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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Hollywood has given us a spring full of remakes: "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Death at a Funeral," "Clash of the Titans." And we appear to be headed for a summer of sequels.

(Soundbite of film clips)

Unidentified Man #1: It's the final chapter and the race is on.

Unidentified Man #2: I'm an actor. But just give me a minute.

Unidentified Woman #1: It's been two years. Happy anniversary.

Unidentified Man #3: Someone's creating an army.

Unidentified Woman #2: An army of vampires?

Unidentified Woman #3: They're coming here.

SIEGEL: That's right, more "Twilight" vampires, "Sex and the City" shopping and "Shrek" shenanigans are coming soon to a theater near you. Out this weekend: "Ironman 2."

Critic Bob Mondello has our review.

BOB MONDELLO: No rust growing on Iron Man, though there is a little growing on his plot this time around. Tony Stark, the onetime munitions manufacturer who dons red metal drag to save the world from munitions, is now facing down three villains: one Russian and very '60s, one corporate and very '90s, and one in Congress.

(Soundbite of movie, "Iron Man 2")

Mr. GARRY SHANDLING (Actor): (as Senator Stern) Could we pick up now where we left off? Mr. Stark, please.

Mr. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (Actor): (as Tony Stark) Yes, dear?

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Senator Stern) Could I have your attention?

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Tony Stark) Absolutely.

Mr. SHANDLING: (as Senator Stern) Our priority here is to have you turn over the Iron Man weapon to the American people.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Tony Stark) Well, you can forget it. We're safe. America is secure. You want my property? You can't have it. But I did you a big favor: I have successfully privatized world peace.

MONDELLO: That's an applause line for a different administration, no? But grant Robert Downey Jr. his jokes because without them, he'd have to settle for the action, which is a little world-weary this time, mostly Iron Man battling a guy with electrified bullwhips over what amounts to a copyright infringement dispute.

(Soundbite of movie, "Iron Man 2")

The point of contention is that glowing battery pack that Iron Man has in his chest. It keeps him alive and it's also poisoning him, apparently, which you'd think he'd bring up when whippy guy complains that his dad never got credit for inventing it.

(Soundbite of movie, "Iron Man 2")

MONDELLO: Remind me again why we're supposed to want to see all of this over and over. I'd not realized until this sequel-infested month of May that there's more than diminishing returns at work when producers get to parts two, three and four. Hollywood used to just repeat itself in sequels, but screenwriters have recently decided that the way to keep us identifying with their characters is to slowly turn them into us - and we're aging.

So, this time around we're supposed to worry about Iron Man's health issues. And in a couple of weeks, Shrek's going to have a midlife crisis. And a week later, the "Sex and the City" gals turning 40 or 60 or whatever it is they're up to now will lead to mid-marriage meltdowns, after which the "Toy Story" toys will agonize over retirement.

I'm not making any of this up. Those are really the plot lines, none of which means the movies are terrible. "Iron Man 2" isn't terrible if you like your special effects mixed with blood toxicity issues.

But it does make you wonder, as sequel fever turns to sequelitis, whether there's a retirement homecoming - Shrek and Fiona joining the gals for Bingo and the City, as the big red guy rusts quietly in the corner.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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