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I judge sequels by three standards. First, is the story and are the core characters still compelling? Second, are we introduced to new and intriguing players? And third, can the film stand alone, even for those who haven't seen the original? For "Ironman 2," the answer is "yes" to all of the above.
Robert Downey Jr. is back as Tony Stark, who has personally secured world peace as Ironman. The U. S. government is concerned to have all of this power concentrated in one man and is demanding access to the technology.
A fierce and jealous competitor, Justin Hammer -- played by Sam Rockwell -- is determined to cash in on Stark Industries' innovations and testifies against Tony before a Senate Committee, chaired by Gary Shandling as Sen. Stern.
Meanwhile, two life-threatening issues unfold around Stark; first, apparently the Ironman power source technology is not exclusive to Stark Industries. This is where we're introduced to Ivan Vanko -- played wonderfully by Mickey Rourke. Second, the palladium core in Tony's chest carries side-effects.
As our hero tries to address these pressing issues he releases control of the company to Pepper Potts, again played by Gwyneth Paltrow, and hires a new assistant, Natalie -- played by Scarlett Johansson. But, who exactly is Natalie and has she come into his life by accident?
There are so many great storylines and sub plots here, but I don't want to give away too much. I do have to tell you that every performance is terrific. With Don Cheadle stepping into the role of "Rhodey" Rhodes, the film doesn't skip a beat. There is just nothing not to like in "Ironman 2."
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I'm giving it the full four stars. "Ironman 2" is rated PG-13.