One thought kept running through my mind while watching Iron Man 2-–why doesn’t someone, a real life Tony Stark, revitalize the site of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens? In the film, special effects transform the rundown, rusted Unisphere and what was once the New York State Pavilion into something futuristic and magical. Lights blink, people cheer. It’s truly a Back to the Future moment, back to a time when Queens starred on the world stage.
In the film, this site in Queens doubles as Tony Stark’s Expo, a setting where Robert Downey Jr. as Stark can dazzle the crowds with his performance as Iron Man, the only person standing between chaos and world peace. Stark is a control freak like no other. His refusal to give the U.S. military his Iron Man technology earns him a subpoena to appear before a Senate committee, chaired by Senator Stern, an unrecognizable, bloated Gary Shandling. (Yes, even men can overdo plastic surgery). Stark’s argument is that no other country is even close to developing the technology. (One can’t help but think of Iran and past assurances that the country was far form developing nuclear weapons).
Enter Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, a demented Russian trying to avenge the reputation of his father, who once worked for Stark and, according to Ivan, was treated badly. Rourke, covered with tattoos, wreaks havoc on the race cars competing in the Paris Grande Prix, shearing several in half with his laser whips. We know a show down between Stark and Vanko is in the offing.
Downey is on a roll. Even when he’s overacting, something he does often in this film, he’s fun to watch. Sam Rockwell, currently on Broadway in a Behanding in Spokane, plays Justin Hammer, Stark’s rival who hopes to sew up the Pentagon’s business with his version of Iron Man. Watching Vanko’s rampage in Paris, he soon signs the Russian on to help with the project.
Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Stark’s able assistant, Pepper Potts. Scarlett Johansson, whose job in Stark’s legal department is a cover for her secret agent status, is fun to watch as she levels a troop of assassins. Don Cheadle takes over for Terrence Howard who starred in the original as Stark’s best friend, while Samuel Jackson Jr. is the mysterious agent with an eye patch directing Johansson.
The plot is paper thin and confusing. One small boy who sat behind us kept asking, “Is it over?” whenever there was a pause in the action. His confusion was understandable. Even when the film was over, we weren’t sure it was really over.
No matter. The summer movie season 2010 has begun. Anyone looking to escape for a few hours will find Iron Man 2 diverting and enjoyable. And for those who remember the 1964 World’s Fair, there are all those great scenes in Queens.