OPENS: FRIDAY 5/7
Us Rating: **
What a shame that the follow-up to the rollicking 2008 blockbuster is a plotdeprived mess. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man, the billionaire hero with iron shrapnel in his chest. Of course, things have changed. His blood has become increasingly toxic because of his inner-armor, and he has a new martial arts–trained assistant (Scarlett Johansson) with ulterior motives -- and a catsuit! Plus, he has a rival, the wacko Russian Ivan (Mickey Rourke, sporting disgusting metal teeth and tattoos). Gwyneth Paltrow is back too as aide-de-camp gal pal Pepper, but the Oscar winner's star power is woefully underutilized. All Paltrow does in this sequel is pout until her big kiss with Downey. And while the charming leading man slings a few good zingers, the action flick lacks mystery and a soul. It's just a series of expensive CGI battles that merely sustain the franchise till the inevitable threequel. Here's hoping the screenwriters muscle up.