When Iron Man came out May 2008, I was pleasantly surprised with the film, in part by my low expectations. I was not alone in low-expectations & high prize.
Expectation's of the audience are far higher this go-around, and I think that unfortunately that makes this film a little less of a jewel.
But, there's still a sense of expectation in this film that is fostered by the massive project that is just underway in the Avenger's project. "How will this all play out?" you ask as Nick Fury's character shows up, not just in a post-credit tease, but as an actual character.
You ask, "who's here to stay?" and are excited by the prospects of what characters will cross over into Thor, Captain America, and the larger Avenger storyline.
The thing I like about Iron Man is that he's more interesting with the suit-off then with the suit-on. I credit it this the writing and Robert Downey Jr. It's fun to see him build, and be the Tony Stark character. His interaction with other characters, his wit, his ego, and his narcissism is what I believe make the film the success that it is.
Not many super-hero films can claim this success. The fight scenes are big, but it's not his power's that impress us, nor the typical "will they figure out who he is" mystery, rather it's the way his personality improves and hurts his heroism.
I love this cast. In 2008 I praised the cast of the first film and I continually love the performances. In fact, beyond Downey Jr. I really think this film was Don Cheadle's baby. He was superb. Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johannsson were good, Mickey Rourke was better than I expected, and I loved seeing John Slattery as Howard Stark, and look forward to Clark Gregg's continue role as Agent Coulson.
If there was a disappointing performance in this film, I would say I had hoped for more from Sam Rockwell.
Oh, and Gary Shandling, as Senator Stern -- surprisingly well played and cast.
Honestly, this film was not as "fresh" as the first, and fell into some super hero sequel traps, which was a little unfortunate...the side kick angle, while well played by Cheadle, seems overplayed, and I felt like there were many "repeat" scenes in this film from the first (example the Expo fan fair and shop-redesign) seemed to be a little deja vu. It's inevitable, but it lacked some of the new, fresh, and intelligent that we saw in the first film.
The concept of legacy was clearly the overall "theme" or concept that the Jon Fraverau as screenwriter was bringing out in the context of Tony Stark's character, as well as Ivan Vonko (Mickey Rourke), and to a lesser extent in some of the supporting cast.
Probably somewhat an over-played theme in general, but well played. But where the film hit this theme throughout the film, I don't think it ever really said anything about legacy, other than touching on the human desire to "make an impact" whether that's in terms of revenge, family, science, peace, business, or national recognition.
I expected some wrap up of this concept in the story, but didn't see it.
Despite some "critic" it's a good film. I do think that the larger Avenger story probably had some influence on "weakening" a film that could have been great, but at the same time this massive-scale project to tell the Avenger story in multiple films is certainly going to be something that is not only interesting to watch, but to see how it holds up and becomes that great success that studios are surely hoping for.
Here's to more Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans as Captain America, and Thor (which we see a little hint of after the credits role).