Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
This review contains spoilers for Iron Man 2 and the MCU as a whole. If you have not seen this movie or any MCU movie for that matter, I would suggest avoiding this review... unless you really do not care about spoilers.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2, the sequel to Iron Man (duh), is directed once again by Jon Favreau. It was released in 2010 as not just a follow-up to Iron Man, but as a continuation of the universe that was forming under our noses. This movie finds itself on the bottom of many ranked lists of the MCU, and understandably for good reason. It is not the greatest, and it suffers from some (in my opinion) annoying characters and too many story threads. But I will get to that later.
I usually have a set order of how I like to talk about things for origin stories, but since this isn't an origin story and instead seeks to dig deeper into Tony's history and the MCU as a whole, this review will be a bit different from my previous three (not THAT different, but I just thought I'd tell you before someone calls me out on not following the same format as my other reviews). Without further ado, let's get into it.
I am a comic book fanboy and movie lover, so I try to find as much good as I can when watching movies like this (at least movies pertaining to the MCU. DC is a whole different story). Once again, Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man is perfect. He plays the cocky, narcissistic guy that is Tony Stark very well. As I said in my review for Iron Man, I prefer Don Cheadle over Terrance Howard any day, and I think that Cheadle does an amazing job as Rhodey. I can't picture anyone inside the War Machine suit other than Cheadle.
I think the action (when there is any) is directed and choreographed very well and is very entertaining to watch. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper is great. Favreau as Happy is hilarious. The inclusion of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is fun—she is a badass. Nick Fury is cool... I don't know if he was necessary, but he was cool. Overall, the movie looks great. But here is where my complaints come...
Look... I don't like Justin Hammer. I think he is annoying and, by far, one of the worst side villains in the MCU. Maybe it was Marvel's goal to make him annoying and unlikable... and if that is the case, it worked. But it didn't add much to the movie. It just made me wish he wasn't in the movie.
The main villain, Ivan Vanko, is not much better. He is smart, yes. He makes Hammer look like a fool, which I thought was hilarious. But he is just so easily forgettable. He attacks Stark in Italy—somehow knowing that Stark was going to join the race even though it was a spur of the moment choice made by Stark—is hit by a car about four times (and somehow this doesn't even phase him), and then is taken down by a flip onto his back. Some threat. He is broken out of prison, and this somehow does not trace back to Hammer.
He then sets up drones to attack Stark Expo in order to lure Stark there so he can kill him while also building himself a suit because—and I'm assuming—that he assumes that his drones, or the hacking of War Machine, won't get the job done. He is then taken down by a single explosion, and that is the last we see of Ivan Vanko. He does not do anything memorable or exciting... the only thing I really remember is him saying that he wants his bird.
The Story Threads
There are many story threads in this movie—so many that I wish they would have just picked one to go with. But, in a way, I get it. They have a universe to set up as well as backstory the audience needs to know about Howard Stark. I just wish that the movie didn't feel so stuffed.
1. First, we have Vanko's hatred for Tony Stark. Basically, Ivan's dad, Anton, helped Howard Stark create the arc reactor technology, but after getting deported received none of the credit for it. Ivan blames the Starks for his family's troubles and vows to kill Stark. There's one.
2. Howard Stark really did love his son... but never really expressed it. He also managed to hide blueprints for a new element within one of his Stark Expo models that he one day hoped Tony would find and create. Coincidentally, this element also aided in Tony's poison problem.
3. Tony's arc reactor in his body is poisoning him (a.k.a. he is dying). Let's thank his dad (and plot convenience) that he lived through this movie (actually though, thank Howard because Tony Stark is amazing and I cried when he died in Endgame).
4. Hammer's hatred towards Stark (Stark is better than Hammer in every way and Hammer just has a hard time reconciling with that fact).
5. The government wants Stark's weapons. (Stark is irresponsible, we can all admit that. However, I think we can all say that he proved himself.)
6. SHIELD is making a team and is watching Stark to see if he is worthy enough to be on it. That is why this movie feels like set-up at times, a piece of the MCU that Marvel did not perfect until later on.
I may have missed one. And yeah, I get that some good movies have plenty of story threads. This film's threads, however, are noticeably not tied tight enough.
I understand that some people enjoy this movie. Heck, I don't hate this movie in the slightest. My love for movies and reviewing has just given me a more critical eye, even when it comes to a movie franchise that I love and adore with all of my heart.
There are redeeming qualities to this movie. The fight between Tony and Rhodey? Awesome. Black Widow taking out all of Hammers' guards in the hallway? Badass. Rhodey and Tony fighting the drones in the dome? Pretty sick.
However, the story threads, in my opinion, are not tied tight enough to make the movie seem complete. After having seen all of the movies in the MCU, it's hard to watch this movie and not recognize its faults. Again, I don't hate this movie. I just think it could have been done a whole lot better. I'm going to give Iron Man 2 a 6.5/10.
While this movie does include a decent amount of set-up for Thor, the next film on my list is The Incredible Hulk, another movie that has problems but is still enjoyable. Stay tuned for whenever that drops (I would love to have a schedule, but I'm trying to finish up schoolwork for the end of the semester because in case you didn't know, I'm in college).
© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth