I'll start right off by saying what pretty much everybody else has said: This is what the first movie should have been, and what everybody pretty much expected the first movie to be. You know that awesome moment in the first film where it's Stallone, Arnold, and Willis in the church for 5 minutes just talking? This is that, but taken into action and expanded. It's all of the action stars you love, kicking ass side-by-side, dropping one liners, and making meta jokes about each other's careers.
There are really only a handful of action sequences in the film, but when you do have the, they are fantastic. The entire third act in the airport is probably one of the greatest throwback, nerdgasm sequences ever. The interactions between Arnold, Willis, and Norris alone are golden. And speaking of Norris, he's not here much, but he definitely has a badass presence. They even joke about Chuck Norris Facts at one point (well, prior to the third act, but whatever). This film really played up to fanboys, and of course its most meta moments were my favorite.
But the film isn't perfect. The film meanders at times, particularly in the middle and a subplot with villagers being forced to labor for the bad guys. It goes pretty much nowhere. There's a story bit with Statham's girlfriend (played again briefly by Charisma Carpenter) that also goes absolutely nowhere. Randy Couture is basically non-existant. I mean, he's always in the background... but he serves zero purpose in the story. They barely even give him lines. He's just there to be there. And, of course, there's yet again an incredibly over-reliance on CGI. Even on things that have NO NEED to be CGI. There's CGI blood, CGI helicopters/planes, CGI trams, CGI water... it just goes on and on. And that bugged me almost more than anything else.
(Well, almost everything. I had a young woman sitting behind me that was ungodly annoying. It was like having an over-excitable football superfan sitting next to you. She thought everything was 10 times funnier, sadder, more exciting and/or awesome, etc., than anybody else in the theater. And she made sure everyone knew it. It's like "Really, lady? Jason Statham putting on bronze knuckles is that fucking funny/awesome?" Anyway...)
Basically, if you were disappointed by the first one, definitely check out this one. It's everything you wanted the original to be. And there's really no need to see the original first. There's a couple references to it, but really... there's no need. I barely remembered anything about it and I did just fine. The action is awesome. The gleeful 80s-action nerd moments are splendid. There are a lot of meta references, which is great. It's just pure, action-y fun.
A Keanu 'Whoa'