Top Ten MCU Films: #5 – Iron Man 2

Sick of films from Marvel Studios? Think list articles are cliche? If your answer to either of those questions is ‘no,’ then there is a chance you will not hate this countdown of the best (and only) films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

ron Man was the pleasant surprise that turned Robert Downey, Jr. into a superstar. Iron Man 2 was the follow-up that the studio rushed out. What can go wrong?!?!?! Well, not as much as went wrong in the first film, but audiences/critcs had higher expectations for the franchise and were seemingly not impressed. Is that fair? It is to a certain extent. Ideally, franchises evolve and use their goodwill to push the story in new/exciting directions instead of just rehashing similar tropes and ideas.

Iron Man 2 splits the difference. The Tony Stark character goes in a different direction, but the plot surrounding him feels largely same-ish and is not particularly inspired (despite all the right parts being in place). I found it to be more entertaining than its predecessor in just about every way (more entertaining villains, better Rodey, a more interesting arc for Pepper, etc.) though, and I cannot relate to the (many) people who consider the first film more entertaining.

What are some things the movie gets right?

The Universe Building: Most critics/fans seem to write off this film in general as lazy (it is) and sacrificing the story of this movie in order to market The Avengers. In my opinion, the latter has been a scapegoat for the actual shortcomings (lack of stakes/credible villains for this story) in the film. First off, Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, and Black Widow are barely in the film at all. The amount of actual screen time spent on their characters and the story of whether or not Tony Stark is a fit for The Avengers team is minimal in the grand scheme of things. In that short amount of screen time, they use the Avengers recruitment angle to give us more insight into the Tony Stark character and one of his major flaws (tunnel vision that often causes him to think in short-term gains). As far as I am concerned, that is a productive use of time. The actual universe building is a very small aspect of the film and helps us understand our lead character more.

Recasting Roadie: I don’t dislike Terrence Howard at all as an actor, but he really did not bring anything to the table in the first film. He looked to be outmatched in every single scene by RDJ, and this role only works if you’re wondering why the Roadie character doesn’t serve as Iron Man and Tony Stark stays in the lab. Don Cheadle managed to accomplish both of those things and succeeded where Terrence Howard floundered.

The casting of the villains: Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, and Garry Shandling. All three were delightful in their roles even if the movie did not work hard to give them the necessary credibility to make it remotely plausible that Tony Stark could be defeated by anything but alcohol and a martyr complex.

What are some things the movie gets wrong?

In a film with a variety of villains, Tony Stark’s biggest enemy is himself! While I enjoyed the SHIELD recruitment angle and what it said about the flaws of Tony Stark, the rest of the execution of his self-destruction was tedious and felt obligatory.

The Lack of Stakes/Credible Villains: I think the actors all did an admirable job, but the villains seemed like the definition of obligatory despite getting the necessary amount of screen time to be properly established as credible/dangerous villains. Whiplash loses his first battle to Tony Stark (and Tony Stark’s limo driver). Justin Hammer is a buffoon, and he basically fails at everything in the film. Garry Shandling’s senator (congressman?) character has two main scenes and is made to look like a clown each time. If all of the villains in your film don’t appear to be actually dangerous, it is nearly impossible for your film to feel like it has real stakes. Our main characters will be fine because there is just nothing to fear.

Obligation: This film just *feels* like it had to be made instead of it needing to be made. While I still prefer watching it compared to the original Iron Man, I cannot deny that this film served little purpose in the end except to make money and introduce more characters of the MCU.

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