With Avengers: Endgame hitting theaters this week, we’re travelling back through the MCU all this week. Today we’re taking a look at Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2.
Iron Man 2 is a complicated film in that it’s building up to a million different things, but never gives us the payoffs we want to see. The film is almost an anti-thesis to The Incredible Hulk, where that film integrated the larger MCU in ways that helped move the story along, without ever overshadowing the main story. Meanwhile, Iron Man 2, spends more time expanding the MCU than it does giving us the conclusions we deserve from the story we’ve seen play out over two hours. We do see Rhodey finally suit up as War Machine. We also get to see Tony and Pepper kiss for the first time. But these aspects don’t pack as much of a punch in such an overcrowded story.
The biggest failure to Iron Man 2 is in the way it resolves the stories with its villains. Ivan Vanko aka Whiplash, and Justin Hammer are good villains. They’re entertaining and threatening in all the right ways, and we don’t know what to expect from them next. But by the end of the film, Hammer is taken off in handcuffs by the local police as Pepper ignores him, and Whiplash is killed in a (roughly) 70 second fight where he says two words, “you lose.” During the final battle Tony and Rhodey take out numerous drones, which still leads to some great action. But it doesn’t feel as satisfying when you’ve spent two hours waiting for Tony and Vanko to fight each other one on one.
The other main aspect of the film that doesn’t work is Black Widow, who feels extremely shoe horned into the story to help widen the MCU. There’s literally no reason for her to be involved aside from introducing her character before Avengers. Nothing she does or accomplishes couldn’t have been done in some other easier way. The film could have still included Fury, and his come to Jesus talks with Tony. But by adding the entire sub plot with Black Widow, the film becomes too muddled. That’s not to say it isn’t muddled already, with two villains, Tony’s palladium poisoning, and War Machine’s origin. But adding one more character into an already complex narrative, for no reason, just muddies the waters even more.
The arch for Tony is also a bit difficult as well. The first Iron Man, showed Tony that he needed to be responsible with his choices and do better. The second film shows that Tony needs to be responsible with his choices, as Iron Man, and do better. It does make sense in some ways, but overall, there could have been so much more there. The character had been around for almost 50 years when the film hit theaters, there are plenty of stories they could have told or directions they could have taken that would have possibly made the film stronger. Luckily, Marvel seemed to learn from their mistakes here, and Tony’s story is far from over.