‘Iron Man 2’ review: Has the suit gotten heavier?

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‘Iron Man’ sequel entertaining, though doesn’t live up to first one

Tony Stark is an incorrigible man. It would take heaven and earth to alter this key attribute of our mega-rich playboy superhero. But thanks to this hell-be-damned attitude, “Iron Man 2” manages to entertain, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. (You can read the first “Iron Man” review here.)

Keeping his witty, if tormented, form, Robert Downey Jr. returns in “Iron Man 2,” a sequel that follows the typical superhero second-movie path: bigger villains, bigger budgets, bigger suits. And while that may have worked for “Spider-Man 2” and “The Dark Knight,” IM2 doesn’t quite reach the same heights as “Iron Man” did. Instead, it manages to improve upon itself incrementally.

Director Jon Farveau and screenwriter Justin Theroux decide to focus on the small things — the details in particular, humor in general. You understand dangers lurks in this movie, but the light touches and needed quips go a long way in preventing IM2 from taking itself too seriously.

On the humorous side, we again meet Ms. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark’s assistant/love interest/babysitter. The tension between the two is as snarky as ever (not to mention the abundant miscommunications), and it causes a great deal of laugh-worthy friction. It shows us romantic comedy — even lost deep in comic book movie — isn’t a dead genre just yet.

On the dangerous side, we’re introduced to Ivan Vanko (a commanding Mickey Rourke), who provides us with an antagonist worthy of Stark. Brilliant in his own right, with a aura of malevolence so overwhelming you can’t help but be creeped out in his presence, Rourke’s Vanko takes over the scene each time he shows up. The son of a Russian military scientist, covered in prision tattoos and harboring a deep hatred for Stark and what he represents (but for the whim of fate, some would say), he moves the plot forward. Especially when he dons his own arc-reactor-based technology in the form of fiber-optic whips with an electrifying charge.

Still, even with some stunning battles between Stark and Vanko (and they are visually epic), the best scenes are still the ones between Stark and Potts, and sometimes even Stark alone. Downey and Paltrow manage to connect better than any other pairing, and that chemistry shines on screen. The rest of the interaction comes across as unnecessary. And we all know how Tony Stark feels about unnecessary things.

Three snarky stars out of five.

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