The Road to The Avengers – Iron Man 2 (2010)

Luke Owen continues on the road to The Avengers, revisiting Iron Man 2…

Iron Man 2, 2010.

Directed by John Favreau.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau, Clark Gregg, Garry Shandling and Paul Bettany.


SYNOPSIS:

As Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) continues to fight crime as Iron Man, he must contend with the US government as well as new threats from Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) and rival industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).


By this point on the Road to The Avengers, things had really started to get interesting. It had been 2 years since the last instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but the plans had been laid out for the rest of the series. In 2011, we would get Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, which would then set up the all important The Avengers for 2012 – but first we would be revisiting Tony Stark in Iron Man 2.

Iron Man 2 always had an uphill struggle on its hands. Iron Man had proven to be quite the success in terms of box office and critical approval – so not only did the second need to either equal or top its predecessor, it also had the extra pressure of being on the now heavily publicised Avengers route. However, on paper everything should be working out fine. The additions of Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell to the cast were very exciting and everyone was back in for the production. Well, not quite everyone…

Depending on who you ask, the decision to not bring back Terrence Howard is very different. Howard claims that he was screwed over and his contract was, “not worth the paper he was printed on”. However some reports claim that Favreau did not enjoy working with Howard and would often have to re-shoot his scenes, therefore would have preferred to work with another actor. Other reports claim that Howard didn’t want the role because the decision had not been made about what role Rhodey would play in the movie.

Towards the end of Iron Man, Rhodey looks at one of the Iron Man suits and says the line, “next time” – hinting that he would return as War Machine for the second movie, but according to script writer Justin Theroux, just how much of War Machine we would see was always up in the air. While Marvel have never really commented on the situation, one thing that has remained true about the ordeal is that they did ask for Howard to take a smaller pay cheque for this instalment, having been the highest paid actor in the first film. In the end, Howard was replaced with Don Cheadle who, according to Justin Theroux, only had a couple of hours to decide whether or not to take the role.

During the promotion of the movie, both Favreau and Downey Jr. said that this film would deal with Tony Stark’s alcohol problem but would not be a cinematic adaptation of the popular ‘Demon in a Bottle’ comic book arc from 1979. The film does cover Stark’s inability to control his drinking, while dealing with the pressures of being Iron Man and Pepper Potts having a boyfriend. Set shortly after the first film, Iron Man 2 pits our hero against Ivan Vanko – the son of Tony’s father’s business partner. When Tony Stark reveals to the world that he is Iron Man, Vanko puts his plan in to action to take revenge on him by becoming super-villain Whiplash. Meanwhile Justin Hammer of Hammer Industries is also trying to take down Stark by designing a series of armoured combat suits to upstage Stark and put him out of business.

While many believed that Favreau would choose Mandarin as the main villain for this movie, the decision was made to use an amalgamation of two of Iron Man’s foes instead. In the comic book universe of Iron Man, Anton Vanko was an armoured villain known as the Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash was originally a talented Stark Enterprises engineer called Mark Scarlotti. Favreau has said that wanted to have Mandarin be the villain for the final part of his trilogy, feeling that you couldn’t introduce supernatural elements into the films until the final part of the series. The only downside to using Whiplash, in my opinion, is that by the end of the movie he becomes just another guy in an armoured suit – making him no more threatening than Obidiah Stane from the first movie.

Because of this, Iron Man 2 often feels like its treading the same water as the first film. While the issues of Stark’s alcoholism are handled quite well, everything else feels a little bit rehashed and uninteresting. It’s not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t a great film either. All the characters are there, the same great dialogue exchanges are there and the action sequences are good – it just feels like something is missing.

What this movie did do well however was establishing Scarlett Johansson as the Russian spy Natasha Romanoff a.k.a The Black Widow. The whole point of these singular movies was that by the time we got to The Avengers, we would know everything we need to know about these characters so we can delve right into the action. So from that standpoint the film succeeds, but as a follow up to the fantastic Iron Man, it doesn’t quite cut it.

The post-credit sequence also felt a little bit lacklustre. Thor was already in production and the movie had a release date so we knew going in that it would be a teaser for the film, but seeing Agent Coulson find a large hammer at the bottom of a crater in New Mexico wasn’t overly thrilling. It didn’t have the excitement of Nick Fury discussing The Avengers Initiative or Tony Stark walking into the set of another Marvel movie – it just felt flat and underwhelming.

Tomorrow: Thor

Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.

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