Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlet Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, Gary Shandling, Paul Bettany
With the world now aware of his identity as Iron Man, Tony Stark must contend with both his declining health and a vengeful mad man with ties to his father’s legacy. (Source: IMDb)
Whenever I do a rewatch of the MCU, it is always at the point of Iron Man 2 that I start to struggle, and that was no different with this retrospective. After the strong start of Iron Man and then the lull of The Incredible Hulk, the film that follows – our second outing for Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) – is the one that I have always believed to be the weakest in the MCU. Perhaps now, viewing this film after watching Infinity War and framing it within that, I would be able to find some merit.
In a somewhat revelatory decision, I no longer believe this to be the worst film of the MCU, but we’ll get to that later on. Focusing on the good points for now, knowing what we now know about Tony Stark, it is interesting to return to this point in his journey. It is perhaps easy to forget that – at this point at least – Stark had not fully take on the heroes mantle. Stripping away the New York-destroying and world-altering consequences and monster threats, we instead see a man whose identity is gradually becoming more and more aligned with the besuited hero we come to know and love later in the MCU, but who right now is only having to deal with threats on quite a personal level.
One of the most interesting things that came out of this rewatch for me was that early sense of Tony feeling he has to live up to his father’s legacy. This actually ends up being incredibly crucial later on and shapes him into the man he later becomes. It is also something which adds even more pathos to the later events of Civil War, in which the killer of Tony’s parents is revealed. Going all the way to Iron Man’s early days in the MCU is perhaps the most revealing in terms of determining exactly what it is that drives and motivates him. The biggest positive of Iron Man 2, when viewed with a heavy amount of hindsight, is that it is a crucial turning point in his arc from just being ‘the guy in the suit’ to the hero and leader that we see later. The moments that delve further into Tony as a person will always be more interesting to me than the bravado and show that perhaps the character was known for in the early days, and this particular watch of Iron Man 2 proved to be very satisfying in terms of tracing back his character arc.
Where Iron Man 2 suffers is that it fails to do anything new, and is in many ways a rehash of the plot from the first film; albeit with less terrorists, more razzmatazz and a different villain. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is an incredibly generic villain, and with the film once again going down the route of a spurned connection of Stark Industries, it does feel a little samey. As the film progresses, Vanko takes more of a back-seat, favouring drone operated suits to take on Stark. Whilst this distinguishes it from the Iron Monger villain of the first film, it does also massively take away those personal and tangible stakes. This was something that Age of Ultron actually suffered from later on with the indestructible robot army; when there is a detachment of the villain to either the heroes, or the plot itself, then it falls apart pretty quickly.
This is perhaps on a bit of a tangent here, but it has always bothered me that one of the best visual moments of this film – the briefcase suit – was ruined by the trailer. This was something which bothered my again with Age of Ultron when the Hulkbuster armour was revealed in the trailer. Just a little suggestion to Marvel – stop revealing the best bits in the trailers. Please.
As I am planning to rewatch all of the MCU films, I will rank the films as I go and update on each review.
- Iron Man (2008) – ★★★★
- Iron Man 2 (2010) – ★★½
- The Incredible Hulk (2008) – ★★