“Iron Man” was one of the best super hero movies of all time. “Iron Man 2,” likable as it may be, isn’t. Downey, Jr. again dons the metal suit as billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, enjoying the fame that being Iron Man has brought him.
Life isn’t all rosy though. He’s being strong-armed by the Senate Armed Services Committee to relinquish the Iron Man weapon and the palladium in his arc reactor is killing him quickly. A crazy Russian physicist named Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who holds a grudge against the Stark family, has some weaponry of his own and a rival competitor of Stark’s named Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is willing to use the Russian’s considerable skills against Stark. Sounds good so far but midway through it’s like this movie comes to a screeching halt and director Jon Favreau and company seem to all be jumping aboard “Iron Man 3,” or “The Avengers” or whichever comes first.
We get little teases like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), “Shield,” and Stark’s looming personal problems. Meanwhile, the low-key villains in this movie just lay in wait for the finale, Tony’s palladium problem isn’t enough to carry the plot, there isn’t as much comedy as the first movie, the sexual chemistry between Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow (as assistant Pepper Potts) isn’t as rich this time around, Stark sidekick Rhodey (this time played by Don Cheadle) gets to don a suit of his own but the character still comes off as undernourished, and aside from the fire, destruction, and electricity of the opening battle between Vanko and Stark and the underwhelming finale, the action isn’t much.
It’s Downey Jr. again, with his suave, egocentric, and sarcastically funny, performance that carries the whole thing. Rockwell also has some fun here and Scarlett Johansson, playing a Stark secretary with a secret of her own, can be lethally good on occasion. It’s kind of fun, maybe even more so for avid comic fans who want to point out everything familiar to them, but this movie comes off like a minor entry in a series that seems to have better ideas in store for the future.