As the release date of Iron Man 2 approached, I had my fair share of doubts. I wondered if I'd end up likening it to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise: there were hundreds of reasons why the first film should have completely sucked, but thanks to a wild-card actor and strong directorial choices, it turned into a greater film than anyone could have expected. But then, knowing what people liked from the first, they pumped the sequel full with computer-generated steroids, assuming it to be another shoe-in success but ultimately delivering a bloated mess.
Good news! That only happened to a much smaller degree with Iron Man 2!
WARNING - SPOILERS ABOUND!
Iron Man fought a huge and evil version of himself in the first one, so it makes sense that he battles a small army of similarly-equipped drones in the sequel. Because if we liked it in the first, we want to see it multiplied by ten in the second! Thankfully they justify that math pretty well, through the greedy Arms-Dealer Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell, who can do no wrong in my book) and his plot to crush Stark's technology with his own. Hammer teams up with exotic-bird-enthusiast Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke, who gives a totally passable "bad guy" performance. Predictably, he builds himself an evil-version suit, and then an even bigger one for the final battle, and I leave the theater feeling like I got my money's worth.
On that note, the Suit Case Armor is very very cool.
Outside of the armor and in the fleshy world of relationships, things are pretty hit-or-miss. I'm never quite sure what's up between Tony and Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who could name her next child Beet Farm and I'd somehow still be into her deal), but they kiss at the end so I guess everything's cool.
The toughest dynamic to read was between Stark and Rhodey Rhodes. Replacing Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle seemed like a good move, but they made his job so much harder that I'm not really convinced he pulled it off. It looked like Rhodes didn't want to testify against Tony in the opening, but then he steals a suit from him they fight at Tony's worst-part-of-the-movie-party, then gives the suit to Hammer, but gets to wear it at the Expo for some reason? And somehow they're friends again, right?
In my opinion, the best scene was Robert Downy Jr discovering the plans for a new energy source, using that funky hologram computer system in his office. Watching Robert Downy Jr. think deeply about things is massively entertaining and believable, which has gotta be pretty hard to pull off.
And yet, I found it weird that in a film where every character is telling Tony he doesn't have to bear such a heavy burden alone, he ultimately figures out to how to save his own life all by himself. The people around Tony keep reaching out to him or scolding him, only to find that all he really needs them for is blowing stuff up beside him or kissing him on rooftops.
Coming soon: exactly why Thor is super lame!