Having outed himself as a superhero, billionaire playboy Tony Stark is enjoying his newfound notoriety. He's not enjoying the attentions of the US government, however, who want him to hand over the secrets to the incredible armoured suits he uses to battle evil. Meanwhile, bearing a family grudge against Stark, Russian Ivan Vanko (Rourke) builds his own version of the famous suit, using it to attack his nemesis during a Formula 1 race at Monaco.
Surviving the racetrack assault, Stark is not so convinced that he'll endure the life-threatening degradation of the reactor that keeps his heart beating. Just as worrying is the fact that rival defence contractor Justin Hammer (Rockwell) has recruited Vanko in an attempt to permanently do away with his main competitor.
Fortunately for the cocky weapons whizz, help is on hand from his indispensible PA Pepper Potts (Paltrow). What's more, keeping one eye out for Stark is Nicky Fury (Samuel L Jackson), the head of secretive defence agency S.H.I.E.L.D, who has planted one of his operatives, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), at Stark Industries.
As Hammer and Vanko unleash malevolent robotic versions of Stark's suit on the world, outnumbered and outgunned, Iron Man must recruit his old pal James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Don Cheadle) to battle the bots in a no-holds-barred showdown.
Pardon the pun, but Iron Man 2 does exactly what it says on the tin. No better and no worse than the original, it delivers an almost identical quota of explosive action, well-rounded characters and roguish humour. That's not to say that it's merely a facsimile, with welcome new elements such as Rockwell's smarmy yuppie and Rhodey's expanded role (albeit without original actor Terrence Howard) keeping the narrative gears greased.