It’s become a recent tradition that the first week of May, or the last week of April, signifies the start of the blockbuster season – the time of year that studios release their massive behemoths. It’s become an even more recent tradition that the start of the blockbuster season should start with a massive Marvel blockbuster. 2010 is no different; thanks to the sequel to 2008’s surprise smash Iron Man, surely Marvel’s greatest film. It’s no surprise that Jon Favreau’s bigger, louder and more complex sequel Iron Man 2 falls short of recapturing the freshness and the brilliance of the original and you shouldn’t go into the film expecting it to do that, and if you do, then you’re an idiot. Iron Man 2 is rare in that while it’s not as good as the first, it’s a sequel that recaptures majority of what made the first film as good as it was. In ol’ shellhead’s case, it’s the fun, the humour, and most importantly, the humanity that is happily transferred to this sequel, despite the added size and action. On paper, it seemed like 2 would go the way of Spider-Man 3, in that it has so much quantity, but not enough substance. Thankfully, this is not the case. Despite the numerous amount of subplots and characters, Iron Man 2 manages to flow along quite nicely and smoothly, thanks to Favreau’s excellent direction. Arrogant billionaire Tony Stark (Downey Jr, brilliant, as per usual), is flying high, with the whole world aware that he is Iron Man, and his company doing better than ever. But Stark faces a few problems. The US Government (led by an amusing Garry Shandling) want to get the Iron Man suit for themselves, two-faces rival Justin Hammer (a scene stealing Sam Rockwell) wants to revamp his weapons company with the suit, and Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (a deliciously cool Mickey Rourke), is making his own villain, Whiplash, to get revenge on Stark due to events that happened throughout his family history. Meanwhile, Tony is slowly dying due to blood poisoning from his suit, as well as dealing with the flailing relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and the introduction of the mysterious Natalie Rushman (a sexy Scarlett Johansson). One of the greatest things about the first one, was the humanity that Favreau brought to the film, and he does equally the same thing here, so much so that, like last time, we see Tony Stark more than we see Iron Man, which may disappoint people looking for another can of fizzy action juice. It’s refreshing to watch a superhero we can relate with, and Favreau lets us know that Tony Stark is still a man with real problems. And, he answers the question that all superhero films have avoided: ‘how do you go to the toilet in suit?’ The performances by everyone involved are all fantastic. Downey Jr is obviously the standout, and has the amazing ability to flick from charismatic ladies man to serious minded action man. The supporting cast are all fantastic, including Paltrow, who’s bickering scenes with Tony are among the film’s best; Rockwell, who is sure to get himself realised (finally); Scar-Jo and Rourke are also great. The first act of Iron Man 2 is fantastic: funny, fun and exciting. The film slumps throughout the middle, but gets back on track in the third act. What’s missing this time that worked so well last time, is the political and social context, a lack thereof in this film slightly takes away the relevance to today’s society and the humanity of the film. This being a sequel, what’s also missing is the freshness we were so entertained by in the first film, though a lack of this was to be expected. The film’s action sequences, while spectacular and large in scale, are quite safe and lack a sense of grounding, but then again, the Iron Man films were never about the wham-bam action set-pieces; they’re more about the man himself, and it’s this that helps the Iron Man series reign the superior franchise in the Marvel canon, and Iron Man 2 is a worthy successor to its predecessor, fitting right in with Marvel’s continuing trend of excellent second chapters, Rise of the Silver Surfer notwithstanding.