‘Iron Man 2'

CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Mickey Rourke. Directed by Jon Favreau.

BACK STORY: Yes, with the addition of Johansson and Rourke to the cast, there will be a lot of “beauty and the beast” headlines as the release nears.

The high-flying franchise from Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures picks up right where the 2008 hit film left off: with billionaire Tony Stark (Downey) revealing his secret identity to the world in open defiance of every municipal code in Gotham City and Metropolis. But Iron Man is the first major Hollywood superhero to soar over Los Angeles and, well, the laws of publicity are different here.

Favreau knows about the old conventions of cape movies (he was in “Batman Forever” in 1995), but the $585 million success of “Iron Man” was wired to avoid most of them and keyed instead on Downey’s wit and decadent smirk.


“The superhero genre has been picked over pretty thoroughly with all the different titles, sequels, reboots,” Favreau says. “It’s tough to keep it fresh and not do something that is derivative of something someone else has done. By taking a left turn at the end of the first film and making him a public figure, it opened it up to a whole lot of new possibilities.”

Johansson joins the cast as curvy super-spy Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, a character with Cold War roots. Rourke is Ivan Vanko, a.k.a. Whiplash, a weapons designer obsessed with his hatred for Stark.

FILM CLIP: Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard, who left the franchise over a money dispute, as Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Stark’s friend who gets armored duty himself this time around.

NEXT: “Alice in Wonderland”