Review - 'Iron Man 2'
One of the first true disappointments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe came early on in the form of Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2 is not a bad film, in fact, in retrospect it settles into the “fairly decent” category. However, it cannot be understated how inferior this film is to its predecessor, and how much more the wound stung when there was only one other movie to compare it to.
Since the first film, Tony Stark/Iron Man has reached peak stardom and, on the surface, he’s reveling in it, but there are internal and external problems creeping in on his livelihood. For one, his blood toxicity is reaching unhealthy levels and he needs to figure out how to make a more efficient reactor that can keep him healthy and sustain the suit. Two, the government is going after his tech with Justin Hammer, one of Stark’s rivals, leading the charge against him. Finally there’s Ivan Vanko AKA “Whiplash”, a dangerous and intelligent adversary who is out for revenge against Stark boasting his own tech that rivals the Iron Man suit.
Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2 has all the urgency of molasses slowly making its way to the brim of an upturned container. That’s a problem when the star of your show is the exuberant, genius and sometimes manic Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr.. When you have one of the most likable, charismatic lead characters and you slot him into the trappings of a dull movie where most of his time is spent moping about under a melancholy rain cloud, then you, my friend, have made a bit of a miscalculation. I admire the bold choice of putting Tony Stark through the ringer, and Robert Downey Jr. still completely embodies the character, but this movie was missing a lot of the liveliness that made the first film such a refreshing joy to watch.
Despite its obvious lack of energy in places, Iron Man 2 still mostly manages to be a good time, especially when revisiting it years later. Extricating those two years of anticipation building up to the release works wonders for the film, making it easier to digest and enjoy as a small part of a much larger whole. In addition to this it serves as a pretty nice appetizer for The Avengers, though in doing so it automatically lowers any of the stakes it hoped to have.
There’s also a lot going on in this film; some of it works and some of it doesn’t. Jon Favreau and Marvel were clearly trying to have their cake and eat it too by trying to be a true Iron Man sequel, but also setting up The Avengers. As excited as I was for The Avengers at the time, it really kills the potential suspense or mystery of what is going to happen in the film when you know that there’s a team-up movie featuring its lead character on the horizon.
Another unfortunate casualty in Iron Man 2 are its action sequences. Though competently staged, the action here is far less memorable, except for that racetrack sequence, THAT is pretty exhilarating and it’s the one moment where Whiplash actually comes off as an imposing force. Other than that we get a decent showdown at the end, a brief flight sequence at the beginning and a moment that gets a little heated at one of Tony Stark’s mansion parties. In fact, one of the best action beats in the film doesn’t even feature Tony Stark, but Black Widow. Speaking of which, Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff’s introduction into the universe is pretty great and Scarlett Johansson totally sells the part.
Iron Man 2 is a decent place holder between films and does some of The Avengers’ legwork, which is unfortunately to its own detriment. It’s a fun film that has some serious pacing issues and at times feels scatterbrained tonally, still, it gets a slight pass based on the residual charm of Tony Stark and co., and the introductions of Black Widow and Nick Fury.