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Back in 2008, Marvel’s Iron Clad Playboy Tony Stark got a chance to rock and roll on the big screen. Despite a kick-ass rock and roll trailer, there was plenty of reasons to be hesitant. A ton of comic book movies had been bad up to this point. Also, Marvel took charge of their own films, putting a lot on the line. When ol’ Shellhead finally burst onto the screen, his repulsor rays blasted away any lingering doubts. Iron Man was one of the highlights of the year. Fast forward two years and the red and gold soldier carries an even heavier weight upon his shoulders: a highly anticipated sequel.

In the follow-up, Tony Stark is forced to face his own mortality as the power source keeping him alive is slowly poisoning his body. To cope with this, he does what any billionaire would – kicks up his reckless behavior and alcohol consumption, straining relationships with his friends and coworkers along the line.

The cracks in his armor revealed, Justin Hammer, a rival arms dealer, seizes upon this moment of weakness to duplicate the Iron Man armor for sale to the United States Government – and potentially less friendly nations. Helping him realize his technological aspirations: Ivan Vanko, the son of a Russian genius and contemporary of Howard Stark, Tony’s father.

Ivan, blaming Stark for the problems in his life, utilizes his father’s technology to create his own weapons system – a pair of arc powered whips, that slice through metal like butter and sizzle through the air.

If that weren’t enough, Nick Fury and the SHIELD organization are breathing down Stark’s neck, hoping to stop his downward spiral before Tony, and his technology, are corrupted forever. To this end, Fury has inserted a beautiful operative into Stark Industries to keep tabs on the reckless inventor.

In the performance arena, Robert Downey Jr. reigns king. From his opening speech at the Stark Expo to his antics during the birthday party, RDJ completely owns the character of Stark. I couldn’t see any other actor bringing this much life to the character. He is simply magnetic in the role [sic].

Contrasting Downey’s ultra-smooth Stark is Sam Rockwell’s arms dealing Justin Hammer. Hammer is like a clone of Stark that came out of the copy machine just a little too early- he’s smarmy instead of charming, equally egotistical with only half the brains. The character’s shortcomings are brought to life perfectly by Rockwell, who steals virtually every scene he’s in, whether trying to imitate Tony or dominate an opponent. If his little introductory dance at the Stark Expo doesn’t put a smile on your face, you’re a poorly designed robot.

Mickey Rourke joins the cast as the surly Russian Ivan Vanko. His over the top accent is borderline distracting, but most of his intimidation is transferred through his tattooed up body and maniacal smile. In another supporting role. Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal is rather tame as an assistant, though once she dons the garb of a SHIELD agent, she transitions seamlessly into kick-ass mode. Her battle sequence is among the best in the film and gave me faith in the upcoming Avengers film.

Also returning: Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. Pepper gets a beefed up role, where she gets to butt heads with Tony. Her banter with Stark is excellent and she’s attractive as ever. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury phones in a lame performance. Rather than creating a character, or embodying one, he simply talks loudly through scenes as Sam Jackson, bringing little to the role other than his inherent “I’m Sam Jackson” factor.

In terms of weaponry, the futuristic film packs plenty of real world weaponry. Justin Hammer brings a wide variety of weapons to the table (literally) to arm the War Machine, and James Rhodes takes them all. The M134 Minigun mounted on his shoulder is the War Machine’s primary armament. Built into the armor is also a Claridge Hi-Tech semi-automatic pistol and a M26 Modular Shotgun System. Slapped onto his right arm is an FN2000 assault rifle and a Milkor MGL grenade launcher is integrated into the suit as well.

Black Widow sports an H&K USP while invading Hammer Industries and some troops in the background at a military base are equipped with M4 assault rifles.

In terms of shooting, most of the bullets are thrown by War Machine in the climactic battle. As far as I know, it’s realistic. I mean, he is shooting at a bevy of armored robots, so it’s hard to tell what a gun would do to them.

On the fantastical side of things, Iron Man’s primary weapon is the same as the first film: repulsor rays embedded in the palms of his gauntlets. He also integrates a pretty cool high intensity laser, which is far beyond anything in existence today. But it’s cool and that’s all that matters.

Iron Man 2 is not perfect, but it is fun. The story moves a bit clunkily from scene to scene at times. Despite some excellent action, it could have used a better balance of exposition versus awesome. Spread the love out a little bit and give us more time of Tony in the suit. That’s what we’re paying to see.

Remembering though that summer is just around the corner, Iron Man 2 is a perfect and entertaining way to kick off the lighthearted movie season. While it doesn’t quite reach the amazing heights of the first film, it accomplishes a lot in the Marvel Universe and is ultimately a satisfactory sequel. So, you should probably go catch this one in the theaters and experience it on the big screen. Just make sure to stay after the credits for a little surprise about upcoming Marvel movies.

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