Superhero sagas, at their best, are morality plays with big explosions. The original Iron Man was no exception, as a corporate playboy learned to live for more than his own financial success. The sequel, Iron Man 2, keeps some of the fun and heart that made the first movie such a success, but doesn't deliver the same passion.
Flippant inventor and professional partier Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has ushered in a new era of global peace through his careful wielding of the Iron Man power, but the power that keeps him alive is also ruining his health. His secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), whom he loves, steps up to run his company as his military friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle) watches his ceaseless partying with concern. A curvy operative (Scarlett Johansson) infiltrates his company. Meanwhile, a jealous Russian inventor (Mickey Rourke) and a bumbling American competitor (Sam Rockwell) want very much to end Iron Man's benevolent reign.
Most of the plot gets bogged down in rival inventions, Stark's quest to cure himself, and Pepper and Rhodey's disgust with Stark's behavior. In addition, Marvel interjects a plot line about the Avengers, as they build audience excitement for a future Avengers movie. All this adds up to a lot more talking than action.
The action scenes are fun when they get going, and the film (rated PG-13) is, for the most part, clean. (A few double entendres and occasional swear words are the worst of it.)
The biggest flaw, however, is the lack of a moral core that should propel a superhero movie. The bad guys have no grand, dark schemes other than to destroy Stark and sell weapons to the military. The greatest moral outrage seems to be over the government's theft of Stark's Iron Man suit. Patent infringement is certainly a problem, but it's hardly a superhero issue.