With every sequel, there's always the smallest doubt. Will it be as good as the original? Iron Man 2 stirred up even more doubts with the casting change for Rhodey as Terence Howard was replaced with Don Cheadle. I remember thinking, is that a sign? Will Iron Man 2 fall into the seemingly endless sea of intolerably agonizing sequels? I can honestly answer that question with a resounding NO! From its first frames, Iron Man 2 picks up where it left off and does what Tony Stark himself would do: go faster, go bigger, and do it with flash & style.
Speaking of style, in true Marvel style, all the successes of the first film have had negative consequences, and just when you're exposed to one bad thing, another six show up to make life complicated. The movie starts with the revelation that Tony Stark's latest more powerful chest piece that is keeping him alive uses a material that is killing him. Add a villain holding a grudge with access to Stark's tech and a thing for whips, further issues from the still new S.H.I.E.L.D, the US government trying to wrest control of Stark's Iron Man tech using a rival corporation as a cat's paw, and more relationship issues with his assistant Pepper Potts, and Iron Man 2 could be construed as overwhelming. Yet somehow, director Jon Favreau manages to dance the audience from one issue to another, never letting the story become dull or boring.
At the same time, the movie does bring in some real world issues about the viability of the Iron Man technology and whether or not such a powerful tool should be under the sole control of one individual. There's even a slight touch upon the issue of relying on a single person to police the world with or without a super suit, as well as a touch of the dangers of relying too much on technology.
Robert Downey Jr. picks up the role of Tony Stark as he did in the first one, with effortless style, portraying arrogance, genius, obsession, narcissism, and playboy cockiness with the charm that refuses to let you feel sorry for Stark or get mad at his antics. Gwyneth Paltrow returns to Pepper Potts with a great sense of frantic energy built up from excessive exposure to the insanity of Tony Stark and the endless frustration that builds in that situation. And Don Cheadle turned out to be an inspired choice for Rhodes, infusing the character with an air of menace that was lacking in the first movie.
The real gem of the movie was, surprisingly enough, Mickey Rourke. Despite being behind the scenes for most of the film. His appearances were the most compelling, one of my favorite scenes was the short interchange between Rourke & Downey Jr. in the prison cell. As a final note on the cast, I have to say I was violently opposed to Scarlett Johannsen as the Black Widow. At the time, I felt that she wouldn't be able to credibly portray the lethal nature of Ms. Romanov. All I can say is I was DEAD WRONG! She did a fantastic job, and I owe her a huge apology.
All in all, Iron Man 2 is a worthy sequel to Iron Man and enjoyable experience. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll definitely enjoy this film. Oh, and stay through the credits, there's a mini-clip at the end.