After two well-received films to kick-off the MCU, Marvel Studios was quick to put “Iron Man 2” in production. Ever since “X2: X-Men United,” Marvel has been on quite the sequel streak along with “Blade II” and “Spider-Man 2.” That being said, there were no MCU films in 2009, therefore, Marvel Studios did what they could to get director Jon Favreau back and to make a follow-up to “Iron Man,” as quick as possible.
After assisting the armed forces by establishing peace around the world, Tony is back, bringing his charm and charisma with him. While trying to keep the armed forces from confiscating his suits, Tony also learns that the element keeping him alive is also slowly poisoning him. In the midst of the other subplots, Ivan Vanko (portrayed by Mickey Rourke), seeks revenge on Tony due to their parents having a fallout, which ultimately leads to Ivan’s misfortune.
Upon release, “Iron Man 2” became yet another financial hit for Marvel Studios, although it didn’t quite meet the same expectations as its predecessor. The Tomatometer currently sits at 73%, but quite a few Iron Man fans left disappointed. After revisiting the film, it still holds up, but there are serious narrative issues that usually induces in a headache every time you watch it.
Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow yet again bring stellar performances and a little more of the romance that was set up in “Iron Man.” Actor Don Cheadle replaced Terrance Howard as Rhodey (War Machine) due to some behind-the-scenes drama involving the actor’s pay. Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell also bring out the best in their characters and seeing them interact were entertaining. The introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was also a good addition to the film, bringing her excellent acting chops and well-choreographed action scenes.
One thing that really worked in this film was obviously more Iron Man. The first film didn’t really have any action, which is fine because of the way the characters were handled, but the fact that we get Iron Man – and teaming up with War Machine – was pure comic book goodness. Even though the film didn’t work overall, director Jon Favreau made a way for the audience to enjoy Tony Stark as much as Iron Man but for different reasons, which is why the Tony Stark/Iron Man character is easily the best thing about this movie.
As I mentioned earlier, Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke play their characters very well, but nothing more comes out of the two antagonists. Rockwell’s portrayal as Justin Hammer was a good idea seeing that he is sort of the envious inventor of Tony Stark. Seeing him throughout the film never brought the character full circle as much as it needed to because along with Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko, the characters were made just on a good idea, but ultimately wasn’t fleshed out enough.
The main issue with this film is that it’s very convoluted. During the first act, the film sets up multiple subplots and by the end of the movie, you felt like you just watched a proposed Iron Man trilogy in two hours. You can argue that this was because of the short time frame the film had to get made under, but at the same time, Jon Favreau still had two years to get this film up and running. One of the subplots that they should have stuck with was delving deeper into Tony’s blood toxicity issue with the element in his chest, while also dealing with the government trying to take his equipment. There could have been a new villain emerge from the military to fend off Iron Man by the second act and it could have made for a tighter film.
Overall, this film does a great job with the humor, the acting, and most notably with Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. brings a certain element and charm to this role that will be remembered for years to come. It’s unfortunate that this film didn’t work out creatively, but on the flip side, “Iron Man 2” made tons of money and looking back, you can tell Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige paid close attention to what worked and what didn’t, especially in the early years of the MCU.