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Iron Man 2

Summer is officially here, as far as Hollywood is concerned, with the release of the season’s first presumed blockbuster. This weekend, Iron Man 2 will have 133 screenings per day at 11 theaters in this market, from 10 in the morning until the last show lets out at about 3am. Clearly nothing I (or any other commentator) has to say about this sequel will make a whit of difference in its box office standing.

Still, here goes: With all of the major cast (except Terence Howard, here replaced by Don Cheadle) and director Jon Favreau returning, Iron Man 2 has everything going for it except a comprehensible script. That’s probably not enough to make much of a dent in ticket sales (it sure didn’t hurt Transformers 2), but if like me you look to a movie for more than lot of spectacular noise and images, it’s pretty frustrating.

Though credited to a single writer, Iron Man 2 plays like a movie sloppily cobbled together from a number of different story ideas, none of which are adequately developed. There are liberal borrowings from Superman 2 and Spiderman 2 as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) deals with the downside of being a world famous superhero. The government and a devious competitor (Sam Rockwell, miscast) are trying to horn in on his patents; a Russian counterpart (Mickey Rourke with an atrocious accent) seeks personal revenge; his executive assistant (Gwyneth Paltrow) wants a larger part in his world; and the technology that keeps him alive is slowly killing him. Don’t even ask about the characters played by the otherwise welcome Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson: If you’re not a reader of Marvel comic books, they’re not going to make any sense to you.

With all this going on, it’s no wonder that Iron Man 2 has little time for actual superhero stuff. The special effects are the best that money can buy, but they stymie any possibility of emotional involvement. Unlike cops and gangsters shooting at each other, when guys in robosuits battle using weapons of unknown capabilities, we don’t know what the stakes are. If you cut them, do they bleed? Damned if I know.

It’s a watchable movie just for the performances of a first-rate cast who appear to be enjoying the material without condescending to it. Otherwise, this is only marking time before Iron Man 3 and the other spinoff films you’ll be lining up for in summers to come.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Iron Man 2

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