In 2008, Marvel's Iron Man went from obscure comic-book hero to worldwide silver-screen titan. However, two years have passed and the new exploits of Tony Stark in his iron mask seem stale, overdone, and underwhelming.
Where the original film oozed swagger and heart, the follow-up leaks mediocrity and detachment. Despite a parade of new characters (or because of it), Iron Man 2 fails to pull the audience into its thin, crawl-pace plot. Certainly there are loads of action and explosions to woo your inner 12-year old, but what precedes this spectacle is so trite and heartless that you just don't care what happens to Tony and his pals- One of whom, James "Rhodey" Rhodes is played by a different actor than in the original film and this robs audiences of what should have been a tense, white-knuckle payoff as Rhodey becomes War Machine. As is, this film is disposable, messy, and ultimately redundant; A died-in-the-iron Hollywood sequel which overexposes the best parts of the first film ad nauseam.
The cast do their best to deliver, but they cannot overcome a boring, convoluted storyline. Mickey Rourke as lead villain, Ivan Vanko, is underdeveloped and wasted, spending most of his screen time secluded in a warehouse listening to Sam Rockwell rant and whine aimlessly. Similarly, Scarlett Johansson gets shoe-horned into the plot with little time to shine as Natasha Romanoff, personal assistant to Tony Stark.
There are a few genuinely fun moments: Seeing Samuel L. Jackson return as Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. is cool, as are cameos by Captain America's shield and Thor's hammer. In fact, the most interesting plot point in the entire film comes when Nick is rapping with Tony about the Avengers. But this and all of the aforementioned tidbits of cool serve to set up other film franchises within the Marvel Cinemaverse. The creative minds behind Iron Man 2 should have spent more energy developing this one.
In the end, Iron Man 2 is not an awful film. It's simply a film I don't care about because nothing in its 2-hour run time endears me to any of the characters. And apathy is no way to feel when leaving the latest installment of a superhero franchise that began with such outstanding promise.