Retrospective Review: IRON MAN 2

This review is part of our 20 Days of Infinity War. Click here to for more WOBAM awesome.

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Sirs and Misses, I'm gonna have to ask you to exit the donut and take a journey with me.

The year is 2010; the film, Iron Man 2; and I, a wide eyed teenager, feigning little interest in the MCU. This was, in part, for a couple reasons.

One, I only saw the first Iron Man after I bought it used from my Ingles Video Store. And the only reason I did that is because Iron Man was the only DVD I knew about that had the teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Trek reboot.

That DVD was worth EVERY penny.
Two, I was taught that a young man should be weary of other guys who recklessly have sex with any woman he wants; and Tony Stark, despite his reform during the movie, is still the playboy he always was. He’s a hero with a sleazy background; and I, a wide eyed teenager, wasn’t crazy about that.

I did enjoy the first Iron Man, though. And now that I’m an adult, I understand the nuances of character development a lot better than I used to. Tony Stark is a hero because he saw his flaws and changed. That’s something a teenager might not see at first glance, because when you're young you notice the outward first and foremost. But as an adult, you take note of the inward. You see yourself in others, and Tony Stark, the reformed reckless playboy, is an unique perspective to have for a hero.

Which brings us back to 2010. Iron Man 2 has just dropped on DVD, and my Dad had it pre-ordered from Blockbuster, so we sat down and watched it. And you know what? I liked it a lot. I couldn’t find a single flaw with it because it took all the stuff I didn’t like about Tony’s recklessness in the first movie, and either he matured or they used it as a joke. I also liked the Rhodey recasting, and the opening jump into the Stark Expo was (and remains) one of the single best scenes in the entire MCU. Director Jon Favreau knows how to make films look stunning, and he does an excellent job of it here.
But.

I wizened up a bit. The most important change happened around 2011; I was writing my own stories now, and had just recently gotten involved with Pendant Productions, who was making audio drama podcasts a decade and a half before Welcome to Night Vale and The Bright Sessions made that sorta thing cool.

During that time and in the years to come, I learned.

And I learned some more.

And I started to realize... I don’t really like Iron Man 2.

Here’s a baker’s dozen reasons why…

  1. Tony’s goes from recklessly immature to irrational, and it’s a jarring step backwards.
  2. Whiplash.
  3. Natasha Romanoff is introduced as eye candy, and that remains her defining trait in the film even after she's revealed to be a badass secret agent.
  4. Ivan.
  5. The SHIELD subplot meant to setup The Avengers feels like a separate movie.
  6. That dude Justin Hammer teams up with instead of Elon Musk.
  7. The “new element” subplot is hokey, and Tony’s discovery of that element from his father is hokier still.
  8. Birdman.
  9. No lingering consequences for Obadiah Stane’s death.
  10. Birdbrain.
  11. A lack of weight to the “Tony is dying” subplot.
  12. Crazy Russian Hacker.
  13. Not enough AC/DC.
Obviously, a big thing stands out here: the fact that Elon Musk didn’t team with Hammer. THAT is unforgivable.

More unforgivable is how thin Ivan’s characterization is. By all accounts, the original script gave him a lot more that was apparently lost during editing. I would love to know why. If that footage exists, why haven’t we seen a Director’s Cut of Iron Man 2? It wouldn’t fix everything, but it could fix the movie’s weakest link. Ivan is the man who replicated Stark’s technology. That poses a MAJOR threat; but the movie never makes us feel it. Ivan was screwed over by Howard Stark. There’s WEIGHT to that. Why doesn’t this movie explore it??

Iron Man 2 is, in my estimation, Marvel Studios’ worst film. It’s fine if you love it; there’s LOTS to love about Iron Man 2 when you’re wide eyed and hyped up. But if you’re looking for character defining substance, you won’t find it here. For that, turn your weary eyes to the entirety of Marvel Phase 3.

...okay, FINE, you can turn your head to Hammer's big sales pitch. Uncle Gazpacho's our MVP, after all.

★★☆

2.5/5

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