This film was somewhat of a disappointment thanks to the enormous success of the first one and subsequent huge expectations for the second Iron Man film. In some ways, it feels like an advert for The Avengers, there are a few characters that have been added here who will appear in future Marvel movies, and some parts of it feel forced in order to show the audience what is coming. Everything worked out in the end, but this second Iron Man film still feels like a letdown, despite another awesome performance from Robert Downey, Jr.
Downey returns as Tony Stark. At the very end of the previous film, he had announced in a press conference that he was Iron Man, and this film shows him being embraced as a hero celebrity by most of the general public. The US government is wary of Iron Man and that kind of technology being in the hands of a civilian. Stark must convince them he is the right person to have the Iron Man technology and not let Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who now sells weapons to the US government after Stark withdrew from his contract, from getting his hands on the Iron Man suits and using them to create new, far more dangerous weapons. Stark must also deal with Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian son of a man who knew Stark’s dad Howard (John Slattery). Vanko feels his father was double crossed by Stark and wants revenge on his son. Vanko uses the same arc reactor technology Stark uses to power his suits to create a new suit, becoming the villain Whiplash. After a confrontation with Stark during the Monaco Grand Prix, Vanko meets up with Justin Hammer, who gets him the resources to upgrade his suit and take on Iron Man again. Meanwhile, Stark is also dealing with a dangerous blood poisoning, caused by the arc reactor he has to keep in his chest due to shrapnel left over from the kidnapping seen in the first film. Stark must develop a new version of the arc reactor that will help him stay alive.
I enjoyed this film, but not as much as the first film. Iron Man 2 introduces Natalie Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and gives a larger role for Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. The scenes where they appear seem forced and do not really fit in with the larger story of Stark’s confrontation with Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer. I understand why the scenes with Fury and Black Widow are needed, and am willing to accept them because they help create the larger cinematic world.
This film does introduce some fun parts of Tony Stark’s world. We get to see Stark’s buddy James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence howard) in the War Machine armour. In the comics, War Machine replaces Iron Man when Stark becomes an alcoholic, so it was fun to see this future plot point hinted at.
Iron Man 2 is a fun follow up to the outstanding first film. It never hits the highs of its predecessor. It is worth watching for the performance of Downey, who now owns the role of Tony Stark.
Iron Man 2 is always a bit of a letdown. Sometimes I’m lukewarm to a movie only to warm to it after successive viewings, but not this one. I always knew this sequel probably wouldn’t live up to the original, I just hoped that it might. Iron Man 2 is a lot of fun, but it’s not as much fun as its predecessor.
My biggest complaint about this movie is that it rather clumsily introduces S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and agent Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). These characters were needed to establish the shared universe, but their scenes seem shoehorned in to the story rather than a natural extension of it. Johansson’s role especially feels unnecessary. She appears to be included more as eye candy than as an asset, something that was rectified in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I preferred the subtler hints, such as Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) mentioning he needed to monitor a situation in New Mexico– a direct link to Thor which would be released a year later. These sorts of links between movies have improved as the Marvel Universe has expanded, making the entire venture much more natural than it appears here.
Other than some clumsy scenes, this is technically a good movie. It has all the action expected of a superhero flick and the sarcastic wit expected of Tony Stark. The real fault lies in its lack of heart. Not much has changed since the first movie, and there is no real emotional journey for Stark in this installment. He does finally admit that he’s in love with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and we get a glimpse of his struggles with alcohol, but his story mostly lacks the personal growth that defines the first and third movies.
Iron Man 2 is enjoyable to watch, but it’s easily Marvel’s weakest sequel thus far. This movie hints at what is to come for Tony Stark and the rest of his Avenger friends, but thankfully the storytelling and attempts to weave these heroes together have become more sophisticated.