In the film industry any time a studio makes a movie it’s a huge risk. There are so many questions they ask themselves, ‘Will audiences like the characters?’, ‘Will we make any money off this?’, ‘How will critics react?’ and so on. But the one choice even riskier is deciding to produce a sequel, and that was the risk that Marvel Studios took when they created Iron Man 2. Marvel proved that they had what it takes to create an outstanding film with Iron Man and that they had a vision of this interconnected cinematic universe. But now they had to prove that they were able to revisit these characters and offer something new. So the question I would like to answer is, did Iron Man 2 hold up to the original?
Iron Man 2 is interesting in that, unlike the two previous Marvel Studios productions it had to not only stand on its own but also set up The Avengers. The film had to further the narrative of Tony Stark and explain that he doesn’t know everything. And while first introduced in Iron Man, this movie established S.H.I.E.L.D. in the MCU as an important organization. And it is through the introduction of S.H.I.E.L.D. that Marvel sets up its future with the Avengers Initiative. However, we are going to try and focus mainly on Iron Man 2 itself.
The sequel had the difficult job of recapturing Robert Downey Jr.’s fantastic performance as Tony Stark but also building his character. And what better way to make someone rethink their life than to bring them face to face with death. Stark finds himself in a situation of his own creation as his own Arc reactor which was meant to save his life is poisoning him more and more every day. So with this self-imposed death sentence, we find Tony Stark has become more and more erratic, endangering himself and his reputation.
And where would Tony be without Pepper Potts, who took on a much larger role in this film? Tony decides to give Stark Industries to Potts as he further grows into his role as Iron Man. Pepper serves mostly as the voice of reason when Tony’s poisoning leads to his increasingly erratic behavior. But as is Tony’s nature he often ignores her advice and does whatever he wants. Nonetheless, Iron Man 2 helps to move Pepper’s arc from just Stark’s assistant to a more independent and layered individual.
Iron Man 2 also brought back another character from the original, Lt. Col. James Rhodes. However, Terrence Howard does not reprise the role and is instead played by Don Cheadle. To the film’s credit, it makes quick work of explaining this away. When Cheadle makes his first on-screen appearance as Rhodes his first line is “It’s me. I’m here. Get over it.” And he made a good addition to the MCU with great chemistry alongside RDJ. And as the film progressed we even got to see Rhodey grow from Stark’s friend to his own hero in the role of War Machine.
Alongside War Machine, Iron Man 2 also introduced Natasha Romanoff AKA, Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. Posing as Stark’s new personal assistant Romanoff served as a great link between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Iron Man as she reported to Nick Fury. Iron Man 2 does a great job of introducing Black Widow, the first in a long line of badass female heroes.
However, while the film does a great job of introducing and growing its hero and supporting cast, it was rather lacking in the villain department. While Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer had a few memorable onscreen moments, he felt more like a foil for Stark rather than an actual villain.
And then there is Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, Whiplash, arguably the weakest MCU villain of all. Besides, his scene at the Grand Prix where he attacks Stark, Vanko is boring and is inevitably defeated by Iron Man and War Machine while suited up nothing more than a knock-off Iron Man suit.
But this doesn’t detract from the film too much as in the end Vanko and Hammer aren’t the real antagonists of the film. The person really harming Tony Stark is himself as it was his own Arc reactor and destructive behavior that got him into this situation. Stark’s inability to get help from those around him almost led to his death as the reactor poisoned him. Yet from this Tony Stark was able to mature beyond his destructive manner and as we now know, become an indispensable member of the Avengers and a mentor to many in the MCU.
So while the film does suffer from a weak villain, an issue often faced by early Marvel Studios films, it makes up for it with its stellar cast and the character arc of Tony Stark. Serving as a stepping stone for several of the MCU’s future heroes Iron Man 2 is an important chapter for both Tony Stark and the Marvel universe.
We’ll be revisiting the entire lineup of MCU films over the coming weeks before Avengers: Infinity War, so be sure to check back with us at SuperBroMovies for all of our upcoming reviews! For last weeks entry in our Road to Infinity War, check out our review of The Incredible Hulk and check back next week for our review of Thor.