"Iron Man 2" was not without it's charms. I really enjoyed some of the new additions to the cast. Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke were all interesting (but underused) and Don Cheadle proved to be a strong replacement for Terrence Howard. Sam Rockwell's character (Justin Hammer) proved to be the stronger character of the two villains of the movie despite having no superpowers and being a complete screw up. I think having a wannabe Tony Stark take on the actual Tony Stark was an interesting touch. While I enjoyed Mickey Rourke's performance in the film, I felt that his character of Ivan Vanko/Whiplash was underdeveloped. I enjoyed Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow character a great deal as well but her appearance in the film felt more like a plug for a solo "Black Widow" film which I am sure is soon to be sent into production.
Robert Downey Jr.'s character (Tony Stark) also still rings true to the first movie and the comic books. It's hard to find fault with Robert Downey Jr. in this role. Even when Tony Stark is being a complete ass, it's still hard not to like him. That is not easy to pull off. The returning cast as well as the new cast were all great. Samuel L. Jackson's small role in the film (that of Nick Fury, a role he played in a cameo at the end of the first "Iron Man" movie) was an interesting way to link all the films in the Marvel universe ("Iron Man", "Iron Man 2", "The Incredible Hulk", "Thor", and "Captain America: The First Avenger") together for the upcoming film "The Avengers".
The CGI in the film was top notch (as it was in the first film) and I loved all the new and upgraded armor that Tony Stark and James Rhodes were sporting. It only seems logical that a character such as Tony Stark would always be updating his technology. I should also mention that director Jon Favreau once again did a fine job directing.
The film wasn't perfect though and one of the major problems with the film was the story. It wasn't that the story of the film was bad, it just wasn't all that strong either. A lot of the themes were too similar to that of the first film (a business rival as one of the chief villains, Stark's drinking problems, Stark's problems with women, ect.). As a result, much of the film felt like a rehash instead of something fresh.
While I enjoyed Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, I felt the character was too similar to the villain of the first film. Whiplash also did not to seem to be as big of a threat as Iron Monger was in the original movie. What makes matters worse is that the film basically has four heroes (Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, and Nick Fury) and two villains (Justin Hammer and Whiplash). Somehow, four on two doesn't seem as gripping as the one on one fight like in the first film. Long story short, Iron Man had way too much help in this film and I never felt like anything could happen to him as a result. There was no danger in the film for Tony Stark.
While I loved the cast, I also felt like there were too many characters most of the time. I never really got to know any of the new characters that well as a result. I think some of the characters should have been dropped and saved for a future sequel. All the new characters (and actors) deserved far more.
I felt that Gwyneth Paltrow's character (Pepper Potts) was more of a colder character in this film than she was in the last film. I don't blame Paltrow for this, this was a problem the writer (Justin Theroux) should have fixed in the script. I really liked Pepper Potts in the first movie and in "Iron Man 2", I found her character almost unwatchable at times. She just seemed to be overly nasty with Tony Stark most of the time for no reason. Still, Paltrow was a pro and made the best of the role she was given.
I also felt that the climax of the film felt a bit rushed. The last fight has over almost as soon as it began.
Anyway, I was hoping "Iron Man 2" would be as good as the first one, but the sequel lacks heart.
OVERALL GRADE: 7/10