Reminisce with me all the way back to the heady days of May 2008. Jon Favreau's "Iron Man" turned out to be a surprise crowd-pleaser, reviving Robert Downey Jr.'s career and launching a franchise.

Reminisce with me all the way back to the heady days of May 2008. Jon Favreau's "Iron Man" turned out to be a surprise crowd-pleaser, reviving Robert Downey Jr.'s career and launching a franchise.

With "Iron Man 2," Favreau avoids many of the growing pains that these movies face in striving for bigger, better and more, although it hits some turbulence after a great launch.

Tony Stark (Downey) and his magical mechanical suit are back. The U.S. government is trying to relinquish control of the Iron Man suit technology, but the ever cocky Stark is resistant, bragging "I privatized world peace. You're welcome."

Of course, new threats arise in the form of beefy Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Vanko has a long-standing grudge against the Stark family, and soon he has the vast resources of a Stark-rival weapons magnate (Sam Rockwell).

"Iron Man 2" does suffer from clutter, but it isn't the sort of villain overload that sunk the first Batman franchise. In fact, Favreau delivers a thrilling and witty first hour before things start to get muddy. He rights the ship with the inevitable explosion-stuffed climax.

Even if the story doesn't deliver, it's fun to watch these actors. Downey's charming smugness remains endearing, Rourke's gruff mug is well-cast and Rockwell is a blast in full weasel mode.

Better than the first? Nope. But you certainly won't feel ripped off.