Studio: Paramount

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson and Sam Rockwell

Directed by: Jon Favreau

What it’s about: In the blockbuster that kicks off the 2010 summer movie season, Robert Downey Jr. returns as weapons-manufacturer-turned-superhero Tony Stark. After revealing that he is, in fact, Iron Man, Stark faces several challenges, including palladium poisoning from his personal arc reactor, a Congressional inquiry into the Iron Man technology and a rival weapons manufacturer who enlists the help of the genius son of the disgraced partner of Stark’s father. There’s also some seeds planeted for further Marvel action flicks, including The Avengers and Captain America.

What I liked: Before we start, I need to point out that I did not find the first Iron Man to be the beginning and the end of superhero movies. Sure, it was fun, but it had its problems. But it was still an enjoyable film. I felt pretty much that same about this movie. Not flawless, but tons of fun.

The best part of this movie is the action, which is bigger, more explosive and better paced than that of the first film. There’s a two-year refinement of visual effects, allowing for a better blending of live-action and CGI to the point that I cannot see where one ends and the other begins.

Another point in the film that I really enjoyed seems to get smacked around by other reviewers. That’s the slow-down in the middle of the movie that serves as part origin for Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. and part cross-over justification. I’ve always had a thing for cross-over stories, and Iron Man 2 shows that Marvel Studios is committed to bring all of its properties under one umbrella. It may result in some awkward storytelling, but it sets the stage for something wonderful.

Finally, where many superhero sequels suffer from too many characters, Iron Man 2 brings all of its own together rather nicely. Sure, you’ve got Scarlett Johanssen in a seemingly unnecessary role (at least until the third act), but she isn’t overused, which is not easy to do with her as an actor. In short, she just stands there an looks pretty… now, if only they could do the same with Gwyneth Paltrow.

What I didn’t: Like the first Iron Man, there were some rough patches in Iron Man 2. The middle of the film stumbles around a bit, but most is forgiveable for the S.H.I.E.L.D. set-up. However, like many blockbuster films we’ve seen over the past few years, there is a scene that is equivalent to the jazz club scene in Spider-Man 3. Trust me… you’ll know it when you see it. Fortunately, Favreau gets out of this scene and into a pretty awesome action sequence, so the turd moment doesn’t linger too long.

Other than this, Iron Man 2 has a few things that the first film had that weighted it down a bit… too much improv banter between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, a soundtrack that isn’t timed as awesome as it is in the trailers and a few too manny montages of people building things.

Still, Iron Man 2 is a blast and definitely worth seeing this weekend.

Who is gonna like this movie: General audiences in that coveted four quadrants.

Grade: A-

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…

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