vomits cringe-worthy exposition. Don Cheadle is respectable (as always) but relegated to the periphery of a story that overflows with characters.
Once again, the movie becomes less interesting when the action begins which reveals no new ground or exciting climax. Eventually, Stark discovers that Pepper is nothing to sneeze at, and this embrace makes the finale transcend the mundane mayhem. But the final scene is as subtle as a hammer blow.
Final Grade: (C-)