There’s little question that this sequel’s worth seeing. Iron Man 2 is an all-around fun ride that lives up to the first, with top-notch action scenes, stunning visual effects, and some great tongue-in-cheek humor that was missing from the first installment.
For introducing three new characters, two of whom are villains, Favreau and the writers did a fantastic job balancing character development without making the story too overwhelmed or stuffed with side plots. Everyone got their moments of awesome, particularly Rhodey, who will probably fully take on his role as War Machine whenever we next see him.
I have a lot of respect for Robert Downey Jr’s performance as the narcissist but brilliant Tony Stark. He’s one of few actors who fully embraces his superhero counterpart (Hugh Jackman is the only other one I can think of). Don Cheadle fills in nicely as Rhodey–I think he did better than Howard. And Samuel L Jackson was perfect as Fury, eyepatch and all.
Now, onto the parts I wasn’t so crazy about. Most noticeably, for all the tension the movie builds up, (spoilers!) the ending battle seemed too easy. Iron Man and War Machine blast through the drones, and take Whiplash out with one move? Stark’s got a new reactor and all, but everything built up to less than five minutes of fighting. I wanted to see Stark threatened more by Whiplash, and it annoys me that this is becoming a common theme among movies these days that are only there to build up to sequels.
Oh, and Paltrow was still annoying, but I think the failing is more in her character development than anything else. She simply wasn’t likeable, in any way. What does Pepper do? Wear high heels and bitch at Tony. Oh, that’s nice, real role model material there. Not. While perusing When Fangirls Attack, I found a wonderful post from Ms. (who else?) that explains it all, in agonizing but much-needed detail.
But is it better than the first? I don’t think so. The first Iron Man is the origin story, and there’s some magic to that. Plus, Jeff Bridges’ performance as Obadaiah was far better than Whiplash and Hammer combined. I think the second movie is almost as good as the first, but not quite. And this second movie comes with a definite agenda: the upcoming Cap and Thor movies (I would love to see an Iron Man cameo in the latter), and then of course the big Avengers film. The first Iron Man didn’t have that motivation, so it feels more genuine.