Iron Man 2 (2010)

Jon Favreau

Robert Downey, Jr. - Tony Stark/Iron Man
Gwyneth Paltrow - Virginia 'Pepper' Potts
Mickey Rourke - Ivan Vanko/Whiplash
Sam Rockwell - Justin Hammer
Don Cheadle - Lieutenant-Colonel James Rhodes
Scarlett Johansson - Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Samuel L. Jackson - Nick Fury
Jon Favreau - Happy Hogan
Clark Gregg - Agent Phil Coulson

Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Comic Books

Running Time - 124 Minutes

Continuing from the conclusion of 2008's IRON MAN, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has revealed to the entire world that he is Iron Man. Within six months after the announcement, Iron Man has proven his existence could be the beginning of stabilizing world peace. However, the United States government, led by Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), and the United States military, including Tony's best friend Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard), feel that Iron Man is too dangerous of a weapon and should be in the custody of the government.

While Tony is dealing with the government, he learns that the arc reactor technology that keeps him alive is now poisoning his bloodstream, slowly killing him. His narcissism is now ten-fold to hide his pain. He makes his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), the new CEO of Stark Industries. And pushes his Rhodes away by getting drunk and having an Iron Man/War Machine fight with him.

Tony also has to deal with a rival weapons manufacturer named Justin Hammer (
Sam Rockwell), who will do anything to destroy Stark Industries. There's also the presence of  Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who blames the Stark family for what happened to his father. Vanko decides to make his own weapon suit to destroy Tony as Whiplash.

On top of all this, Tony is still getting bothered by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (
Samuel L. Jackson), who wants Tony as part of his "Avengers Initiative". There's also the distracting presence by secretary Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), who seems to be helping Tony for reasons more than just a steady paycheck.


- The cast. IRON MAN 2 is inferior compared to the 2008 origin story that proved that Spider-Man, Superman, The X-Men, and Batman aren't the only superheroes that could work when adapted to the big screen. But the cast are still solid in their roles for the most part, which makes IRON MAN 2 a more than watchable sequel.

Robert Downey, Jr. may still be the greatest casting for any superhero, as he's still fantastic as Tony Stark/Iron Man. He looks like the character. He acts like the character. The man is a presence in every scene he's in, due to his massive levels of charisma, humor, and comedic timing. He's awesome, especially when he makes the script better than it actually is. Gwyneth Paltrow does what she can as Pepper, given less to do in this sequel even though she has her own arc. But she and RDJ have good chemistry and she's always a welcome presence in the Marvel Universe. Mickey Rourke is great as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash - when he's onscreen anyway, which is not as much as you would think considering he's the villain of the film. He brings a lethality to the role that the film needed more of. He does a close-to-perfect Russian accent and makes what could have been a one-note villain into someone we care about. Rourke takes Vanko's pain and anger, portraying it convincingly. Even during moments where he just sits, the silent rage carries a presence. Wish he were in the film more.

Sam Rockwell is a highlight as the jealous rival, Justin Hammer. He's funny, arrogant, and even deviously nasty in his performance. He really fleshes out Hammer into a character we despise, even though we understand his motives. I hope he returns in IRON MAN 3 in some way. Scarlett Johansson is decent as Natalie Rushman a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. The Black Widow. She doesn't get much to do in order to flesh out her character in any way, but she's damn sexy in the role and has one of the best fight scenes in the film. She carries a confidence that makes her appealing on screen. She wouldn't have been my first choice for The Black Widow, but she grew on me as she appeared more and more. I hear she's a lot better in THE AVENGERS since she gets more to do. But she's welcome here. Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, truly becoming the character and having great scenes with RDJ.

The only casting choice I'm in the middle with is Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James Rhodes. Cheadle is a fantastic actor, but I feel that Terrence Howard was a better fit in the role. He brought a subtlety to the role that Cheadle doesn't really bring to the table. Still, Cheadle is good in the role, but something about his character felt off to me in the sequel. Not sure if that was the acting or the writing. Could have been both. Loved seeing Rhodes as War Machine though, no matter who the actor was behind the armor.

- The music. Even though some of the song choices were questionable in when and where they were used [a remix of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" feels kind of odd during a scene where two armored men fight], I did love the soundtrack. Besides the actual film score and Queen, we also get two AC/DC songs - "Shoot To Thrill" and "Highway to Hell". I'm sure there were others as well, but I had no problems with the soundtrack at all.

- The action sequences. Even though IRON MAN 2 isn't heavy on the action front [I'll discuss this more shortly], the action we do get is pretty awesome. I mentioned Black Widow's fight with Justin Hammer's guards earlier. We have the final fight that involves Iron Man and War Machine vs. Hammer's robot minions and Whiplash [although Whiplash gets taken out pretty quickly unfortunately] - where the special effects look great, especially the suits of armor. We also have the Iron Man vs. War Machine drunk fight at Tony Stark's birthday party. But the best, and most exciting one, is the sequence at the Grand Prix where Whiplash faces Iron Man for the first time. Just great choreography, stunts, and CGI. Good lord, do I love Tony's suitcase suit and how it comes together. Just a beautiful piece of special effects right there. When the film contains action, it's spectacular and thrilling. It totally brings out the geek in me.

- The direction. Although I feel his work on IRON MAN was a lot better, Jon Favreau still manages to keep the film together visually for the most part. The action sequences are tense, exciting, and never dull. The CGI looks very good. The editing is great. The cinematography is fantastic. Even the quieter moments are shot well, and are captivating to watch visually. I do think the pacing is a bit off at times, especially the middle "talky" section. But it picks up as the film heads towards its conclusion. It's a miracle how Favreau managed to glue all of the many plot lines together in a logical way, but he makes it work. That's why IRON MAN 2 is still worthwhile, even if it's inferior to IRON MAN.

- The plots. On the positive side of this topic, it's great that IRON MAN 2 has many storylines going on - because that keeps the film moving. The best ones in my opinion? I think the Ivan Vanko revenge subplot is handled well. We understand his motivations right from the start, and it builds logically until the conclusion. I think what's interesting about Whiplash is that he would rather show Tony's vulnerability to the world rather than just kill him. He wants Tony to suffer like his own father had suffered. It's more depth than what a usual super-villain possesses in this type of film.

I also dug the Tony Stark/Justin Hammer rivalry. The banter between the two characters is great. I love how Hammer tries to emulate Stark during his expos and interviews. I also love Hammer's part in Vanko's revenge indirectly as well. Each man has their own agenda and it's great seeing two villains use each other to get what they want individually. Hammer is one of the better characters in the film and I thought Rockwell gave him a ton of depth.

I also liked The Avengers stuff as well. IRON MAN 2 is really the first film of the five lead-in movies that really sets the notion of THE AVENGERS movie officially happening, which leads to a bigger role for Nick Fury and the introduction of Black Widow as a spy at Stark Industries. Fury's way of dealing with an uninterested Stark is great, and how Stark starts realizing that the Avengers Initiative could be a good thing is one of the more interesting storylines here. I also dug the appearance of Captain America's shield [which Stark uses to prop up an experiment without care] and the after-credits scene involving Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. It gets me excited for THE AVENGERS for sure.

- The plots. On the flip side of the coin, the abundance of subplots brings the film down. Like the case with many superhero films, there's too much going on.

We get Whiplash's revenge plot against Iron Man.

We get Justin Hammer's revenge plot against Iron Man.

We get Whiplash and Hammer backstabbing each other.

We have the set up for The Avengers.

We have Tony Stark dying from the element that's keeping him alive.

We have Pepper Potts struggling as CEO of Stark Enterprises.

We have Tony dealing with the sins of his father and coming to terms with the truth.

We have the government against Tony over who should own the Iron Man suit in the interest of world peace.

We have Tony and Rhodes struggling with their friendship, leading to Rhodes taking on of the Iron Man prototypes to become War Machine.

I'm probably missing others, but geez - that's a LOT of storylines to follow in a two-hour film. Because of this, certain characters get the shaft. Because of this, storylines don't get developed in the way they need to in order for them to be substantial in any way. I would have liked to have seen Pepper's struggle with being CEO of a large company and the fact that many people felt she was unfit for the role. We get a glimpse, but it isn't enough. Tony's death sentence is just an excuse for Tony to act like a prick to his friends and change the Iron Man suit a bit for merchandising purposes. Tony's want of his dad's acceptance was dealt with in the first film, so why rehash it? And how did Rhodes know how to use the Iron Man suit so well anyway? And why would he betray his best friend so easily, knowing he was doing more good than harm? A lot of these issues needed more time to develop, but it's hard to do that in such a short time. With two heroes, two villains, and stuff that's there to set up for a bigger feature, IRON MAN 2 is clogged down by too much [or is it too little?] plot.

- Not enough action. I don't mind a comic book adaptation that would rather focus on the story than on the action sequences. The first IRON MAN was like that as well and it worked. IRON MAN 2 contains some very good action sequences with great CGI effects and energy. But the film does feel longer than it should because there's just too much story. The story should segue into the action and vice-versa, enhancing each other to create a good pace and a memorable tale of good vs. evil.

We get the first action scene about a half-hour in. The second one occurs an hour in. And the final one is 100 minutes in. There's just too much space between the action, which drags some of the film down. People expect an IRON MAN film to have more action than this, especially when the origin tale is finally out of the way to allow these sequences to be more of a focus.

I'm not saying the film needed to be 100 percent action. I feel there should have been an action sequence near the beginning of the film and maybe short bursts of action while the story-focused scenes played out. IRON MAN and IRON MAN 2 are pretty much the same length, yet the first one seems a lot shorter than the second. That's because Favreau combined the story and the action in the right way in the first film, allowing the pace to flow naturally. The second film seems to drag at times, because there's just too much story that needed some exciting action to pick up the pace a bit.

Even though it's a disappointing sequel in terms of the first one, IRON MAN 2 still manages to be good superhero entertaining for the most part. While there's just too much narrative and not enough action to really be all that exciting, some of the subplots are developed well, the action is fantastically done, the direction is solid for the most part, and the cast is great at their roles. Not the greatest Marvel Comics film, or the greatest pre-THE AVENGERS film. But it's still a good sequel that's worth your time. Let's drink to that.

3 Howls Outta 4


  1. I'm not much of a Iron Man fan but I did see the movies and I thought they were both entertaining!

  2. I've seen the first one and the second and waiting for the third and who knows maybe the 4th lol..
    Great review by the way.

  3. I was disappointed in this sequel, also one point Downey fights Congress to stop them from getting the Iron Man armor then he gives the prototype suit to Rhodey who is still in the Army.


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