It’s strange to consider that Iron Man 2‘s strengths and weaknesses are virtually the reverse of its predecessor’s. Where the first film had a good structure and good narrative thrust, a lot of the sequel’s scenes feel a bit… vacuous? It doesn’t help that the cause and effect chain is broken on occasion by plot hole or largely unrelated subplot – I didn’t mind the latter but there was a distinct lack of momentum at times. On the other hand, whereas Favreau’s action inexperience showed in the first film, here he’s technically much more accomplished and much more ambitious. He squares up, throws some punches and comes out victorious – and that’s just his character.
The cast is significantly better too. A deliciously sleazy Sam Rockwell and believably deadly Mickey Rourke compare very favourably to Jeff Bridges’ misfire, Scarlett Johansson doesn’t have much to do but her casting works, and Cheadle is so massively superior to Terrence Howard as Rhodie that it would be unthinkable to be bothered by the change in appearance.
I love a bit of backstory intrigue, and the Howard Stark stuff gave the film some oomph where it needed it most. And even when the film wasn’t at its most driven, it was still enjoyable.