*What makes Iron Man stand apart from other comic book superheroes is the title character’s savoir faire.

Billionaire inventor Tony Stark is always quick with the clever quip, whether reacting flirtatiously to the arrival of a new employee (“I want one!”), impulsively entering the Monaco Grand Prix (“What’s the point of owning a race car if you can’t drive it?”), or dismissing an insufferable adversary (“You look like you have friends in low places.”).

This makes the movie a delight to watch not only during the obligatory fight sequences but the rest of the time as well. Credit Robert Downey, Jr. for bringing an abundance of charm to the title role and to director Jon Favreau for ostensibly encouraging his star’s inclination to augment his scripted lines with lots of inspired ad-libs.

Besides Downey, other returning cast members include Favreau as The sequel picks up right where the original adventure left off, with Iron Man serving as a formidable deterrent to those even thinking about causing trouble anywhere on the planet. Because his identity has been revealed, Stark is soon subpoenaed to testify in front of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee by a showboating Senator (Garry Shandling) demanding that he share his secrets with the military. But the suspicious genius inventor, feeling that he has successfully privatized world peace, refuses out of a concern that the state-of-the-art technology could fall into the wrong hands.

Meanwhile, half a world away, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a maniacal Russian physicist with a personal grudge to settle with the Stark family, is meeting with frustration while working on his own impenetrable suit of armor. His limited resources and lust for revenge conveniently dovetail with the needs of munitions manufacturer Justin Hammer (Mickey Rourke) who has plenty of money but not the know-how to compete with Stark Industries.

This straightforward setup hints at the inevitable battle royal between the forces of good and evil. En route to that spectacular, special effects-driven showdown, expect to be engaged by a variety of intriguing subplots revolving around everything from Tony’s failing health to pal Rhodey’s (Don Cheadle) loyalty issues to assistant Pepper’s (Gwyneth Paltrow) promotion to CEO to the revelation of temptress Natalie’s (Scarlett Johansson) true identity.

An engrossing, entertaining and satisfying sequel from the beginning clear through the closing credits which drop a big hint about which Marvel superhero might be adapted to the big screen next.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and intense sci-fi violence.
In English and French with subtitles.
Running time: 126 Minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment

2-Disc DVD Extras: Feature film with optional commentary by Jon Favreau, deleted scenes with optional commentary by Jon Favreau, alternate opening, featurettes “Coulson at the Senate,” “Natalie Wears the Gauntlet,” “Element Rediscovered,” “Creating Stark Expo,” and “Practical Meets Digital,” music video: AC/DC “Shoot To Thrill,” and a digital copy.

To see a trailer for Iron Man 2, visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siQgD9qOhRs

To order a copy of Iron Man 2 on DVD, visit:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0021L8V1G?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0021L8V1G