It's not often that I sit here and find myself at a loss for words to describe a movie experience. Iron Man 2 kicks off on the right beat, delivering the exposed Tony Stark to a world that simply waits to devour all he has to offer. He's forced to contend not only with a restylized Crimson Dynamo played by Mickey Rourke, but he's also forced into far more dynamic struggles with the encroachment of a demanding U.S. Government and predatory Corporate competition in the form of "Hammer" industries. The pressure of these struggles take second stage, however, as Stark struggles with the very technology that once saved his life and is now slowly killing him. There's simply so much happening in this movie that several aspects seem lost in the shuffle, and yet there's a brilliant delivery from Favreau's direction and pacing while Downey's portrayal of Stark is never anything less than brilliant. So I'm at a loss for where to begin, where to end, and what to talk about in between all of that junk.
I think the whole thing can be summed up with the performance from Robert Downey, who so totally owns the screen at any given time. Stark is a likeable hero with a dark side... an egomaniac and a genius, he has no trouble at all with burying his insecurities beneath a thick layer of snark and then drowning that layer beneath severe alcohol abuse. Yes, Tony Stark is an alcoholic... he downs casual drinks throughout the course of the film, he becomes dangerously intoxicated at one point, and continues to seek solace at the bottom of the bottle as he comes closer to death. His acoholism is hereditary as we see his father also drown his own worries in the bottle, guzzling drinks in the outtakes from a commercial performance introducing his newest inventions. Uncomfortable with people and social interaction, Stark doesn't just put on a suit to fight crime and police the world... he hides behind the Iron Man persona and he hopes no one sees how fragile his whole world really is. But it's when he becomes lost in technology, displaying his odd understanding and obsession for the science that created his persona, that he no longer needs to dive in a bottle or hide behind the persona of a "super hero".
The only failing in this film seems to be with it's primary combat villain, with Mickey Rourkes' performance of the Crimson Dynamo as little more than a scientifically minded thug. His character is never truly explored in any further depth than to present him as an aggressive foil to the far superior performance from Sam Rockwell. Rockwell portrays "Hammer", Starks corporate rival in the arms technology business. He's a cowardly, manipulative, conniving little trend follower lost in the shadow of Starks' superior knowledge and ability. He's basically the money behind better ideas, hoping that he can take credit for someone elses' work. The two villains play off eachother well for some laughs, but Rourke comes off as cold and flawless and ultimately unreachable. The audience can actually somewhat identify with Rockwell, and his villain is the far superior despite a lack of rockets and murderous intent.
Most surprisingly, at least to me, is this film's political tone. It seems to purposefully go against the grain with a positive image of capitalism, going so far as to make some negative comments regarding the "Liberal Agenda" and promoting a very Libertarian world view from it's lead character. So while this film has action, drama, and an intense build to a brilliant transformation with it's lead character, it also carries some unique views in a market often dominated by the left leaning belief structure of the Hollywood elite.
5 out of 5.