Six months after revealing himself as Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) is dying from the arc reactor in his chest, the very device that is keeping him alive. While searching for a viable solution, he is also fighting the US senate and Hammer Industries, led by Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), for access to the Iron Man suit. Hammer recruits Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), son of Anton Vanko, co-creater of the arc reactor with Tony’s father, to help create his version of the Iron Man suit. But Ivan has much bigger plans.
After Marvel hit fandom and blockbuster gold with Iron Man, their follow up, The Incredible Hulk, showed signs of how encompassing their shared universe would be. Then in Iron Man 2, it really becomes apparent how vast the universe is going to become. Although not quite as exciting or engaging as the first Iron Man film, Marvel Studio’s first sequel delivers a through and through action adventure that is used to expand the universe further.
The way they did the villains in this film was interesting. There are two separate villains, Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko, but they are like reflections of two aspects of Tony Stark. Hammer is the billionaire, weapons manufacturer side and Vanko is the smart, scientist / engineer side of Tony. They are two evil mirrors and are used to show two paths Tony could have eventually gone down (or one if you consider just the bad guy aspect).
Sam Rockwell is a great addition as Justin Hammer. He is very charismatic and finds the perfect balance between Hammer’s charismatic and villainous sides. I don’t want to say I can’t picture anyone else in the part, but you would probably be hard-pressed to find someone who could fulfill it as successfully. Ivan Vanko, on the other had, could have been played by any Hollywood tough guy. He isn’t there to do much besides look tough, which Mickey Rourke no doubt accomplishes, and be the bad guy for Iron Man to punch.
I have mixed feelings about Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey. It’s not that he did a bad job. No, it’s much weirder than that. I just don’t like the way he looks in the War Hammer suit. Cheadle is slightly shorter than RDJ, but when he is in the suit Cheadle is slightly taller than him. I know that is an odd complaint but it bugs me more than it should.
I also was disappointed that Whiplash, Vanko’s supervillain persona, was based on the same technology as Tony’s, just like Iron Monger from the previous movie. I remember when this movie was first being talked about, there were rumors that the villain would be the Mandarin, arguably one of the biggest Iron Man rouges, and I was excited. But when the film was released, I was let down to see it was another man in a suit.
Especially with the inclusion of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the rest of SHIELD, Iron Man 2 started to become stuffed. I don’t blame the movie for this, it wasn’t the film’s fault. It was Marvel’s because they wanted to demonstrate that their world was going to be expansive and started to really pave the way for The Avengers. However, it manages to dovetail it into the story so it doesn’t become too obtrusive.
It may sound like I’m bashing the film quite a bit, but I actually enjoy Iron Man 2. I may be impartial to Don Cheadle as Rhodey, but I am fond of War Machine’s inclusion. Although I wish the villain had been something other than another Iron Man wannabe, it explored Tony’s character and gave the first real idea of the immense Marvel world to come.
Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.
Iron Man: They’re coming in hot, any second. What’s the play?
War Machine: Well, we want to take the high ground, okay? So let’s put the biggest gun on that ridge.
Iron Man: Got you. [Both start walking towards ridge] Where do you want to be?
War Machine: Where are you going?
Iron Man: What’re you talking about?
War Machine: I meant me.
Iron Man: You have a big gun. You are not the big gun.
War Machine: Tony, don’t be jealous.
Iron Man: No. It’s subtle, all the bells and whistles.
War Machine: Yeah. It’s called being a badass.
Cast & Crew
Jon Favreau – Director
Justin Theroux – Screenplay
John Debney – Composer
Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Don Cheadle – James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes
Scarlett Johansson – Natalie Rushman / Natasha Romanoff
Sam Rockwell – Justin Hammer
Mickey Rourke – Ivan Vanko
Paul Bettany – JARVIS (voice)
Jon Favreau – ‘Happy’ Hogan
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Clark Gregg – Agent Coulson
Garry Shandling – Senator Stern
John Slattery – Howard Stark