I'll admit it. I still haven't seen Iron Man 1, but Iron Man 2 stands on its own as a deliciously fun movie-going experience. The story has billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) at his narcissistic best. Unfortunately the American government sees his inventions, Iron Man armours designed to protect the United States against attack, as being illegal possession of weapons. This threatens his right to his own intellectual property and he defiantly holds his own in proving along with his ally James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) that the benefit of his inventions outweigh their potential risk or harm, discrediting others and their greed to take ownership of his work.
Meanwhile in Russia, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is out to avenge the disgracing of his father who worked together many years prior with Tony's father Howard (John Slattery) on an Arc Reactor. Due to limitations in technology at that time however, they were unable to complete their mission. It is Howard's hope that his son will be able to carry on the torch and finish the work his father started.
Convinced that he is dying judging by increasing Toxicity levels in his blood, Tony gives up his title as CEO of Stark Industries, handing this over to his Personal Assistant/love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Sexy Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) is hired as his new assistant.
After attempting to kill off Tony one day while he is in competition at the Monaco Grand Prix, Ivan almost succeeds in his mission, but alas, is captured by authorities. Tony's rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is envious of his attention and success, reaching out to Ivan for his help in plotting his escape from prison with a staged bombing death. Justin then commissions Ivan to replicate armours like the ones Tony has created so that he can take credit for the invention. Ivan however, turns on him and instead creates Iron Droids designed to accomplish his mission of avenging his family's shame.
Will Tony be able to survive as all the odds are stacked against him? Will he be able to count on his trusty allies as they too begin to turn on him as he continues a downward spiral in being convinced of his impending death?
I had few expectations walking into this film as I normally do not lean towards action-blockbusters, but I was thoroughly entertained with Iron Man 2. And although I do not have its predecessor to compare it to, this follow-up is well-acted, full of gripping action and amazing visuals. Downey Jr. is simply amazing in his ability to transform from character to character so effortlessly. He rises to the challenge of taking someone arrogant and self-absorbed, which normally would be detestable, and instead makes him likable and engaging. Paltrow is shrill and annoying at points, but plays Pepper effectively, creating just the right amount of tension between her and carefree Tony to illustrate how much they are meant for one another. Johansson sizzles with her double entendres and saves all the juiciness for late in the film with a fluid action sequence which sees her taking down her male opponents one by one... in a tight bodysuit. Cheadle who is normally flawless might have been miscast as James, never fully finding his best stride. Rourke however, is amazing in a convincing Russian accent, in having to learn a new language for his role. He teeters between villainous and childlike skillfully and it is an absolute pleasure seeing his stock rise again. Rockwell is downright grating, but that is an indication he did his job well with Justin's Napoleon Complex. Jon Favreau does a very credible job with this extremely talented cast and he too appears in the film briefly, juggling Actor and Director Caps.
Paramount Pictures' Iron Man 2 is more than worth a trip to the cinema. Arm yourself... with a big bag of popcorn. Remember to stay until the credits finish rolling as there are clues as to what might be coming next from Marvel. Grade: A-