In case you were wondering, making sequels that are better than the original is still an insurmountable task. Only one or two movies have done it, and Iron Man 2 isn’t one of them. In fact, IM2 is disappointing for various reasons, the most notable of which is the lack of character development. Even the die-hards are admitting that.

While the storyline itself is well thought-out, the script fails to deliver, leaving its actors stranded to do their best and keep the suspense high. There were no bad actors in this movie – in fact, it’s a terrific cast – but none of them had a great script to work with. The entire script lacked punch and emotional depth for the audience to care much about any of their favorites from the original Iron Man.

Performance Ratings: 

* Best Performance: Don Cheadle, with an honory mention to Mickey Rourke

**BONUS: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury! (They should have ousted Johansson’s leggy but speechless bodyguard and given him more screentime. Looking forward to his performance in The Avengers.)

  • Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man = 5/10
    • Disappointing. Solid performance but absolutely nothing new. His mouth still drips sarcasm which quickly turns to egotistical cynicism, so frustrating to the point that by the time best buddie James Rhodes shows up to break up the party, they’re hoping he’ll actually whip Stark’s butt to shut him up for good. And that whole “I’m dying” bit? Unconvincing. 
  •   Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts = 6/10
    • Not enough screentime. I personally felt bad for Paltrow that they gave her such shoddy dialogue in her scenes. She did what she could, but the sequel just dropped Pepper’s amazing potential (along with everyone else’s) and gave her a cheap imitation for a replacement. She does nothing to aid the storyline or play with the audience’s sympathy, as was the original intent. Instead, Pepper becomes the sappy ex-girlfriend who just keeps getting in the way. If the script was a product, I’d ask for my money back.
  • Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash = 7/10
    • Very cool baddie. Did well with what they gave him and has an amazing onscreen presence. The story’s a bit vague on the Russian’s background and motivation for going after Stark, and he deserves way more butt-kicking scenes than the one racetrack confrontation and the “climax” that lasts all of thirty seconds. But it’s relatively forgivable seeing as how Whiplash is the coolest villain since Marvel’s onscreen debut, or at least since Doc Ock of Spiderman 2.
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow = 2/10
    • Has not one, not two, but three identities, badly fitting outfits, no dialogue, no personality, and absolutely no purpose. Except to bring in the drooling male adolescents (and not so adolescent) and set up the next unnecessary Marvel collaboration, The Avengers. Poor choice of casting on Johansson’s part; I doubt it will help her career. Stick with the classic type movies (Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Prestige, etc.) and leave the superheroes to Jessica Alba.
  • Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer = 7/10
    • Very good performance by a terrifically charismatic actor. A bit reminiscent of Eric Knox in Charlie’s Angels, and not a particularly original villain, but still a slick and sly rival of Stark Indutries that is a great pleasant to watch. Plus, that dude can really bust out the moves.
  • Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes = 8/10
    • Chalk it up to Cheadle for picking up where Terrence Howard left off and making “Rhodey” the most likeable and emotionally connecting character of the entire movie despite the script’s flaws. My hat’s off to this guy; he always captures an audience with his radiant smile, soft-spoken voice, and down-to-earth, honest acting. And when he finds himself in a comedic role, he delivers. A great catalyst to what is soon to be the Iron Man saga and a terrific role for him to continue to portray.

All in all, Iron Man 2 is an average movie that gets helped out by its special effects, cool [male] co-stars, and lots and lots of big – and bigger – guns. It both entertains and disappoints, which is somewhat of an oxymoron.