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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Iron Man 2 has even more explosions and action than Iron Man, but it also ups the snarky humor and sexual innuendo. The two biggest concerns for parents are violence (while there's not much blood, there are plenty of bombs, weapons, and fights, as well as two men who are briefly shown hanging to death) and consumerism (several brands are featured again and again to the point that the movie seems like an expensive commercial for Audi, especially). Although there is only one climactic kiss, there are lots of double entendres and innuendo-filled jokes that may go over the heads of tweens and younger teens. Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, is still not the role model of power and responsibility that Peter Parker is, but he knows when and how to help. Scarlett Johansson's character is strong, but she's so objectified it's hard to think of her as a role model to young girls.
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What's the story?
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is back and more popular than ever in IRON MAN 2. Everyone knows he's Iron Man, and he's helped the United States broker peace around the world. Unfortunately, there's a dying Russian physicist who blames Tony and his visionary father Howard for his family's misfortune, so his dying wish to his son, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), is a cry for vengeance. While Tony is fending off congressmen who want to force him to turn over the Iron Man suit to outfit the Armed Forces, he's also dealing with the fact that Palladium, the element that's keeping him alive, is slowly poisoning his blood unless he can find an alternative, less-toxic element. Ivan creates his own special suit and sets out to destroy Iron Man, garnering the attention of Stark's chief business competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who commissions Ivan to develop a line of Iron Man clones. Meanwhile, Tony goes into self-destruct mode thinking his days are numbered, naming Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) CEO of his company and alienating his best friend Lt. Col. 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Don Cheadle).
Is it any good?
This franchise completely owes its popularity, unlike the '80s-'90s Batman series which kept changing its lead, to the irresistible charm of its star. Robert Downey Jr. is effortless as the playboy billionaire turned narcissistic superhero. It's the same perfect blend of actor and character that makes Johnny Depp the best part of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Luckily for director Jon Favreau (who enjoys his own role in the movie as Stark's bodyguard/chauffeur), all of the cast is up to par, even if the overall plot is a bit ridiculous (why didn't Howard Stark, played by Mad Men's John Slattery, just leave his son specific instructions to begin with?) and the game-changing revelation too easily discovered.
After all of the controversy surrounding the dismissal of Terrence Howard, Don Cheadle seamlessly slipped into the best-friend role. Scarlett Johansson's SHIELD double agent Natalie Rushman/Natalia Romanoff is equal parts Jessica Rabbit and Catwoman (it's unclear who's side she's really on for half of the movie), and Paltrow continues to be Stark's loyal, long-suffering enabler and love-interest. The villains, Rourke and Rockwell, are deliciously campy, and the more roles Rockwell gets, the better. A very tattooed Rourke smears on the Russian accent and affected mannerisms a bit too thick, but then again, so does every super-villain. For a fun, fairly mindless action romp, Iron Man 2 is a snappy start to the summer movie season, but an action masterpiece like The Dark Knight it isn't.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the immense popularity (and profitability) of comics-based movies like Iron Man 2 and superheroes. What do you think is the appeal of superhero flicks? And what's up with sequels? Why do you think almost every superhero movie has at least one sequel?
Are weapons of war glamorized in the movie? Should weapons be portrayed as that shiny and cool? What message does this send?
Ivan Vanko is obviously a criminal, but is he justified in feeling wronged by the Stark family? Who is on the right side of the argument?
Tony Stark says he doesn't need a sidekick, but in the end, he does need Rhodey's help. Is Rhodey more than a sidekick? How is their relationship different than the typical hero-sidekick dynamic? Why is teamwork an important character strength?
In the world of superheroes, Tony stands apart as a pretty selfish rich guy outside of his Iron Man persona, yet he demonstrates curiosity and courage. Discuss how he's different than other comic-book heroes like Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Bruce Wayne/Batman?
- In theaters: May 7, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: September 28, 2010
- Cast: Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
- Director: Jon Favreau
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Teamwork
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language
- Last updated: December 4, 2019
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