Let's call this one the victory lap.
"Iron Man" was no guaranteed hit before the weekend it opened. There were people predicting failure for that film even after it opened, even after it started to turn into a word-of-mouth-must-see, not just a box-office success but a genuinely loved pop culture moment. The first movie's got its weak points, but it also has a ridiculous energy to it, and I unabashedly loved it when I reviewed it for Ain't It Cool.
"Iron Man 2" is, in every possible way, issue two of a comic book. It doesn't have to spend time setting up the origin of the character, and it doesn't feel the need to resolve every single story thread introduced in this one film. There's a sense that everyone's settling into this series and thinking big. It is just as confident as the first film, and incredibly aggressive in the way it handles story and characterization. The pre-title sequence picks up mere seconds after the ending of the first film, and introduces Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an embittered Russian with family ties that make Tony Stark a perfect target for his rage. By the time the main title appears onscreen, everything's already in motion, and then we're right into the Stark Expo, where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes the stage.