Written By: Hamish Calvert
Often regarded as one of the weakest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) ‘Iron Man 2’ failed to generate the same level of acclaim that the original film did. However, after a disappointing second outing for the MCU in the shape of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ it was maybe a wise move to return to the established characters from ‘Iron Man’ before introducing any new heroes to this universe.
Robert Downey Jr. & Gwyneth Paltrow return as Tony Stark & Pepper Pots and their chemistry only improves from what we witnessed in the first film. Whilst Tony’s right hand man, Rhodey, also comes back for the sequel original actor Terrance Howard did not. Instead Marvel brought in Don Cheadle who’s gone on to reprise this role in numerous other films in the MCU. Even though audiences are now used to Cheadle in the role it was a definite disappointment at the time to lose Howard who had brought a special charm to his performance which Cheadle somewhat lacked. This sequel also introduces us to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and gives Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury more than just an after credits scene. Black Widow’s development is entertaining to watch and integrated well into the narrative whereas Fury’s seems shoehorned in. However, the real highlight of the cast this time round was without a doubt Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer. Although it’s maybe a shame that Rockwell wasn’t utilised better by the MCU to play a more substantial character he completely steals the thunder from the main villain of the piece, Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash. His turn as Tony’s rival arms dealer is predictably joyous to watch and he even manages to get a little boogie in, and folks let’s be real any film with a dancing Sam Rockwell is worth a watch.
So there’s no debating that the cast were firing on all cylinders here so where’s the criticism? Well it’s often suggested that ‘Iron Man 2’ is simply too focused on setting up future instalments of the MCU than in telling its own story and to a degree this is true. However there’s no denying that this film is vitally important for establishing much of the groundwork that made the climax of the MCU’s phase one, ‘Avengers Assemble’ possible. Furthermore, it does this in truly entertaining fashion. Usually set to the roaring sound of AC/DC who make up the incredibly well suited soundtrack, the film features some really fun & memorable action sequences.
The highlight of these takes place at the famous Circuit De Monaco showcasing director Jon Favreau’s talent for shooting action and including some awesome previously unseen Iron Man tech. A sequence later in the film demonstrates the trademark Marvel comedy as Pepper & Rhodey try to keep a very drunk Tony under control at his birthday party. Ultimately though the narrative all leads to a satisfying finale which offers a good culmination of the new characters that the main body of the film sets up and the already established ones in a mixture of exciting action scenes. The film is rounded off with a really amusing scene reminding audiences of just what a pleasure it is to watch Downey Jr’s Iron Man on the big screen.
So although ‘Iron Man 2’ is a potentially unremarkable instalment compared to what has followed in the MCU it’s most definitely an underrated entry and receives harsher criticisms than it deserves. It doesn’t come anywhere near the dizzying heights of the universe opener ‘Iron Man’ and does at times feel slightly episodic but it’s solid superhero fun and an important chapter in the overall MCU story.