Movie News & Reviews

Over the top? That's impossible for 'Iron Man 2'

Tony Stark breaks all the rules (even the one that says superheroes must keep a secret identity). Now comes Iron Man 2, a film about secret dangers, the sins of the father and the nasty price of modern celebrity. The movie opens Friday, and here are a few tidbits to get you ready.

Soundtrack for an extrovert

Most superheroes try to keep their secret identities just that, a secret. Not Robert Downey Jr.'s Stark, who has what you might call a confetti personality (as in, "Where's today's parade?"). For director Jon Favreau, that presented fun filmmaking opportunities for Iron Man 2, and the challenge of delivering outsize moments.

"He's Iron Man, he's Tony Stark, he's going to go a million miles an hour, so what do you expect this film to be and how can we take it past those expectations? When I was watching AC/DC with my wife and my son, and they were playing Shoot to Thrill. ... I thought, 'You know, this is how he should show up, right in the middle of this and take the armor off. That's the Tony Stark version of doing things."

The scene also sets up the theme about the dark side of celebrity, but it was an expensive and unorthodox addition to the superhero film. "It was not a cheap thing to do. Whether you're blowing up a tank or landing in a rock concert, it's the same thing (for a visual-effects team); once he's moving around, he's moving around."

Earplugs ready

When it comes to firepower, Iron Man 2 is fully loaded, thanks to the new hero called War Machine.

Favreau chuckled when asked about the character of Lt. Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes, played by Don Cheadle. War Machine is the code name for the gun metal suit that was made by Stark but hijacked by the government and outfitted with extra firepower by Stark's conniving rival, military contractor Justin Hammer.

"The conversation was, 'How do you expand what's there? How do you make the sequel bigger and better?' And one way is, in essence, doubling up on Iron Man," the director said. "War Machine lets you do that."

There's a scene in the film in which Hammer lays out more than half a dozen weapons of various sizes and asks which one Rhodey wants to append to the purloined Stark armor. "I'll take it ... all of them," the military officer says.

"The fun part is the ridiculousness of it — just how many guns can you put on this thing? That's the fun part of this character. ... He's packed with firepower, and we let the (effects team) off the leash with the intensity of the destruction. The result is ... high caliber."

Does 'The end' mean the end?

Don't expect a cliffhanger at the end of Iron Man 2. Favreau says the ambitious plan by Marvel Studios to create a latticework of mythology that connects all of its hero franchises eliminates the "to be continued" option.

"I want it to be completely self -contained because a lot is going to happen between now and the next chapter. You've got Thor, you've got Captain America and you've got Avengers. I don't know how all of that is going to impact this little handmade story of ours that we've been doing over the last two films."

Marvel Studios is attempting something unprecedented in the Hollywood blockbuster sector: to make all of its films fit into a larger mosaic in which the same actors and characters will appear again and again to create a sort of connective tissue. It began with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) popping up in Iron Man and Tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk.

But being on a team means sharing the ball; the Iron Man franchise will sit on the bench for the next few years to make way for the other movies in Marvel's still-narrow pipeline.