Iron Man 2 has a lot of good elements working in its favor. The story is just as involving as the first film, the side characters are better developed, and the humor is still present. I had an enjoyable enough time while watching it, but after it was over, I found myself disappointed. Most this has to do with the story as a whole, which, by the end of the film, doesn’t end up mattering at all.
The reasons why the plot doesn’t matter are two-fold. Firstly, by the end of the film, not much has been changed. If you wanted to skip this film, but still go and see the upcoming third installment, you wouldn’t miss anything in terms of the story. The second reason comes from what the film feels like—an advertisement for The Avengers, a film in which Iron Man, the character, will likely play a big part.
This time around, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is dying. After putting a palladium core inside his body to keep his heart functioning in the first film, Stark now has to deal with the fact that it is poisoning his body. He has to keep checking his blood toxicity, unable to find some sort of replacement for the core that is slowly killing him. As a result, he’s stopped caring much about life, acting with reckless abandon.
This is making the government question whether or not Stark’s Iron Man suit should be allowed to continue to be possessed by Stark. They want to take possession of it, while Stark is resilient that he is in full control. They bring in a weapons expert named Justin Hammer (Sam Rokwell) to convince him otherwise. Hammer becomes one of the villains of this story. He’s rich, and he is able to build similar suits, comparable to the Iron Man suit.
Hammer hires Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian physicist, to build comparable suits. After Vanko attacks Stark at a car race, but fails to kill him. He makes a big enough impression for Hammer to hire him. They team up to take down Stark, and pose a dual threat, in direct contrast to the first film’s single main villain. This gives Stark a greater threat, and with his enemies becoming fully fleshed out characters, we view them as a large threat, as we know all of their intents and what they are capable of.
Ivan especially seems really menacing. He shows how terrifying he can be when he goes into the middle of a raceway and uses an electric whip to tear cars in half. Rourke does an excellent job in his portrayal, equipped with a Russian accent and a bad attitude. Hammer is less of a direct threat, but his intent to become more successful that Stark is one that makes him appear bloodthirsty. Rockwell is confident, and also somewhat goofy. He doesn’t act like a bad person, except for wanting to eliminate Stark, and his dialogue and mannerisms reflect that.
My final conclusion about Iron Man 2 is not a positive one.
Terrence Howard was wrong when he stated that he might get to pilot a similar Iron Man suit “next time.” His character did, but he was no longer the one portraying him. This time around, Don Cheadle is Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes, at times getting to pilot the “War Machine” suit. This replacement seems to be done just because of some issues behind the scenes, as Howard did a fine job in the first film, just as Cheadle does in the second film. It’s just a little jarring to switch actors like that, especially here where Rhodes gets a bigger role in the sequel.
The job Robert Downey, Jr. does in the role of Tony Stark is just as good as well. While his character becomes more reckless and destructive, he continues to be portrayed wonderfully by Downey, Jr, with everything that could be said about him in the first film staying true in the sequel.
The action sequences are just as entertaining, if not more so, in Iron Man 2. Having some variety instead of just robot suit fighting another robot suit allows for more interesting things to happen. There also seemed to be even more time spent on them, using the idea that “bigger is better” in regards to the fights. This actually works quite well, allowing the action scenes to be the highlights of the film.
The thing I didn’t like about the film, the ones that I mentioned in the second paragraph, end up overcoming the majority of the positive things the film has going for it. They don’t harm the film that much while you’re watching it, but after it concludes, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. When the film doesn’t end up mattering, it becomes instantly forgettable and you regret spending two hours watching absolutely nothing getting accomplished.
My final conclusion about Iron Man 2 is not a positive one. While it’s a good enough ride while you’re watching it, it ultimately isn’t worth it. The acting is still good, the villains make for an interesting story, and the action is just as fun as it was before, but not having much of it matter leaves it feeling unimportant and a waste of time.
Conclusion: Iron Man 2 exists just to set up The Avengers.
Recommendation: Iron Man 2 is a necessary MCU film, even if it’s not the greatest watch in the world.