Jon Favreau's enjoyable first installment benefited enormously from a wisecracking, ad- libbing, force-of-nature performance from Robert Downey Jnr as Tony Stark, the playboy billionaire also known as superhero Iron Man.
He is no less charismatic here, but his goateed industrialist is less charming,more incoherent, and the sequel gets off to a rather laboured start. A boorish Stark – now outed (by himself) as Iron Man – boasts about promoting world peace at a glitzy (dancing girls, heavy rock music) expo before fending off a Pentagon hearing, headed – distractingly – by Garry Shandling. The only thing of real note in the first 20 minutes is Ivan Vanko, Mickey Rourke's mumbling Russian physicist hell-bent on revenge. The poor fellow's under the impression that Stark's company pilfered his father's Iron Man prototype.
Finally, after much bluster some action kicks in, on the Grand Prix track at Monaco, with Ivan throwing some villainous shapes – electrified whips – at the racing cars. But it all looks and feels like a computer game. Additions this time around are Sam Rockwell (excellent in Moon, wasted here) as a slimeball entrepreneur, Scarlett Johansson's bottom-kicking Black Widow and Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury. They can't quite save Iron Man 2 from being a big disappointment with little heart.