Tony Stark/Iron Man opens on a grand high note, making a spectacular entrance into his own Expo to the welcome of a bevy of leggy dancing "Ironettes", and it goes downhill for him from there. The Senate and the military are after his technology, Hammer Industries ramps up its aggression in competition against Stark's, and a foe he doesn't even know of takes up a personal vendetta against Stark himself. All this while he's basking in the glory of his own successes as the bringer of peace to the world.
Why we like Tony Stark is because he fends off his attackers so deftly. His wit in the Senate hearing is a disguise for the fact that he does not win the argument as much as he embarrasses his opponents to the point that they lose credibility in the debate. We like his irreverence and his taste in all the good things in life -- wine, women and all things geeky. Somehow, we are swept up in the mystique of Stark that his excesses seem forgiveable.
Which is why Mr Stark needs to be brought back down to earth. Whiplash makes a great nemesis not because his power matches the power of the Iron Man suit, but because his arrival forces Stark to reflect on the injustice done to the person wearing the Whiplash suit. Thus Stark, the futurist, realises that he has to look into the past for the wisdom to answer many of his current problems. And through Nick Fury, he realises that Iron Man cannot stand alone as the protector of the whole world.
What impresses me about this sequel is that it doesn't go all out to raise the stakes with effects. Yes, there are improvements and upgrades, including the bulky War Machine armour, but nothing that distracts from character portrayals. What IM2 has more of is human characters to balance out the iron-clad superheroics. The movie is really all about the people, anyway, and not the suits -- a fact that seems to elude Justin Hammer.
As before, IM2 promises great thrills, witty humour, and the exhilaration of noisy, powered flight sequences accompanied by the beat of ordnance and collateral damage. Two words: woo hoo!
The end-of-credits sequence adds another piece to the the Avengers puzzle, so stay and keep watching if you want.