1) Father/Son legacies. Both Whiplash and Tony have inherited baggage–technical, emotional, moral–from their fathers. What I like is I’m not sure what to make of Whiplash’s intentions and his father’s dying statement: “That should be you.” Did his father hold a bitter grudge or was he merely saying “You are destined for greatness too, son.” Not that the two are mutually exclusive but I wonder if just like Tony, Whiplash has gone off track from his father’s wishes.
2) The misuse of power and ability. Tony’s chest reactor has amazing powers. Imagine what energy problems around the world could be solved with this technology. But Tony’s heart is corrupted–that was established in the first film and this one rachets that up even more. He assumes that only he could responsibly use the Arc Reactor–all the while withholding it from others. Of course we can read ‘nuclear power/weapons’ all over these films. Tony mirrors the message America is currently sending to some countries: “We have nuclear weapons and bombs. We can manage both just fine. You cannot do either.”
3) No one can ‘go it alone’. This plays out in Tony’s romantic reaching out to Pepper and Rhodes. His change of heart is propelled by his heart problems and immanent death. His alliances and friendships are a source of strength for him because there is mutuality and trust. Whiplash and Hammer on the other hand have an alliance that was never fair, trusting, equal, and they both lost in the end.

Filmic References
1) Top Gun: War Machine’s fly by the tower.
2) Terminator: Rhode’s at the party–“Get out”
3) (…more?…)

Tony Stark
Tony Stark is interesting because he is beyond the ‘dark’ superhero ‘with flaws’. He is hardly a hero at all. His power comes from his being ‘self serving’ in a very real sense. His Arc Reactor saves his life and is a glorified pace maker. He is a Capitalist whose ethical system is about money, ease, fame, ego. In the first movie he makes an important decision to rectify his company’s weapons dealings and war profiteering. Even when he did that, he failed as a true ‘superhero’ by killing people rather than using his tech prowess to find less than lethal ways of achieving his goals. In the second film, he’s facing down those who are jealous of him. He’s not battling for Truth Justice and The American Way or solving crimes or protecting the weak. He’s fending off Playa Haters who are aimin’ at his game. Its Corporate War. A hostile takeover with a touch of Ghosts of The Past Seeking Revenge. That’s why I’m interested in the Avengers. When there is a team involved and larger issues than just Stark Industries, how will Tony act?

The hidden and esoteric arts were never really just about turning more crude matter into gold. It was about the perfection of the spirit and attainment of the secrets of God. This was more to do with righteousness and angelic mediators and divine science than potions and wizened hermits trying to get rich. And Iron Man 2 has a bit of alchemy in it also. Tony’s life is literally and relationally saved by his father Howard’s love. His father reaches out to him saying “You are my most important creation.” and also hands him the secret to unlocking Tony’s heart troubles.
Using this knowledge as key, I’m going to offer an analysis that you may or may not agree with:
The circle chest icon on Iron Man’s suit may be thought of symbolizing “oneness”–appropriate for the lonely ‘Rambo’ style of Tony at first.
The triangle chest piece, a gift of his father and a very tangible sign of his father’s love, appears at a time when Tony shows love for Pepper and accepts Rhodes’ help. This triangle can be seen as a ‘trinity’. A sign of community, shared love, and equality.

Scarlett Johansson:
An unfortunate casting in an otherwise well cast film. Every other leading actor here is charismatic and plays off each other well. Scarlett seems a dead weight. Was it that her character wasn’t written well? Perhaps. Was it that she was so cinched into trusses and corsets binding her up that she was unable to breathe let alone move and act like a natural, comfortable person? Most likely yes. If you watch her in the Monaco scene where she greets Tony and Pepper and then stops to speak to someone else, her body is bent into an unnatural posture–most definitely because of her costumer. I love people with curves. In my mind, if you’re going to cast Scarlett, let her be the beautiful woman she is. This is an issue that should have been hammered out between director and costumer.
She also is wooden and unnatural by her own accord. I hope she doesn’t appear in any more Marvel movies.

Happy Little Moments:
1) The way Gyneth Paltrow says ‘struwburries’.
2) The Army Drones feet that clamp unto the ground when firing their ‘tank’ rounds.
3) Whiplash’s great villain entrance as his disguise burns away on the Formula One track.
4) Tony and Rhodes talking in their suits with their masks up before the final fight. They play well and make it a believeable “surrounded cowboys in the OK Corral” feel even though they’re in Arc Reactor powered suits.

Sources of Frustration:
1) Music choice for Tony’s introduction in the movie as he is dispatched from the airplane. With a different score, we could entertain better the idea that he’s being launched into battle–which would make sense to how it is shot and intended. It would have been a nice ‘gotcha’ to have a dramatic sound leading us to believe that rather than fireworks, he’s flying through flak.
2) Scarlett Johansson (see above)
3) Too busy of a movie to have a singular thread that builds or allows characters to have much depth. There’s no tension in this movie. The most threatened we feel is on the racetrack until Tony’s in his suit. There’s no rising threat. Only at the end to we have an almost exact replica of the first movie where Tony blows the shit of the bad guy and it endangers Pepper and she’s the damsel in distress.
4) Much too much is going on. There’s no sense of ‘arc’, finality, or real character growth/depth.
5) The Bonus add-on after the credits seems really arbitrary. The New Mexico setting allows for either Hulk or Cap options–were they trying to throw us off? My guess is no. The creative team probably just didn’t know what Marvel movie to script for so they most likely made a setting that could be believeable for a number of movies and shot different “gasp” shots….Mjolner, Cap’s shield, suspended Banner…whatever movie got finalized first got into the bonus shot. Anywho, it just feels “stock” and impersonal.

And…I tremor with delight that I saw them film the shot where Tony drives his Audi down the PCH near Malibu.