In my review of the first Iron Man, I wrote the following:
"For me, the most engaging and gripping scenes in the movie occurred near the beginning, when Tony Stark is captured in Afghanistan and begins his journey towards becoming a super-hero, out of necessity if nothing else. In those scenes, it is the performance of Shaun Toub as Yinsen, who under duress becomes Stark’s assistant and accomplice in creating the Iron Man, which lends the film its moral weight. Yinsen knows that for him there can be no escape, and though Stark has yet to understand the ramifications of what he does for a living (building weapons), Yinsen understands all too well. It is from Yinsen’s strength of character that Stark begins his moral awakening. "
Reading that again after seeing Iron Man 2, I feel a little silly for having used phrases like "moral weight" and "moral awakening." I'm not sure how much time is supposed to have elapsed between the two movies, but apparently Tony Stark's memory is affected by the Iron Man suit: the lesson he's taken out of his "birth" is that he needs to become more narcissistic than ever, and generally act like a jerk in whatever setting he finds himself. And I'm sorry, but the fact that the Iron Man suit is slowly killing him doesn't strike me as much of an excuse.
Don't get me wrong - Iron Man 2 is by no means a bad movie; in fact, it's very enjoyable. But it does strike me as a movie that's taken the easy way out - let's just let Robert Downey Jr. do his thing - trade wisecracks with Garry Shandling, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson - and we'll have ourselves a movie. And to be honest, a lot of it works - I laughed at most of the right times, particularly any time Rockwell was on the screen. And there's nothing really wrong with the big action scenes either - the big fights are somewhat predictable, but at the same time they're fun to watch. Scarlett Johannsen is very cool, and Mickey Rourke is suitably menacing as what amounts to an evil version of Iron Man.
So what's the problem? I guess I'd have to say that there just isn't much humanity in the entire exercise. Which is probably a dumb thing to say about a comic book movie. Oh well.