Review: Iron Man Strikes Again, This Time With A Little Help

The highly anticipated sequel to the smash hit 'Iron Man' has arrived, and with so many new characters and story line being introduced, and so much more action being included, does Iron Man 2 loose the great connection it had with it's main character in the first film, or was Iron Man 2 really necessary for the Marvel Universe continuity to work?

A few years ago, barely anyone knew who Iron Man was, but thanks to the folks at Marvel Studios, that has completely changed. Now they have continued his story, introducing new allies and villains along the way. Iron Man 2 tells us what has happened to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) since revealing himself to the world to be Iron Man. He's now getting a hard time from the government, primarily Congress, about basically 'hogging' the Iron Man armor for himself, rather than sharing it and it's technology with the United States military.
His best friend; Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), is on opposite ends with him (Probably because he works for the military), and tries to convince him to do it. Stark still doesn't give in, so a witness is brought to the stand, a man known as Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). It is revealed that he's a longtime rival of Stark, who heads his own weapon company. While trying to present the fact that the Iron Man armor is putting America in danger because other countries are trying to mimic the suits design, but Stark is quickly able to prove himself on top.
We soon learn that Tony is slowly dying from the poisoning of his palladium core. While seeking alternate forms of energy to use for his core, he appoints Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as the new CEO of Stark Industries. He replaces her with a notary that comes to the house named Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson).
While attending the Circuit de Monaco, Stark once again runs into Hammer, who really gets on Tony's nerves. much to Hammer's dismay, Tony decides to actually participate in the race, rather than having a racer compete on behalf of Stark Industries. But while racing, a man named Ivan Vanko, who also has a deep loathing for Stark, attacks his car, and only narrowly escapes from him. Hammer is intrigued by Vanko's common hatred for Stark, and together the two team up to destroy Tony Stark's name once and for all, but Vanko might just have a plan of his own.
Hammer hires Vanko to create an army of robots far more advanced than Tony's Iron Man suit. Along the way we meet Black Widow, run back into Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), see Rhodey become War Machine, and find out if Tony Stark is able to find a way to keep his heart piece from poisoning him using his father's past research, all while holding the annual Stark Expo. And so the drama and action of Iron Man 2 unravels.
Iron Man 2 was no doubt not at the same high level as it's predecessor, but it really depends on what you were personally expecting. More action, more villains, more heroes, and of course more (But not nearly as captivating) story is what Iron Man 2 really has to offer at the table. But in the case of Iron Man 2, more isn't exactly for the better as the amount of characters introduced into the film just feels very cluttered for a movie that should really be focusing on one man's adventure. The movie had many references to the upcoming Avengers movie (Which was no surprise to me) and S.H.I.E.L.D and Nick Fury were very involved as well, which was probably what held it back from being a great stand alone film.
There were some unnecessary story lines and action sequences, but that's just something that has a tendency to happen in superhero movies, but up to this point Marvel's been doing pretty well at avoiding it. I personally felt the main problem Iron Man 2 was that it was trying to juggle too many unrelated storylines in one. They tried to do the whole Demon in a Bottle arc from the comics with Tony's self-destructive alcoholism, then switch over to the government trying to get him to turn in the Iron Man armor, Justin Hammer and Whiplash, the introduction of War Machine, Tony uncovering a lot about his father's past, and the major involvement of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fury, Black Widow, and Coulson. I would also note that it sort of ignored the Ten Rings completely and just went with a pretty random villain with Whiplash where a much better one could've been used. None the less I think a third film will make up for it, although Iron Man 2 was still a really fun movie despite the draw backs.
The acting was great, especially Sam Rockwell as Tony's business rival Justin Hammer, he really portrayed him with a great side of jealousy that he's simultaneously trying to hide. Rockwell's Hammer could've honestly been the only villain of the film if he was given more screen time and back story, but sadly he ends up taking a back seat to Whiplash, while he's honestly the more interesting character of the two.  Mickey Rourke does a pretty decent job as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, pulling off a lot of intimidation and a pretty believable Russian accent, but really falls short of Jeff Bridges previous run as Iron Man's enemy Obadiah Stane in the first film. And of course Robert Downey Jr. once again delivered an outstanding performance, and was as hilarious and spontaneous as ever.
Unfortunately the switch between Don Cheadle and Terence Howard as Rhodey was very noticeable to me and I would have rather seen Terence in the War Machine suit. The friendship bond between Tony and Don Cheadle as Rhodey wasn't very believable and just didn't feel right. While it's most likely due to the fact that I was so used to the Terence Howard version of the character that it was harder to for me to see Don Cheadle in the role, I still felt that they could've at least made the transition flow better by not writing the character in such a drastically different way. As for the actual armor Rhodey dawns in the film, the design of the War Machine suit was ten times better then I imagined and then the way it was in the comics.
I thought there were too many War Machine versus Iron Man scenes, and not enough War Machine and Iron Man scenes. Also Jon Favreau the director who also plays Happy Hogan (Tony's body guard) was a lot more important to this movie. The movie had many different locations unlike the first, which just switched from Afghanistan to Malibu. But really this movie is worth watching, so go out there and check it out.

I give Iron Man 2 3.5 out of 5 stars:

And here's the Iron Man 2 trailer:

What did you think of Iron Man 2? Are you going to see it?