Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 ★★★★★

A sequel that has never received the love it deserves, Jon Favreau's "Iron Man 2" is an excellent superhero outing that succeeds on the strengths of its cast and cinematic personality. Revisiting the famed billionaire/philanthropist/playboy and, now, superhero, the film is not necessarily deep or artful. It is, however, blissful popcorn entertainment of the highest degree. Fun, fast, and full of character, Favreau's film is another fantastic entry to the Marvel cinematic universe.

The sequel finds an older but not necessarily wiser Tony Stark dealing with acts of heroism in a world that wants to remove the human element from its practical heroes. The brash, sardonic former weapons merchant also finds himself facing a personal crisis, a new found nemesis, and the further march into his own involvement in an initiative to save the world.

The story makes a perfectly suitable action epic and boasts similar themes to the first film. Here, however, sins of the father and tenuous couplings between individuals and ideas are examined. Tony Stark continues to be a hero rooted in capitalism, exchanging the excitement of profits for the rich buzz of heroism. He continues down a path where that heroism may not be rooted in altruism, but Stark's own desire for differing modes of ownership.

Favreau, again, cooks up something full of energy and personality. With its globetrotting protagonist, "Iron Man 2" sometimes feels like Marvel's answer to James Bond. The film is fast-paced and quick-witted, boasting excitingly staged action set-pieces and subtler character-based moments. It is a good looking and polished piece of work where its action beats and effects sequences never, as with the first film, overwhelm the characters at the heart of the production.

Those characters are ideally cast. Robert Downey, Jr.'s delightfully smug Tony Stark is a thing of continued genius; and Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts gives serve as Stark's equal. Favreau fleshes out his cast with soon-to-be Marvel stalwarts, Don Cheadle and Scarlett Johansson. As villains, Mickey Rourke provides scenery chewing menace while Sam Rockwell, trying to become a self-styled Stark, offers unctuous dangers of his own.

A thoroughly entertaining, appealingly witty action film, "Iron Man 2" charms and thrills. While it may not push the burgeoning franchise in new or important directions, the film provides rock-solid spectacle and always engaging filmic personality. An underappreciated, terrifically enjoyable gem, "Iron Man 2" is another stellar member of the cinematic superhero canon.

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