Of course, Robert Downey, Jr. continues to own the Tony Stark role and plays perfectly with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts. The expansion of Rhodey into the War Machine character was great to see, and the change from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle was seamless.
I was worried the movie might suffer from an overabundance of characters, much like what happened with Spider-Man 3, but Iron Man 2 seemed to get the balance right. I liked the way Whiplash and Justin Hammer worked together (Sam Rockwell chewed the scenery as Hammer). Neither was too broad or overshadowed the other as the antagonist.
The introduction of the Black Widow was handled nicely (Scarlett Johansson was great in the role) and recalled the post-credits Nick Fury cameo we saw at the end of the first movie. I love the way Marvel is tying these movies together, creating a larger Marvel Universe: Nick Fury in Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Tony Stark in Incredible Hulk, the Captain America shield appearing in both Iron Man movies, and another post-credit tease at the end of Iron Man 2 that also plays into the larger picture.
One thing I really dug was that not all the bad guys died in the end. That’s something that has bugged me in the big screen adaptations of comic book properties. The comic book universe is an on-going world, and bad guys return as much as good guys. I get that you want to move on in the next movie to a new bad guy and not rehash a previous film, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have callbacks and cameos. So I’m hoping the surviving antagonist shows up in Iron Man 3, if only in a small part.
I’ve learned watching the Iron Man movies that I really don’t know a lot about the Golden Avenger’s rogues gallery. I knew who Obadiah Stane was from the comics, but not necessarily the Iron Monger aspect of his history. I did recognize the Mandarin from the first film and hope he returns in a future installment. I was not familiar with Whiplash or Justin Hammer at all. So it’s been fun to discover these characters right along with Tracy each time we head to the theater.