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Iron Man 2 Lacks Original's Charm
Iron Man 2 veers sharply into "guy" territory, with explosions, gunfire and Scarlett Johansson changing clothes. Female moviegoers are stuck with... Mickey Rourke in tighty-whiteys.

On to TONY STARK! TONY STARK! who's on top of the world, because he's singlehandedly ended war and all that. But really he's feeling kind of down, what with dying and all. Turns out putting heavy metal in your chest is a bad idea. Leave it in the soundtrack, like the filmmakers did.

There's great material here, as Tony gets reckless. He gets wasted, pees in his suit, races cars, gets attacked by Mickey Rourke with electric whips... Hey, that wasn't on the bucket list! But even this wake-up call (one of the film's best scenes) doesn't stop Stark from being a drunken asshole at his birthday party. This leads to another great scene in which Tony and his buddy Rhodey (Don Cheadle) duke it out in Iron Man suits. Then Samuel L Jackson shows up and Tony finds out some stuff about his dead dad. It's the last vestige of character development before Iron Man 2 turns into a Michael Bay flick. Not that I'm complaining.

As Tony's Russian counterpart Ivan Vanko, Rourke is less believable than Jeff Bridges's Obadiah Stane. His goofy accent and two-dimensional motive (REVENGE!!!) don't help things, nor does the fact that he meets Stark only once before their too-short final confrontation, which ends with him tightly clutching the Villain Ball.

I won't get into a Terrence Howard vs. Don Cheadle debate here, but Cheadle pulls off the role with his usual gravitas. He has great chemistry with Downey's Stark, but this is sadly overshadowed by all the Avengers setup shoehorned into the plot. Near the end I briefly felt I was watching Black Widow: The Movie.

Gwyneth Paltrow is still an excellent Pepper Potts, although her overlapping, disjointed banter with Downey goes from being endearing to really annoying. Expect a resolution in the closing minutes. Sam Rockwell hams it up as a whiny Stark-wannabe who partners with Vanko, largely ineffectual but hilarious.

All in all, this is a great followup to a marginally greater film. Though failing to completely capture the original's soul, it lives up to the former's reputation and is well worth your money. See it.
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Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 follows on six months after the events of the first film and deals with the fallout of Tony Stark being the living nuclear deterrent against foreign or local powers. Countless other countries and arms dealers are attempting to replicate the Iron Man armour, including Justin Hammer who is hounding for glory and to appease the military. The only person who can replicate the technology though is Ivan Vanko who holds a grudge against Stark industries for the sins of Tony's father.

This, in itself, is a logical progression of the the story and would work well alone. The film does neglect some of the finer aspects of the character development in this story though so it can include a further sub-plot surrounding SHIELD and Tony's health. To comic fans, this does not prove to be detrimental to the overall film and I found myself, along with my friends, rejoicing and fist pumping with every call back or refernce to the Avengers. However, more objectively, this could have been dropped as the second act of the film could prove to be tiresome and irrelevant to a casual movie-goer.

This means that Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson are both criminally underused and don't have enough substance to really work with. They both do a good job in their roles but may come off as pointless and shallow to someone who does not follow comics. The other actors all do a good job with Downey's undeniable charisma being a delight to watch. Praise also goes to Cheadle for making the role of Rhodes his own and Rockwell and Rourke for their contrasting villainy of flamboyant spectacle and sinister understatement.

The climax of the film provides a spectacular firefight between Iron Man, War Machine and an army of drones that showcases beautifully the differences in their character and technique complimented by the witty banter the two share. Other than a slightly anti-climactic battle with Vanko at the end, the film's action is exhilerating and exciting and doesn't fall into the trap of being loud or obnoxious.

To conclude, Iron Man 2 is, in many ways, a private joke that rewards those well versed in the universe with something exciting, memorable and highly awesome. To others, however, it can be seen as a fun 'summer popcorn flick' that will fill a couple of hours but won't be too extraordinary. Great fun, but perhaps not as good as the first.
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