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Vault Movie Review: “Iron Man 2”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 5/7/2010

Theatrical Release: 5/7/2010

Synopsis

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has revealed to the world that he is Iron Man, and he is enjoying the fame and attention that has come from the population knowing who he is. He is the deterrent against those who would wish to terrorize the world, and the people praise him for it. Unfortunately, while everything seems to be great for Tony on the surface, he soon discovers that the reactor that is keeping bomb shrapnel from entering his heart is also poisoning his blood. He is desperate to find a solution to this problem. If he cannot find a solution soon, the device will surely kill him.

To make matters worse, there are some who have set their sights on Tony. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is a weapons manufacturer like Tony, and he is hoping to develop an exo-suit of his own to sell to the U.S. military. However, Tony knows that if the U.S. has its hands on his Iron Man suit or another suit like it, they will surely use it to wage unnecessary wars, and it would only be a matter of time before other countries steal the designs from the United States. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is a genius inventor like Tony, but his family was destroyed by the Stark family, and he now holds a nasty grudge against Tony. Tony also begins to suspect that his new assistant, Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), may be more than she seems. Tony revealed himself as Iron Man, and while he enjoyed all the fame and praise that came along with that, he now finds the walls slowly closing in around him.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Tony Stark & Justin Hammer (+8pts)

Ivan Vanko (-4pts)

Black Widow & Tony’s Friends (+4pts)

Expectations (-3pts)

The Action & Iron Man (+8pts)

Cookie Cutter Finish (-4pts)

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Pro: Tony Stark & Justin Hammer (+8pts)

I should preface this whole review by saying that Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was once again great, and I liked what the filmmakers did with his story here. I liked the rivalry between Tony Stark and Justin Hammer. Both were successful weapons manufacturers, but Tony Stark was in the hypothetical first place of the industry, while Justin Hammer was a distant second. The rivalry was very much one sided, as Justin Hammer wanted desperately to be right up there with Tony Stark, but Tony Stark did not see Justin Hammer as much of a threat. It was an interesting dynamic that provided some decent comedy thanks to Sam Rockwell's performance as Justin Hammer.

I also liked the comparison between the two characters. While Tony Stark had invented the much desired Iron Man suit, he understood the risks of letting the U.S. military get their hands on it. He understood that as soon as the U.S. got their hands on it, other countries would be right behind them, as the design would inevitably be leaked. Tony understood the risks, so he wanted to keep the Iron Man suit for himself. Justin Hammer on the other hand, wanted to replicate the suit so that he could sell it to the military and make a fortune. Thus, while their rivalry was entertaining and while it made Justin Hammer desperate, his lack of morals and his lack of understanding of the risks also made him dangerous.

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Con: Ivan Vanko (-4pts)

Initially, I was ready to like this character a lot. His family had fallen to despair as Tony's family had risen to great success. Due to the connection between their fathers, Ivan blamed Tony's father for his family's misfortune, and with Tony's father gone, Ivan directed his rage toward Tony. As soon as the filmmakers setup this character, I was hooked, but I did not think the filmmakers really knew how to incorporate him into the rest of the story. As a result, my interest in the character sort of fizzled out.

I think the real problem here was that the filmmakers should have either focused entirely on Justin Hammer, and saved Ivan Vanko for a future movie, or they should have done the opposite. Having them both in here meant the filmmakers could not really flesh out Ivan's story, and the character became pretty dull as a result of that. The setup for this character was strong, his initial strike against Iron Man was great, but after that, the filmmakers sort of kept him on the back burner. They made him little more than Justin Hammer's lackey inventor, and his compelling story ended up losing all of its steam in the process. Thus, by the end of the movie, I was not really invested in the character at all.

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Pro: Black Widow & Tony’s Friends (+4pts)

This was the first movie in which Scarlett Johansson appeared as Black Widow. Her hallway scene was a little ridiculous, but it was kind of cool and simultaneously worked comedically, as it compared what her and Happy (John Favreau) were each capable of. It was a cool and funny—albeit ridiculous—scene, and I enjoyed the rest of the character's involvement in the story. I enjoyed seeing her interacting with Tony, I enjoyed Tony's surprise when he figured out what she was, and I enjoyed her sparring scene with Happy.

In a somewhat cluttered movie, Black Widow was one of the new characters that worked well, but I also enjoyed the returning group of characters that made up Tony's inner circle. First there was Happy, who had his share of funny moments with both Natasha and Tony. Then there was the romance between Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Tony, which was once again unique when compared to love interests in other superhero movies, and Tony being one of the characters in that romance meant that it had its share of funny moments along the way. Finally there was the recasting of Don Cheadle as Rhodey, which I thought was a great casting choice. I enjoyed the tension between him and Tony in this movie, and I enjoyed getting to see his story build toward getting to see War Machine on the big screen.

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Con: Expectations (-3pts)

This movie did not really raise the bar, and it was instead just more of the same. The last movie was the first movie in the MCU, so audiences did not really have much in the way of expectations. With this movie, expectations were high, and this movie ended up falling short of those expectations. The filmmakers had some interesting things in here, and they were pushing the setup of The Avengers pretty hard, but for the most part, this movie did not quite meet the expectations that audiences had after Iron Man, and it gets a lot of hate for that. I understand where those people are coming from, and while I agree with that the movie fell below expectations, I wildly disagree with how far below those expectations some thought it fell. Iron Man 2 was a decent movie, it just did not quite live up to the expectations many had after seeing Iron Man.

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Pro: The Action & Iron Man (+8pts)

Iron Man is awesome, Iron Man action is awesome, and there was plenty of both in this movie. Tony improved his suit, and he had new versions of it, which deployed in different ways that made for some cool moments as he put them on. Other than that, the filmmakers did not do a whole lot of new things with the Iron Man suit and its action sequences. It was more of the same, but it was awesome in the last movie, and it was awesome here as well.

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Con: Cookie Cutter Finish (-4pts)

Maybe it just felt this way because of how much interest I lost in the character of Ivan Vanko, but I thought the final action sequence felt kind of bland. I did not care about the villain's story anymore, so the climactic fight did not feel personal, and it instead felt like Tony was fighting a bunch of random henchmen with no leader. Then there was the fact that I was never worried about whether or not Tony would come out victorious, no matter how much the filmmakers tried to tell us the deck was stacked against him. They really only developed Tony's story, so there was really only one way the movie would end. Again, the action itself was fine, but I think the issues with Ivan Vanko let all the air out of the climax of the movie. It was okay, but I definitely was not on the edge of my seat in suspense.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

85-89

C+

Average

70-74

C-

Watchable

75-79

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (84pts)

Iron Man 2 was the highly anticipated sequel to Iron Man, and unfortunately, it failed to live up to those expectations. That being said, that does not make it a bad movie, not by a long shot. It still had Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a perfect combination that made the movie inherently entertaining. It also had Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Tony Stark's counterpart, who was an entertaining character in his own right, and I liked the comedic rivalry between Tony and Justin. I also liked the addition of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, the addition of Don Cheadle as Rhodey, and I liked Rhodey's story, inevitably leading to his on screen debut as War Machine.

Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan were back, and they were just as great as they were in the last movie. Finally, there was the Iron Man suit, which got some neat upgrades, and all of the action involving the Iron Man suit was as awesome as you would expect it to be. Its problems were certainly there, however. Ivan Vanko was an antagonist with potential that the filmmakers did not seem to know how to use properly, and the climax of the movie felt pretty typical, because there was no personal or emotional tension going into it. This movie did not live up to its predecessor, but it was still a decent movie.