The good news for ‘Iron Man’ fans is that ‘Iron Man 2’ is about as good as the smash hit original.

The bad news for someone like me who wasn’t overly impressed with the 2008 original is that ‘Iron Man 2’ is about as good as the original.

Like the first film, the sequel is highlighted by a good sense of humor made great through the excellent performances of Robert Downey Jr.
and Gweneth Paltrow.  Downey Jr. always receives all the credit here (and he indeed deserves most), but Paltrow is essential too.  Their
chemistry is what sets both these movies above the standard fare.

The most improved aspect, and this really isn’t saying all that much, is the villain. Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko isn’t much more interesting
than the incredibly lame Obadiah Stane from the last film, but at least he has a palpably menacing presence in the film.

Perhaps more of an emphasis should have been put on his character, as at times ‘Iron Man 2’ seems to bog itself down in relatively
irrelevant sub plots. The presence of The Avengers seems a bit superfluous, and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer feels like a bit too much
of a cartoon for even a somewhat cartoon-y film as this.

The best aspect of the story is Stark’s increased blood toxicity thanks to the palladium-based arc reactor in his chest.  The addiction
metaphor is handled well, and is certainly an interesting choice for those familiar with Downey Jr.’s past problems.

Director Jon Favreau showcases a better eye for action sequences this time around, but, as you’ll notice, every improvement comes with a
setback, as the film has a few incredibly dumb moments to match.

During a sequence where Stark is attacked by Vanko at a race track, Stark’s driver and Paltrow’s Pepper Potts race to save him by driving
against traffic through the still speeding cars.  Apparently a deranged Russian psychopath destroying the track and any car in his path
doesn’t even warrant a caution flag.

That’s not to mention that bringing Pepper along is utter stupidity.

I guess it’s not any worse than when Rhodey (now played by Don Cheadle because Terrance Howard is a moron) decides that the best way
to quell a drunken and suited Stark at a party is to suit up himself and cause twice as much damage in the process.

The film does receive a large improvement in the score department, as John Debney easily tops the utter garbage that Ramin Djawadi
churned out for the original. It’s not a great score by any means, but a definite improvement.

So while ‘Iron Man 2’ retains many of the best aspects of the original film and even improves on some, it falters in enough ways to keep it
from exceeding its predecessor. ‘Iron Man 2’ is a fun film, but can really only be recommended for fans of the original.

* * 1/2
(out of four)
Directed by: Jon Favreau

Written by: Justin Theroux

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett
Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey
Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson

Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique

Music by: John Debney

Released: May 7, 2010; 125 Minutes