Iron Man 2 (2010)

Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson

No longer burdened with the uncertainty of whether or not their project was going to work, the success of “Iron Man” meant that Marvel Studios could focus on the remaining pieces to their “Avengers” puzzle. First on that list was a second solo adventure for Tony Stark/Iron Man. It is almost universally agreed that “Iron Man 2” was rushed into production, resulting in a sequel that fails to live up to the original. While this all may be true, it’s not like it’s never happened before, and “Iron Man 2” has enough going for it that it keeps you entertained throughout, just as the first one did. Superhero movies have always been at their best when the stories they tell are driven by an internal struggle which the hero has to address in order to move on to his next adventure(s). In “Iron Man,” in addition to dealing with betrayal from a former friend, Tony Stark also had to face a crisis of conscience, to make peace with his past as an arms dealer and move on to his new role as a peacemaker. In “Iron Man 2,” Tony is faced with a vengeful foe he never knew existed and another man who is jealous of Tony’s fame and glory, but his greatest enemy is his own mortality.

As it turns out, that paladium core in Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)’s chest which keeps him alive is also slowly killing him. Chlorophyll smoothies are the only thing keeping his blood toxicity levels in check, and even that’s not going to be very helpful for much longer. Tony knows this, but hasn’t yet found the right time to explain it to his friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle) or his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). What he doesn’t know is that Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who has recently seen his father waste away and die, is plotting revenge against Tony for perceived wrongs done to his family by Tony’s own late father, Howard.

At a senate committee hearing, Tony is encouraged to turn over the Iron Man suit. Arguing that since he and Iron Man are one and the same, turning over the suit would be akin to placing himself into
“indentured servitude.” It is during this scene that we are introduced to the film’s second villain, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a rival weapons manufacturer who has no qualms about selling his product to the highest bidder. His weapons also have a nasty habit of malfunctioning, which is particularly unfortunate for the guinea pigs he finds to test out his knock-offs of the Iron Man suit. A mere annoyance all by himself, Hammer becomes more dangerous when he teams up with Vanko after watching the Russian attack Tony in the movie’s best action scene at a Formula One race in Monaco. Vanko could have killed Tony outright, but found it just as satisfying to place doubt in the minds of the public that Iron Man is still capable of protecting them.

Tony’s health grows worse and worse, and so he elects to make Pepper the new CEO of Stark Industries. She takes on an assistant, a redhead who introduces herself as “Natalie Rushman,” but whom the audience knows is really S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), also known as Black Widow. Natasha has been sent by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to evaluate Tony Stark for possible inclusion in the Avengers Initiative. She’s also extremely handy in both hand-to-hand combat and interrogation tactics…. and she fits really well into any leather outfit or formal dress she puts on. Just thought I’d throw that last part in there. For Tony to recover his health and fend off his new enemies, he’s going to need all the help he can get from Natasha, Rhodey and an old film recording of Howard Stark, still teaching his son from beyond the grave.

If you’re examining “Iron Man 2” for flaws, don’t bother looking in Robert Downey Jr.’s direction. He’s still proving why he’s one of the most perfectly cast actors to headline a superhero film. Blame Scarlett Johansson and you and I are going to have serious problems. At times when the film looks like it’s about to bog down, there she is to spice things up with her good looks and Black Widow’s ability to kick the ass of every person in the room. Unless you REALLY HATE the rock band AC/DC, then don’t blame the soundtrack, either. After memorably kicking the first film into high gear, AC/DC bookends “Iron Man 2” with “Shoot to Thrill” and “Highway to Hell,” both equally as well-placed as “Back in Black” was. The fault in this sequel lies with its weak villains. Although I love both Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell, and their characters are still quite interesting, the movie never builds them up as credible threats to Tony Stark/Iron Man. This hurts what is otherwise an enjoyable popcorn flick. Perhaps if Marvel Studios hadn’t been so eager to continue reaping the benefits of their newfound success story, they might have had a chance to work out all the bugs. As it stands, “Iron Man 2” is easily the weakest entry in the MCU thus far, but if this is indeed the “worst” that they can do, I see no end to Marvel’s gravy train.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    I totally agree!!!!!

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