Mr. Movie

An ironclad sequel: 'Iron Man 2' (w/ photos)

Iron Man 2 rocks.

It does so literally and loudly, thanks to lots of licks interspersed through the soundtrack from metal mavens AC/DC. No slow spots. No sequel let down.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Like its namesake metal, Iron Man 2 is unbending, unyielding and uncompromising. It blasts out of the gate like a rocket, locks you into an oh-so-comic book plot, and rivets you to the screen.

Fast-forward six months after the end of 2008‘s Iron Man. Everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man. He has three problems. The palladium in the arc reactor that keeps his heart pumping is poison and is killing him. Efforts to solve the problem have failed. He’s dying. Unable or unwilling — because that’s how Marvel comic book characters act — to share his trouble with his beautiful assistant Pepper Potts, Stark goes it alone.

That leads to drunken debauchery and destructive behavior.

The military wants his technology. Suits like that of Iron Man’s have military value. A nasty anti-Iron Man senator has launched a congressional probe. Rival and also egocentric industrialist Justin Hammer wants to upstage Stark and get the military contract to produce them.

First, he needs Stark’s secrets.

Problem three: Ivan Vanko. He’s a brilliant Russian physicist who has a grudge against Stark’s late father. Vanko develops a suit of his own and attacks Iron Man. Fans of the comic books know him as Whiplash.

The action sequences are fast, exciting and viewable. You believe the metal-suited CGI characters are real and some of them have people inside engaged in life-and-death battles. Unlike other big budget flicks, such as the last Transformers where the battle sequences are a blur of special effects, director Jon Favreau’s superb editing lets you actually see who is winning and losing and what is really happening.

And Iron Man 2 is more than just effects. Is Robert Downey Jr. the perfect pick for this character or what? Not to take anything away from one of the best actors of his generation, Downey almost doesn’t have to act to play Tony Stark. An arrogant, elitist personality and a former self-destructive lifestyle help give his character much-needed multiple dimensions — spoken and unspoken.

Downey is brilliant. So is his supporting cast.

All benefit from Justin Theroux’s (Tropic Thunder) script. It is smart and hip, and the dialogue is natural and free-flowing. Some of Theroux’s best bits are between Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts. They are long, complex scenes where both actors talk at once and end at once.

Raves are also due to Paltrow and Sam Rockwell, who plays a Stark rival and is one of the film’s villains. Paltrow has very little to do, yet no matter who she shares a scene with, she quietly dominates. Rockwell also is a superb scene-stealer and one of today’s great character actors.

Theroux’s excellent character development and terrific dialogue also benefits their cast mates Mickey Rourke — who does Vanko — and Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson. Also look for a couple of clever cameos from comedian Garry Shandling and TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly.

While most Marvel Comics character movies have been as flawed as their super heroes, there aren’t too many chinks in Iron Man 2’s armor. The worst is Favreau and Theroux assuming we’re all fans, that we all saw the first film and that we know everything there is to know about Iron Man, Stark and others from Marvel’s stable. A little effort could have been made to fill in the blanks for the unknowing.

It’s a minor complaint. Iron Man 2 isn’t better than the first film or worse. It just digs little deeper and gets a little darker.

Two final comments. One, stay through the credits. For the 10 comic book fans left on the planet who don’t know, there is a special scene at the end.

Secondly, and on a more personal note, we pronounce director Jon Favreau’s last name “FAV - er - row” or “FAV - row” — depending on who you ask. Yet National Football League icon and quarterback Brett Favre’s last name is pronounced as “FAR-ve?” Shouldn’t it be “Fav-RE?” Or “FAV-er?”

I know. I have too much time on my hands.

Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, May 7 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.