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Iron Man 2 (2010) - MCU Retro Review

Heading into the final few chapters of Marvel's Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we decided it was time to take a look back at the last ten years worth of films (18 in all) and re-evaluate them based on how well they hold up today and how connected they are to the greater MCU now that the films have advanced so far into the timeline, which culminates in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and it's untitled sequel. Are they as good as you remember? Do they still hold up today? Are the deeper MCU connections even deeper than before or weaker? Join us as we attempt to answer those questions and take another look at the last decade of Marvel Studios with our Retro-Review Series!

DIRECTED BY: Jon Favreau
WRITTEN BY: Justin Theroux
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (Rhodey), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff), Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer), Mickey Rourke (Ivan Vanko), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Jon Favreau (Hogan), John Slattery (Howard Stark), Garry Shandling (Senator Stern), Paul Bettany (Jarvis)
STORY: Tony Stark resists the demands of the U.S. government that he hand over the Iron Man technology while also battling palladium poisoning due to the arc reactor in his chest. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko has developed similar technology and pursues a vendetta against the Stark family along with Stark's business rival, Justin Hammer.

Superheroes typically don't reveal their secret identities to the world, but the close of IRON MAN saw Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) doing just that, proudly declaring that he was Iron Man at a press-conference. It was a hell of an ending, and IRON MAN 2 would explore the repercussions of that reveal, with both villains and government coming out of the woodwork to take Tony's technology for themselves. Looking back on the juggernaut that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become, it's a little strange to return to the early films when the franchise was in the process of taking shape. The connections were still being made, major characters had yet to have been introduced, and there was still uncertainly in the air about whether this whole shared-universe experiment would succeed.

Hot on the heels of the success of IRON MAN, Marvel Studios quickly announced that they would be developing a sequel, but looking back on it, you wish that they would have hit the brakes a little and taken more time to craft the film. That said, I'd imagine that they were fairly keen to get Tony Stark back on the big-screen as soon as possible, and who can blame them. Robert Downey Jr. perfectly embodies the role with a wonderful balance of charisma and arrogance, and he's in great form once again in IRON MAN 2, despite the somewhat messy story-line. The film juggles multiple elements, not always successfully, as it attempts to function both as an IRON MAN sequel but also as setup for THE AVENGERS. I get that those elements needed to be introduced, but there are several points in IRON MAN 2 where the main plot seems to take a back-seat for a S.H.I.E.L.D. info-dump. We can appreciate those moments as we look back on everything they set up in the MCU, but in the context of the film by itself, it comes across as a bit of a distraction.

As he's one of my absolute favourite actors, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Sam Rockwell's performance as Justin Hammer, the fast-talking weapons manufacturer who is never quite able to keep up with his rival, Tony Stark. Rockwell's scenes with Downey Jr. are a highlight of the film, but I can't help but wish that there were more of them, especially as Hammer is unceremoniously arrested during the finale while Iron Man is busy dealing with Ivan Vanko. Speaking of Vanko, Mickey Rourke's decidedly odd performance as the villain didn't sit well with many fans at the time, but I found myself enjoying the character upon re-watching the film, particularly when his lack of enthusiasm directly butts up against Justin Hammer's motor mouth.

Although the movie likely isn't occupying a lofty position on anyone's Top Ten Marvel Movies list, IRON MAN 2 is still quite an enjoyable ride with plenty of great action, snarky dialogue, and wonderful actors, who, on certainly more than one occasion, are able to elevate their characters well beyond what was written in the script.

READ THE ORIGINAL THEATRICAL REVIEW!

One of the coolest moments in the entire film arrives during the Circuit de Monaco sequence, in which Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) surprises Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) on the track and quickly cleaves his race-car in two. Left exposed and vulnerable, you're left wondering just how Tony is going to get out of this without his Iron Man suit. Enter the Mark V, also known as the Suitcase Armor, which Tony is able to quickly access and finally take Vanko out.

Watching Tony stumbling around drunk at his birthday party, in his Iron Man suit no less, is also good for a laugh, as is Tony busting balls at a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing. And lest you think that the bad-ass moments of IRON MAN 2 peeked too early with the Monaco sequence, well, in the finale we get Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson) infiltrating Hammer Industries where Natasha gets the chance to show off her impressive moves, as well as Tony Stark and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), now suited up as War Machine, teaming up to take Ivan Vanko and his drones down.

Ivan Vanko: Hey, I want my bird.
Justin Hammer: Uh, a bird? You want a bird?
Ivan Vanko: I want my bird.
Justin Hammer: I can get you a bird, I can get you ten birds.
Ivan Vanko: I want MY bird!

Tony Stark: I have successfully privatized world peace.

Ivan Vanko: If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in Him. And there will be blood in the water. And the sharks will come. The truth, all I have to do is sit here and watch as the world will consume you.

Nick Fury: Sir! I'm going to have to ask you to exit the donut.

Tony Stark: I told you. I don’t want to join your super-secret boy band.

One of the criticisms lobbed at IRON MAN 2 is that it spends a little too much time setting up other elements in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it does provide us with a surplus of MCU easter eggs. In addition to giving us more information about S.H.I.E.L.D., including revealing that Tony's father was a founding member, we're left with a number of notable connections to the MCU, some of which wouldn't pay off until much later in the franchise. As Nick Fury debriefs Tony Stark at the end of the film, there are a number of large screens surrounding the pair which contain a few interesting tidbits, including news footage of the Hulk's rampage at Culver University in THE INCREDIBLE HULK and a map of Avengers-related hot-spots which includes a reference to Wakanda. Captain America's (Chris Evans) prototype shield also pops up in the film when it's used by Tony to prop up a portion of his particle accelerator, we see the Tesseract in Howard Stark's notes, and Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) hammer is revealed at the bottom of a crater in a desert in New Mexico in the post-credit scene. Another interesting easter egg is one which was added retroactively; when Tony Stark saves a young child in an Iron Man mask at the Stark Expo, it was later revealed by Tom Holland that the young child was in fact Peter Parker. Neat!

For the most part, IRON MAN 2 makes use of characters we've already been introduced to in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it does serve as our introduction to Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka Black Widow. When we first meet her, Natasha is posing as Tony Stark's new personal assistant, Natalie Rushman, before she's later revealed to be an  undercover spy for S.H.I.E.L.D. Although Howard Stark did pop very briefly in the first IRON MAN, played by Gerard Sanders, I feel as though I should include him here as we get a much more involved introduction in IRON MAN 2 once John Slattery took on the role. It also wouldn't be a Marvel movie without Stan Lee, who makes a brief appearance as a man who Tony Stark mistakes for Larry King.

Decades ago, Howard Stark (John Slattery) and Anton Vanko (Yevgeni Lazarev) worked together to develop the Arc Reactor technology, but while Stark wanted to use project to benefit humanity, Vanko merely wanted to get rich. After it was discovered that Vanko was guilty of espionage, he was deported back to the U.S.S.R., where, after failing to develop the technology on his own, was sent to Siberia. His son, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), would grow up to inherit Anton's hatred of the Stark family and later build his own miniature Arc Reactor to power the Whiplash suit. After failing to kill Tony Stark at the Circuit de Monaco, Vanko came to the attention of Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a rival weapons manufacturer. One fake death and a prison break later, and Hammer would hire Vanko to build replica Hammer Armors which could discredit Tony Stark's technology. However, Vanko would instead use Hammer's resources in order to build an army of drones as well as an improved model of his Whiplash armor. During a battle at the Stark Expo against both Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vanko would met his ultimate end by self-destructing both himself and the Hammer Drones. As for Justin Hammer, well, he was taken into custody and later sent to Seagate Prison, and we would later (briefly) catch up with him in the Marvel One-Shot, ALL HAIL THE KING.

IRON MAN - RETRO REVIEW

INCREDIBLE HULK - RETRO REVIEW

Source: JoBlo.com

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