Let's face it: there isn't much you can do with an impregnable metal suit as far as threats go, except put it up against another metal suit. Or, as here, more than one of them. Favreau adops the Aliens approach here, opting to throw Downey's creation against an entire army of similar drones. These are created by rival arms manufacturer Justin Hammer (Rockwell), with the assistance of Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (Rourke), who has a score to settle with the Stark family. Meanwhile, the US government are attempting to get Stark Industries to turn over the suit to them, driven by concern that other countries are attempting to reproduce the technology. And Stark finds his body slowly being poisoned by the palladium core that runs the suit; with no cure in sight, he takes to self-destructive behaviour, until Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. stages an intervention to get Stark back on track.
If Downey is still entertaining to watch as Tony Stark, there isn't the same emphatic storyline drive which propelled the first film, especially for those who hadn't read the comic. Here, it's obvious, almost from the opening scene, where this is going to finish - a battle between Stark and Vanko - and from there until this comes to pass, you're largely twiddling your thumbs. Visually, it's also amazingly obvious CGI. Despite the near-record volumes of broken-glass which shower participants over the course of this, I doubt a single pane was ever broken, and it shows: this awareness at the back of your mind, significantly reduces the threat to the participants. In support, Rockwell is endearingly fun to watch, and Scarlet Johannson kicks impressive ass in her role [rather see her given a movie, rather than Thor!]. While this is no Transformers 2, it certainly is not The Dark Knight, and feels more like a place-holder for whenever they get round to The Avengers.