So you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket and are wondering what movie you should watch this weekend. Iron Man 2 undoubtable comes up as a potential choice, though you might have some reservations after reading the preliminary reviews. Some say that the sequel pulls its audience in too many plot directions. Others fixate on Stark's mental deterioration and how his psychological state muddies the overall story.
Most of them are full of shit.
Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as asshat billionaire Tony Stark, whose inflated sense of self-importance has only grown since assuming the Iron Man mantle. While somewhat justified, his ego and technology have made him a target for those looking to break his armor monopoly. Stark's situation is further exacerbated by the effect his micro arc reactor's continued use is having on his body. In short, as much of a genius as Stark is, his invention isn't designed for continuous use inside a living being and it's slowly killing him.
So far, we're not talking rocket science in terms of plot, and it's pulled off reasonably well. Tony Stark reacts to his impending demise in a very human manner, causing concerns amongst the military that a psychologically unstable man is in possession of a very powerful weapon. With his very mortality thrust before him, Stark's mental house of cards comes tumbling down, giving rise to the War Machine plot and intersecting further with the SHIELD thread. His moment of weakness also empowers his enemies, culminating in the film's finale versus the compromised War Machine and Iron Man drones.
Realistically speaking, none of this is anything you'll need to strain your brain to follow, and any attempt to further dissect the plot for deeper meaning is little more than mental masturbation. Tony Stark is a human and deals with his fatal condition in a very human manner. Likewise, those fixating on his ego as being the ultimate villain in this movie forget that his opposition was already sporting serious character flaws of their own. The billionaire's flamboyance is little more than an excuse after the fact for those seeking power and revenge.
While a high IQ isn't something you'll need to follow the sequel's story, it tends to come off as sloppy in terms of execution. Stark's fatal condition is dropped in the viewer's lap from out of nowhere and in an already advanced state; to the point where one is left wondering exactly what is causing it until the story spells it out later. Samuel L. Jackson's introduction as Nick Fury is handled in a similar manner. Anybody not having brushed up on Iron Man's overarching plot before hand will be left to wonder who the hell this guy is, as well as his subsequent importance to the plot; something never adequately detailed by the story. And hey, didn't I see you in Triple XXX? Same look, same character, same role...
In fact, there are a lot of plot similarities to be had once you put Iron Man one and two side by side, ie; "disgruntled villain with corrupt, wealthy backing to duplicate armor tech, violence ensues". With so much in common between the pair, it all comes down to execution. The first Iron Man starts us out with a clean slate and the second adds evolving plot elements with little regard to coherency, suffering for it.
Flawed execution and recycling aside, Iron Man 2 isn't Lord of the Rings, nor does it pretend to be. What it is, however, is an uncomplicated, action filled romp featuring power armor battles, flirtatious romance, humor and vengeful antagonists. Attempting further indepth analysis would be like trying wring Shakespearean depth from a Diehard movie... It just isn't going to happen and you'd look like a fool for trying.
A lot of people are apparently dead set on trying.
Sure, the sequel could have easily crashed and burned, but Iron Man 2 has a lot going for it in terms of acting, script and special effects. The plot may be recycled, but it's done pretty well, and there's more than enough here to entertain. I wouldn't want to pay full price for an evening viewing, but a matinee is just right. Go see it.