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Directed by Jon Favreau. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by Justin Theroux. Release date: May 7, 2010.
It seems kind of odd, in hindsight, that two of the first three Marvel Cinematic Universe films were about Iron Man. That may only be because of how well spread-out the series got once it established its primary participants, but at the beginning, all we had were Iron Man and Hulk. Iron Man 2 paved the way for The Avengers, and that was essentially its only job. It provided Tony Stark with some personal issues, but in the end it was mostly just here to establish some more key players for later on.
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.): Our leading character. A genius inventor, he became the superhero Iron Man in the first film, and now sees himself not only having to face a couple of new villains, but also his own egotistical personality and a health crisis.
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow): Tony Stark's personal assistant and still-budding love interest. She also becomes his business partner and CEO of Stark Industries.
James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle): Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard in the role. Tony Stark's friend and holds an important position in the United States Air Force. He becomes War Machine - an Iron Man-esque hero - in this film.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson): Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Appeared briefly in Iron Man and here continues to set the stage for The Avengers.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson): Hired to be Tony Stark's personal assistant after Pepper Potts is promoted, she turns out to be an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. spy using the name "Natalie Rushman."
Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell): A weapons manufacturer who teams up with the film's other villain, Ivan Vanko, to take down Tony Stark.
Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke): A Russian physicist with a personal vendetta against Tony Stark. Teams up with Justin Hammer to try to defeat our protagonist.
J.A.R.V.I.S. (voice of Paul Bettany): Tony Stark's AI.
Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg): A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and a recurring character for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Howard Stark (John Slattery): Tony Stark's father. He will become a recurring character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Six months after Iron Man, Tony Stark is even more popular than ever, using his suit for peaceful means. The government wants to take the suit away from him. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko has made an arc reactor similar to Stark's, and uses it to create electo-whips. Stark is also suffering from blood toxicity caused by the core in his chest that he uses to keep shrapnel from lodging into his heart, and to power the Iron Man suit. He acts erratically over the course of the film due to his health issues, and ego.
Vanko shows up in Monaco, during an F1 race, and begins to attack Stark with his whips. It's a failed attempt, as Stark created a portable Iron Man suit and captures Vanko thanks to it. Justin Hammer breaks Vanko out of prison and fakes his death, teaming up with him in order to defeat Stark.
At his birthday party, Stark and Rhodes - who dons the War Machine suit - have a fight. Rhodes takes the War Machine suit to the government, while Stark has a conversation with Nick Fury and his new personal assistant, Natasha, who is revealed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. Fury forces Stark to fix the core and get himself mentally okay before being allowed to leave his own home. He creates a new element which will power his core and not kill him.
Finally, a reinvigorated Stark has to take down a bunch of drones created by Vanko, and Vanko himself, who has used Justin Hammer's money and technology to improve his whips and craft himself his own suit. Rhodes, as War Machine, teams up with Iron Man to accomplish this. After saving the day, Fury determines that Stark's personality is not conducive to the Avengers, so S.H.I.E.L.D. will only use him as a consultant. Pepper resigns as CEO, and she and Stark finally kiss and become a couple.
In the post-credits scene, we find out that there has been a discovery of a large hammer in New Mexico, paving the way for Thor.
Is It Any Good?
It's watchable. Iron Man 2 is a movie where almost everything that happens - at least in regard to Tony Stark - simply exists to put us back to status quo. It further puts pieces in place for The Avengers, gives us some decent action, but it's a weaker movie than its predecessor.