Movie executives love it when movies do well. In fact they love when movies do well they want to do a sequel. Unfortunately, more often than not sequels rarely recapture the magic of their predecessor. Iron Man 2 does nearly everything the first film did only with more explosions and suits of armor.

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2We open the movie with a voiceover montage during the Marvel Films and studio logos depicting the events since the end of the last movie. That leads to a Russian hovel were a dying scientist is passing on his knowledge of Howard Stark to his son, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke).

Next we are reacquainted with our hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) who with a spectacle that would make Steve Jobs drool opens Stark Expo (think MacWorld Expo meets Disney World) by jumping out of a C130 and flying into the keynote event as Iron Man.

Stark is then summoned by the US Senate on the grounds that the Government should have excusive control of the “Iron Man weapon” Stark stands up to the senator (Garry Shandling) in his trademark fast talking, smooth guy demeanor that sold us on the first film. In an era where the US Government is assuming control of car companies and banks, there is something about a private citizen standing up and saying “No” to the federal government overreaching its constitutional bounds that makes you realize that it is individuals in the private sector, not government that truly work for the greater good.

However this sets up the main plot line of the government trying to acquire Iron Man, and Tony’s competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) trying to win defense contracts away from Stark Enterprises.

It is hard to imagine a better cast. In fact, this may be the most Oscar nominated cast in comic book film history. New to the cast is Don Cheadle (Lt. Col James Rhodes) who replaces Terrance Howard this time around, and while there were allusions to Rhodes donning a suit of armor, long time comic fans will be treated to more of these types of references here. Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow gets a chance to show off her acting ability moreso than in the first film where much of her talent was wasted on Downey Jr. centric scenes.

Rourke’s acting is masked behind a heavy Russian accent, but does justice to the part of the mad scientist.

One point that may be the source of much of the poor reviews is a subplot about Tony’s artificial heart poisoning him from the inside. While this does bring a slower pace to the movie it does also provide for a chance for real character development and growth. Oh and the climactic final battle is worth having to sit through some real acting in a summer popcorn muncher!

In the end Iron Man 2 sets up this franchise as Marvel’s best at the moment. With Spider-Man set for re-launch in the future, Fantastic Four stuck in some cheesy limbo and X-men having branched off into Wolverine solo films, Iron Man is the new center of Marvel’s celluloid universe. And be sure to stick around through the end to find the latest development in the Avengers Initiative!

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