It's solid entertainment, but lacks the class of it's predecessor7/10
Saw the movie in a press screening here are my humble thoughts:
Before I start with my short review of Iron Man 2, I have to say two words about Iron Man 1. I really dug the first one despite of being a little disappointed by the grand finale. Robert Downey Jr. kills it, action, humor, pacing... loved it. I'm not a big comic geek, and not that familiar with the original Iron Man comics, so please excuse if some of the stuff I thought was weird, was actually accurate adapted.
So while the opening credits where rolling and I saw all the big names of actors that I happen to love, I really thought that it might be hard to give all of them a fair amount of stuff to do in the movie. And as it happened to turn out, I was right. I was especially disappointed by Mickey Rourke's part as Whiplash. Don't get me wrong, Rourke was great. He looks mean as usual and I loved every scene he's in. Unfortunately Favreau really pulled a Darth Maul on him. After the last fight I honestly sat in my chair and was like "that's it? you can't be serious?!". Rourke's Character had almost the same potential (at least from his talent as an actor and his looks in the movie) as Heath Ledger's Joker in Dark Knight. But he never lived up to that expectation due to the lack of screen time and, well... a purpose.
But the main problem I had with Iron Man 2 was the lack of a meaningful story and motivation for almost all of the characters. We are introduced to Scarlett Johansson's "Black Widow", and blame it on my lack of knowledge of the graphic novels, but I had no Idea what her purpose in the movie was. The first part of the movie she's just the hot secretary with almost no lines. Eventually she puts on a tight super hero costume and tries to find Whiplash. There is a brief action-sequence, where she kicks some ass, but truth be told, Hit-Girl would wipe the floor with Black Widow. What I really liked though, was Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. He totally killed it and you can tell he enjoyed his part as the sleazy scumbag pulling the strings in the background.
I also liked Don Cheadle as James Rhodes (he was on par with Terrence Howard on this one), but I felt his character suffered from the lack of time for character development. There is this scene, where Tony Stark is seriously messed up, partying at his home in his Iron Man suit and randomly shooting stuff. Rhodes is tired of the situation and grabs himself another one of the Iron Man suits, battles Stark and than leaves. With the suit. I don't know if that's the way it was done in the comics, but I didn't like it at all. In the first movie we witness how Stark becomes Iron Man, how he needs to learn to use the suit and become one with it, how he builds it and we can understand, that he is the only one, who could use it that way. Apparently we're wrong, because all you need, is the suit. It's like anyone could be Batman, if he just could get a hold of his cape. There is no explanation as to why Rhodes can fly this suit like he owns it, there isn't anything told about the relationship between Stark and Rhodes. I just felt this part was incredible weak.
The whole movie felt like a setup for another movie. Characters are introduced, stuff happens, but nothing really matters, at best it hints, that there COULD be happening something in the future.
Another big problem I had though, was the lack of 'magic moments' and thrilling action, like in the first flick (I still get goosebumps, thinking about how Tony Stark flew in his suit for the first time). Everything just runs too smooth, there is almost no tension, you never think anything could harm Tony Stark, you never feel something bad is about to happen. If I compare this with the incredible Dark Knight, it feels like a kids movie, something like the ranks of Sky High. Plus, there was just to little Iron Man in Iron Man, to little I care about. Iron Man 2 was made to prepare us for The Avengers and Thor, but by being that, it kinda forgot to be something in it's own. That's the biggest difference to the first flick, who was original, fresh and smart.
Sounds pretty much like a bash, but all that being said, I was fairly entertained. The performances of the main characters each were pretty good. The cast was perfect. Of course all the special effects are amazing, with a lot attention to detail. I loved all the 'augmented reality" stuff going on in Starks garage. The movie is funny (actually it felt more like a comedy than an action flick) and when the action happens, it's looking great. The biggest let down is the potential this movie and most and for all the characters had, which wasn't used. However this is only the review of someone who's fairly unfamiliar with the graphic novel.