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Iron Man II Photo 1If you liked Iron Man and all the guns shooting and things going boom, you are going to love Iron Man II. Admittedly, I loved comic books when I was growing up in lovely El Cajon, California, a place where summers were boiling hot and if your house did not have air conditioning (ours did not) one of the few public places that did was the public library. Fortunately, the El Cajon public library was stocked with Marvel Comics and I grew to love Iron Man. So before you go any further, you should probably know that I was sold on the first installment of Iron Man before the credits rolled. I liked Iron Man II more than I should have.
True, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) does not suit up in his high tech suit of destruction enough and there are so few unanswered questions from the first movie, the only thing a sequel could do would be to up the violence and keep the quick paced dialogue running. This movie does that and there are even a few moments, like the opening scene, when the sequel is better than the original.

Stark is dying from advanced palladium toxicity, which is a byproduct of the coruscating energy source that keeps him alive while it powers his suit. Once Stark's condition is revealed, it serves as a jumping off point for drunken behavior and the too obligatory musical number thrown into too many films (Queen takes the hit this time).

Downey clearly knows how to play the filthy rich, corporate Stark to crowd pleasing heights. He will never win an Academy Award for playing a one man industrial military complex, but he will have fun doing it, and I had a great time watching him. Throw in a tattooed whip wielding Russian nemesis named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), looking hideous and brilliant all at once, and you have someone for Downey to play off of, with amusing results. Director Jon Favreau stays out of the way of the acting, which is solid, and lets the set pieces breathe enough for the audience to cheer and not miss any of the dialogue.

The supporting cast is enjoyable too, with one exception; watching Gwyneth Paltrow play Pepper Potts, Stark's right-hand gal pal.  I am amazed that she still gets work in Hollywood. Paltrow reads lines as if she has just rolled out of bed and someone told her "Be adorable, it'll work." Well, it does not.  Fortunately, Don Cheadle as "Rhodey" Rhodes is preferable to Terrance Howard's turn in the first film. Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson are used sparingly and to decent effect.

If you're looking for action and bucket loads smart-aleck dialogue Iron Man II is perfect for you. Big screens are made to be filled, which this film does from start to finish with a few lulls in the action to catch your breath.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

Riveting Riffs Magazine's Film Editor Barry Benintende is a freelance journalist living in San Diego. He is happily married with two sons, a daughter, two cats and Jack, the world's finest Terrier.