Reel Freak

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Reel Review – Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Director: Jon Favreau
Rated: PG-13
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson

Set in the early stages of Marvel Studios’ Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 2 is an explosive, fun and inventive building block that brings a ton of key elements of the saga’s future to light.
The sequel to 2008’s Iron Man may not have been received quite as well as its predecessor, but it still packs a punch, and quite literally opens up a whole new universe for Marvel Studios to expand on in their Cinematic Universe.  Not to mention it grossed a worldwide $623.9 million.  Personally, Iron Man 2 still holds strong as my second-favorite MCU film, only behind The Avengers.

Iron Man 2 follows the continuing story of Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, who is soaking up the glory that comes with making himself a known superhero to the public.  Just when he thinks that he has accomplished world peace as Iron Man, Stark comes face to face with two new threats; one being Russian inventor Ivan Vanko, who seeks revenge on Tony for business between their fathers decades before.  The other is the fact that Tony is slowly dying from the palladium in his chest.  Tony appoints his partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as CEO of Stark Industries, and she attempts to run the company alongside newly-hired assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), who we later find out is actually S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow.  Also with S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) approaches Tony with information that could potentially cure his living condition.  Meanwhile, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is competing against Stark Industries to build weapons and robotic soldiers to match the capabilities of Iron Man, and soon teams up with Vanko to take down Stark altogether.  It’s up to Tony to juggle the responsibilities of being both Tony Stark and Iron Man.

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Again, this movie is a huge building block for the MCU, and introduces several key characters, plot points and references that come into play both immediately and further down the line.  Between S.H.I.E.L.D., the first appearance of Black Widow, as well as references to yet-to-be-seen characters Thor and Captain America, you can’t go wrong with Iron Man 2‘s vision.

Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark never tires, and is still one of the more enjoyable characters from Marvel to date.  Paltrow and Johansson provide strong female roles, while the new addition of Don Cheadle as Rhodey (replacing Terrence Howard from the first film) feels natural, and he seems to fit the role in a Marvel film a bit more.  Rourke plays a gritty and enjoyable villain, and the return of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson are fan-favorites.

Another thing that I enjoyed about this movie’s overall is the lingering presence of S.H.I.E.L.D.  While S.H.I.E.L.D. was a minor factor during the first Iron Man, and very briefly teased in The Incredible Hulk, this is the first movie that really expands on the organization and provides how essential it would go on to become.

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To me, Iron Man 2 is the most comic book-esque film in the MCU aside from The Avengers.  It provides a lot of witty dialogue, cool stunts and more intimate action/combat.  The reason these qualities were achieved is partly due to Matt Fraction as a consultant for the film.  Fraction had a very successful run as the writer of the comic series “The Invincible Iron Man” during the 2000’s.

At the end of the day, from what I’ve witnessed there are two kinds of people associated with Iron Man 2; those who liked the movie, and those who didn’t.  I never saw much in between when it came to it’s criticism.

Strong Points:

  • Arguably one of the most essential films from Marvel Studios so far
  • Action sequences and scenes that make the film a true comic book movie
  • First appearances from Black Widow, War Machine and nods to future characters
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. being further explained as the backbone for all of Marvel Studios’ movies
  • Loaded with references that only close-followers will realize, but also a movie that regular movie-goers can enjoy

Weak Points:

  • Choppy dialogue that often feels a bit forced with the characters rambling
  • A short-but-sweet final sequence which ends a bit anti-climatically
  • Some of the chemistry between characters doesn’t feel as authentic as in the first film
  • Even though its intent is the bring together a shared universe involving multiple films, the thread that holds Iron Man 2 alone together feels like there is something absent in the story.

In my own opinion, I don’t see why a lot of people put down Iron Man 2.  Its enjoyable, fun, thoughtful and I’ve probably seen it about ten times now, if not more.  And each time it gets more and more enjoyable.  Make sure that if you’re new to the Marvel Studios series, or if you’re looking to re-watch one of the movies, give Iron Man 2 another try.

Rating: 7.5/10

3.5 stars

Written by Josh Sazin on 2/5/14

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