We are back with Tony Stark and company for the follow up, and this time Tony has, effectively, shut down war, seemingly, single handedly. In fact, he goes so far as to boast this during a senate trial that comprises much of the opening part of the film. We are also introduced, in the opening, to a character, Ivan Vanko (played by Mickey Rourke), who is obviously after Stark and is building his own version of the miniature reactor core that Stark is using to power the Iron Man suit, and to keep himself alive. Vanko succeeds in this, and meets Stark in Monaco, where he uses the core's energy to try and kill Stark. Unsuccessful at doing so, Vanko is captured and imprisoned, but not without catching the notice of Stark's direct competitor, Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell). Hammer breaks Vanko out of prison, and throws endless amounts of money at him to build a knockoff of the Iron Man suit that Hammer can sell to the US government (since Stark is refusing to hand over his suit), but Vanko has his own plans.
Iron Man 2 is not a complete failure. It manages, at times, to entertain, but one has to wonder if Favreau really intended for the film to be as dull as it was, or if the studios tied one arm behind his back in order to try and make the film that they thought audiences wanted to see. Pretty much everyone in this film, even Robert Downey Jr., is criminally underused. Favreau seems to bring Stark back as the unapologetic, full of himself millionaire playboy, with only a tinge of the maturity we saw developing in the first film. Paltrow, as Pepper Potts, Cheadle as Rhodes, Rourke as Vanko, ALL of these people had parts that had potential for something greater than was up there on the screen. Scarlett Johansson's character, especially, felt tacked on, as if she was almost an after thought for Favreau and company.
The film failed because, unlike the first one, it was more about action and explosions than it was about character development. I'm honestly surprised they didn't throw in some boobs, just to round out all of the cliche's, but, they were gunning for the PG-13. Iron Man 2, while not the WORST it could be, is still, in my mind, one of the biggest let down's in the category of sequels to great first films. Favreau, I hope that we can blame the studio's on this one, and not you. And, if that's the case, I hope we see a director's cut that is everything many of us wanted out of this film in the first place.