When the MCU has lasted eighteen films and another half dozen are already in different stages of production, one might be surprised to learn that its first sequel was only its third film. I was never entirely sure about why Marvel Studios decided to return so quickly to Iron Man, and could not accept that they would do so simply because the first was a success. Despite it not matching the first in the franchise, “The Incredible Hulk” was definitely not a financial failure, and it was already clear that an Avengers film was in the works. So why give Tony Stark another go before then?
Conversations on the internet do not clear up the issue. Some suggest it was because of delays to “Thor” and the mess that was simply the start of “Ant Man”‘s production. Others still claim it was a simple matter of getting easy money to fund “the big one.” Others defend to the death the idea that Iron Man is the greatest character and the early sequel was simply in recognition.
Whatever the reason for getting a sequel so early, I would suggest it was not good enough. The movie ticks a lot of boxes (introduce War Machine, introduce Black Widow, expand on SHIELD, show off new suits and tech) that were required in the MCU, however, the plot is lacklustre and the stakes never truly high for Tony Stark.
WhenTony discovers that he is being poisoned by the “Arc Reactor” and the pseudoscience that is keeping his heart from being shredded apart, he then conveniently discovers a new element(!!!) his father designed in the fifties and creates it in his basement (propping up his makeshift Hadron Collider with a prototype of Cap’s Shield, no less).
When Tony has to deal with a wannabe who is trying to steal his tech, he doesn’t bother about it. In fact, in a fit of self-pity (that we eventually come to recognise well throughout later films) he hands over the suit to Rhoades anyway.
The only real threat is a Russian self-taught scientist who has a personal vendetta against the Stark name (also a common problem in the MCU), and while he nearly bests Tony on their first meeting, his army of drones never give the impression of being too much for our hero. He almost didn’t even need Rhoades to come back with the old suit, now refitted as “War Machine”.
That is not to say the movie isn’t worth watching. Getting to see Scarlett Johansson in action for the first time is a treat, as is more screen time for Happy. Sam Rockwell plays “trying too hard” as well as he ever does. Mickey Rourke enjoys hamming it up in the knowledge he could never look as ridiculous as the comic book character (right). The action scenes are smooth, with the highlight being the Monte Carlo race and that wonderful briefcase, which seems much too big come “The Avengers”. We get more Agent Coulson, too, although he admittedly seems more interested in New Mexico.
For good reason too. “New Mexico” is far more interesting.
Rank: 14th out of 18.