Return of the Iron Giant

Did someone say equal sequel?

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Iron Man 2 is an exception to the rule that a sequel will invariably suck when compared to the magic of its predecessor. Thankfully, most of the winning elements of the original Iron Man (2008) are present in director Jon Favreau\'s sequel - an outstanding cast, exhilarating action sequences, and most importantly, an injection of humour into potentially ridiculous situations that grounds the film in reality. Where the film falters somewhat is in the ambiguity of the narrative and the incoherency of the motivations of some of the key characters. But none of that detracts from the exhilaration of watching Iron Man fire up his (now portable!) suit and deliver the goods once again.

Making a welcome return as billionaire genius playboy and peacemaking superhero Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr., currently riding on the crest of a comeback wave that doesn\'t appear ready to crash anytime soon. His magnetic presence draws out the best from the supporting cast, who are willing and able to engage with him in a string of enjoyable bouts of verbal and physical sparring. A welcome addition to the cast is Sam Rockwell, (whose contract must include a dancing clause) as Stark\'s business rival Justin Hammer. One seemingly innocuous scene in which he pitches weaponry to Don Cheadle\'s character Lt. Col. James \'Rhodey\' Rhodes was one of the funniest in the film; a testament to both his pitch-perfect characterisation and Justin Theroux\'s excellent script. Cheadle is another notable new presence, his cool demeanor providing welcome relief from Stark\'s cocky attitude and self-destructive tendencies.

As far as the plot goes, it is held together by various impressive set pieces and hilarious interactions between the people either trying to get a piece of Stark or literally tear him to pieces, as is the case with the villainous Anton Vanko, played with a suitable amount of swagger and genuine menace by Mickey Rourke. Stark faces a similar threat of disrepair from his loyal assistant Pepper Potts - played with crisp perfection by Gwyneth Paltrow - who takes the reins in more ways than one. It is refreshing to see a complex adult relationship depicted in a movie of this scale, particularly in its avoidance of clichéd obstacles such as potential derailment by Scarlett Johansson as the mysterious Natalie Rushman.

As with the first film, the truly awe-inspiring scenes are not those involving explosions or even those when Iron Man is airborne. Instead, it is the scenes where Stark works like a mad professor in his lab with his interactive, virtual system of design. The use of future technology such as droids in military warfare is also thought provoking as it is frightening to realise this is no longer an idea that can be relegated so science-fiction.

The fact that the film is grounded in reality is really the key to its success. Although it is ambitious and sometimes epic in scale Iron Man 2 is grounded by the natural performances of its actors and its willingness to poke fun of itself. One-liners are sparingly used and even then they are more of a wink to the audience than groan-inducing clichés. Iron Man 2 takes place in an exhilarating world that audiences will be happy to immerse themselves in and is a refreshing addition to the superhero genre.

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