The first Iron Man movie came from left field. A director with little experience (Jon Faverau) and a star, with no blockbuster status whose lustre was fading, Robert Downey Junior.

The original film was fun, well made and a huge success. Downey now with another successful franchise, Sherlock Holmes under his belt, now finds himself in territory clearly marked, high expectation.

Does the film deliver, bearing in mind this is the difficult middle segment of a probable trilogy?

The answer is a reassuring yes.

There are certainly more famous faces, Samuel L Jackson, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle (replacing Terence Howard) and Scarlett Johanssen to name a few. There is less humour and whilst there is no question this is a very confidently made movie, Tony Stark conversely loses his confidence and endures a mid life crisis, due to circumstances beyond his control.

At one point transferring the running of the company to Penny (Gwyneth Paltrow), looking older but just as radiant, whilst Stark proceeds to destroy much of what he has not so carefully built.

If the image of a drunk Stark acting as a hip DJ in his Ironman suit, destroying large parts of his beautiful clifftop mansion, is too much of a comic book divergence, then look away now.

Following a spectacular “Expo” style entrance, gorgeous dancing cheerleaders, AC/DC blasting into your ears, we are into the real business of senate hearings. Yes, you heard that correctly, no Monica Lewinsky dress but otherwise complete with chubby faced senators droning on and on, complaining that Stark is not sharing his talents and toys with anyone else, least of all the US Military.

As Stark says, he has “privatised world peace” what more do they want?

We are introduced to a new nemesis in the form of competing arms producer, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who is funding Ivan Vanko (O’Rourke), who has more axes to grind than a Norwegian wood cutter. Vanko has a penchant for electricity, lots of it. There is a standout sequence set in Monaco during a F1 style race, complete with a brand new Rolls Royce, which certainly doesn’t start the scene as a convertible.

Rockwell is perhaps too jokey to be truly evil but O’Rourke deserves his place back in the limelight, both well cast and acting the part in every way. Johanssen impresses in a tight cat suit, although her stand out sequence does seem over edited.

The effects are good, maybe the final scenes with robot on robot battles has been seen before but overall, it holds together extremely well.

Is there scope for more, well there will probably be $400 million plus reasons why there will be. Certainly a third course of Iron Man would be more than acceptable, now the “Temple of Doom” middle movie problem is well out of the way.

This film, together with “Batman Dark Knight”, is a clear indication of how far Superhero movies have come. Not just in effects but stories and themes. Perhaps they are the new method of introducing complex characters with modern flaws and failings to modern audiences, all wrapped up in a Cineplex pleasing blockbuster SFX extravaganza. If so, there is a rich seam of comic book heroes still to be uncovered and synergy to be explored (The Avengers due 2012), if they are all realised this well there should be no complaints.

Certainly the idea of a billionaire with unlimited wealth indulging his passion for the latest toys and finest of everything, whilst hiding dark secrets, seems to appeal to most of us, I wonder why.

As TV’s “The Big Bang Theory” has proven, being a comic book geek (CBG) is now so mainstream that “classic CBG’s” may have to find a new pastime, if they wish to remain socially awkward.

A confidently made film with excellent effects and a deeper more complex storyline than one might expect in a mainstream blockbuster movie.
Will please existing fans and add many more – recommended