Iron Man 2 is able to build onto its predecessor from two years prior while paving the way for an expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The sequel takes place a few months after the events of the first film. The world now knows Tony Stark is a superhero. Stark himself is having some other issues to worry about such as the fact that the palladium core in the device keeping him alive is also killing him. While we saw photos of Howard Stark in the first film, this film starts introducing us to who he was while building on his legacy. It also turns out that the elder Stark designed the arc reactor with now deceased Russian physicist Anton Vanko. His son, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), is having none of it. Plans start falling into place to get revenge.
Over in the States, the government wants their hands on the Iron Man technology. There’s no way that Stark is going to let this happen. In spite of this and knowing he’s dying, Stark turns over his company to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) much to her surprise. Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) becomes Potts assistant but there’s something deeper to her appearance here. Anyway, things don’t really start to happen until after the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. With Stark rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) watching, Whiplash–Ivan Vanko–makes his first appearance. Stark has no idea what’s about to happen but he’s got a worthy foe to take on.
Stark just continues to lose it knowing that he’s dying. He allows himself to get drunk during what very well may be his final birthday party. Best friend James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard) sees this and makes the decision to try on the War Machine armor. The two of them have an epic fight in Stark’s Malibu pad.
Depressed, we see Stark just sitting there in a donut before Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) makes himself known and Rushman reveals herself to be SHIELD Agent Natasha Romanoff. Fury’s larger appearance gives us an opportunity to dive into some of the SHIELD history. Not only this but through the massive easter eggs at the SHIELD office, the Marvel universe just got a bit bigger. Fury informs Stark that he’s not the only person of importance right now with the activity going on in the southwestern sector. Eventually, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) leaves Stark’s side for New Mexico.
Iron Man 2 draws upon the “Demon in a Bottle” arc from the comics without outright adapting the story. I’d say they do a good job here. Downey Jr. is able to play the eccentrics of the role without taking it over the top.
As for the introduction of Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, I like what Johansson brings to the role. In an alternate universe, the role would have gone to Emily Blunt. Unfortunately, we’ll never know what could have been because Fox would pick up her option for Gulliver’s Travels. The scheduling conflicts with the production meant having to drop out.
Iron Man 2 is still a good film but I’m saddened to report that it is not the rare sequel that becomes greater than its predecessor.
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
SCREENWRITER: Justin Theroux
CAST: Robert Downey Jr. Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, with Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson