Opening where the first instalment left off, Iron Man 2 had some pretty high expectations to live up to. Almost universally praised for being fresh, supremely entertaining and aesthetically astonishing, Iron Man marked the welcome return to form of Robert Downey Jnr in a comic-book movie for those who don't read comics. Even the usually "serious" (and often irritating) actress Gwyneth Paltrow dazzled as the long-suffering assistant to Downey's exuberant character, Tony Stark/Iron Man.
High standards indeed, but this sequel meets many of them. The flash-bangs are even flashier and more banging; Downey is as smooth and reckless as ever, delivering one-liners and dancing with death with the same degree of nonchalance. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is a deliciously over-the-top Russian baddy; Sam Rockwell does what he does best, smarming his way across the screen as Stark's technologically inferior business adversary; and Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson up the glam factor.
On the downside, the script isn't quite as tight as the first film - some parts are beyond ludicrous, such as Iron Man's ability to outfly missiles - and Terrence Howard has been replaced in his role as Stark's Air Force buddy Rhodey (although Don Cheadle is brilliant). Aside from these and a few other slip-ups, Iron Man 2 is an adrenaline-packed two hours and is well worth the ticket - not least because of the gloriously debonaire Downey.