Anyone who remembers the real-life confrontation of Howard Hughes and the late, unlamented Senator Owen Brewster over Hughes Aircraft’s “Spruce Goose” could draw a direct parallel. Tony Stark holds his own against the foul senator, much as Hughes himself stood up to Brewster. But, this is the land of comic books. Enter yet another villain – a rival in the industrial/military complex. This is Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). This guy is very, very rich, and very, very determined to undermine Stark. He is also completely inept.
The plot thickens when vodka slogging mad Russian Ivan Ranko (Mickey Rourke) is introduced along with his tattoos and his vodka-slurping cockatoo. It seems that Ivan’s papa was a gifted physicist who also invented a magic suit, and Ivan is out for revenge for his papa’s death.
Not content with that motley crew, the writer, producers and director throw in Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as Stark’s right-hand lady; Natalie (Scarlett Johansson) as some kind of karate whiz; and virtual cameo roles for Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson. With a cast like that what could go wrong? If you love comic strips not much. If you relish guys in clanging iron, copper, bronze, gold or whatever suits bashing each other, you’re in the right place. There are enough explosions, fireballs, and hand-to-hand fights to please action cravers. If you want depth and something in a lower key this is probably not for you.
The photography and effects are fine. Downey is in constant motion, and so is his mouth. He’s manic, narcissistic and compelling. Some of the snappy dialog between Tony and Pepper as they constantly interrupt one another, is funny. Rourke takes over the screen with his over-the-the top Russki impersonation. Cheadle and Jackson tend to get lost in the plot, and Scarlett Johansson might as well be Scarlett O’Hara for all we care…except that everything she wears is skin tight to enhance her, er, role.
This is the stuff of superheroes, so if you want to escape for a couple of hours and watch good triumph over evil once again, with enough fireworks for a huge Fourth of July, this is for you.