Iron Man 2 : 4 of 5
Iron Man was a fantastic example of how the superhero genre can simultaneously entertain both serious comic book geeks as well as the average filmgoer who just loves an awesome action movie with great characterization, so it's tougher than usual for this sequel to live up to its predecessor. Iron Man 2 actually does almost everything right, but along the way it also does a few things wrong that unfortunately bring it down a couple notches. Just to get these shortcomings out of the way, I've never seen a movie spend so much time setting up other future films! It's no secret that Marvel is planning a series of Avengers movies. Nick Fury was introduced in the after-credits scene of the original film, and Black Widow is included here although she really only has one fight scene (granted, it's a good one!). The after-credits scene this time features Thor's hammer, which is cool for geeks like me, but not really fair to novices who may not realize this has nothing to do with the movie they just saw (although Iron Man will certainly have a place in the Avengers movies). OK, forgetting all those built-in advertisements, Iron Man 2 keeps the incredible charm and hilarious arrogance of Tony Stark, and Robert Downey Jr. absolutely makes the movie work, although he's a bit more serious this time around. I was kind of surprised at the actor switch for Rhodey, but Don Cheadle is great, and I really enjoyed Sam Rockwell (who I became a fan of after seeing Moon) as the hilariously cheesy Justin Hammer. Whiplash is a fun villain and his backstory really helps to tie together all the plotlines. He may not be that tough to defeat in battle, but his character is definitely the glue that holds this somewhat disjointed story together. I was slightly disappointed with the big final battle, but the events at the Grand Prix more than made up the excitement quotient for me! The visual effects are excellent as expected, especially all of the delicious tech, ranging from the 3D models that can be manipulated in the air to Tony's super-cool transparent iPhone-like device (I want one!). Just like after I saw the first movie, I'm really motivated to read more Iron Man comics and learn more about the classic character, so this movie did its job by stirring up this geek's interest!