Hero Worship: Iron Man 2's Troubled Heart

In this mixed-bag sequel, Tony Stark drives himself head-on into a midlife crisis

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Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man 2

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That part doesn't work so well; it's a mash-up of Rocky IV (U.S. vs. Russia, face to face) and Transformers (Vanko's all-robot army), and when Don Cheadle joins the fray as Rhodey Rhodes, the film commits the action-movie sin of pitting a single bad guy against two heroes. The Iron Man universe also has too many characters for one movie. Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson all scurry past with little to do, though Johansson does have one brief, nifty display of martial artistry. Only Rockwell gets some welcome space as Hammer, whose bantam belligerence masks his frustration at not being Tony. Then again, even Tony's not so happy being Tony. His strongest emotional connection is with his father (John Slattery), a dead man he sees only in home movies.

Downey, a bona fide star after years of reckless living, lends a lot of his autobiography to Tony's addiction to fame; he could be a self-destructive hero out of a Dostoyevsky or Mailer novel. That portrait gives Iron Man 2 its fascination. The rest is a cluttered, clattering toy story.

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