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Iron Man 2 (2010)
Rated PG13

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Mickey Rourke, and Don Cheadle

Rating:
****
out of
*****

2008's Iron Man surprised many people by being a financial success as well as by being relatively faithful to the hero's comic book origins. One of the keys to the film's appeal was the performance of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The character's personality traits were so similar to Downey's that he was able to deliver his lines with a palpable glee. Of course, it didn't hurt the movie any by having some of the best special effects seen in a superhero film. One thing the movie lacked, however, was an iconic villain. Iron Man 2 tries to hit on all the same cylinders as the original as well as deliver a more substantial enemy for Iron Man.

That villain arrives in the guise of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an evil Russian scientist who has a bone to pick with Tony Stark and his new-found identity as the world's peacemaker.

The film picks up approximately six months after Tony Stark revealed himself to the world as Iron Man. The U.S. government wants Stark to turn over the Iron Man suit because they fear it's much too powerful a weapon to remain in the possession of one man. Stark refuses and claims that any real threat to his suit's superiority is at least five years away. Stark is unaware that Ivan Vanko has constructed a harness with electrified whips that can slice through metal which is powered by a reactor very similar to the one that powers the Iron Man suit.

Further making life difficult for Stark is that his six month stint as the world's policeman has affected his health and his business. Stark's assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow), has become extremely frustrated at Stark's compulsive behavior and its effect on Stark Industries. A new competitor, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), has emerged and tries to reclaim the void left by Stark Industries' recent absence from the weapons market.

Like I said, Iron Man 2 tries to hit on all the same cylinders as the original film. For the most part, director Jon Favreau succeeds. Seeing Robert Downey Jr. ham it up for a second time as Stark -- with all of his likeable but eccentric quirks -- is just as fun as the first time. The special effects are just as spectacular as the first entry, if not better. And, make no mistake, Mickey Rourke's portrayal of Vanko is surprisingly nuanced and he is indeed a formidable foe for Iron Man.

So what doesn't work? The script introduces a few too many characters and can't provide sufficient quality time for all of them. The new characters, along with those returning from the original film, including James Rhoades (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrance Howard), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), make for a busy movie. As such, the action sequences seem few and far between and unusually short when they do come around for a visit.

That isn't to say that Iron Man 2 is fatally flawed or not worth seeing. Quite the contrary. It manages to avoid taking itself too seriously but remains fun without getting too ridiculous (like, say, Spider-Man 3). If you enjoyed the first movie, fear not. You can (and will) attend, have a great time, and go home satisfied. However, Iron Man 2 just doesn't produce the same "I gotta see it again" reaction as the first film.

Trivia: Scarlett Johansson dyed her hair red before she even got the part of Black Widow because she wanted the role so badly. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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