This segment of our series hits the only sequel in the build-up for The Avengers: Iron Man 2.
Of all the links in the chain leading to The Avengers, I think Iron Man 2 is the weakest. It is a decent movie and I still enjoyed it, but it doesn’t come close to the magic of the original. For me the film suffers from a common plight of superhero movies: trying to cram too much stuff into 2 hours (see Spider-Man 3 or Batman Returns). In this flick Tony Stark is dealing with multiple enemies (Whiplash, Senator Stern, and Justin Hammer), ongoing relationships with Pepper Potts and Rhodey, and a new ally in Black Widow. Throw in a decent sized role for Happy Hogan and appearances by S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel and you have quite the full boat. A pared down script would have helped quite a bit and given more screen time for Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke to strut their stuff.
Most of the criticism I heard about Iron Man 2 back in 2010 derided it as just a feature length commercial for The Avengers. The movie didn’t strike me that way, but I can see how some would feel that way. I think the issue was how well (or not) the Avengers related stuff was woven into the main narrative. Much of it, especially the appearances of Coulson and Fury, felt like B plotlines of an hour long drama that definitely were not going to pay off before the credits rolled. I think Thor had nearly as many overt references to The Avengers, but they were better integrated into the story and didn’t feel as forced. I wish the Avengers tie-in had been more deftly executed in Iron Man 2, but I’m willing to take this misstep if it pays off in May 2012.
Obviously Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, and Black Widow all have screen time and S.H.I.E.L.D. is portrayed as a going concern. Other references come out of the woodwork including:
- A report with an “Avengers Initiative” cover sheet is seen (I thought a report like that would be thicker)
- News footage of the Hulk’s campus rampage is show on a screen in the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility.
- Howard Stark (later to appear as a character in Captain America) is revealed as a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- A map in the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility displays locations of the Avengers members including some that may not be in the movie like Namor and Black Panther.
- Different versions of Captain America’s shields make some appearances.
- Stark formulates a new metal based on formulas left by his father which, while not named, is probably vibranium eventually used for Captain America’s shield.
- Agent Coulson is dispatched to incident in the southwestern US which in the post credit sequence is revealed to be the discovery of Thor’s hammer.
What does the sequel tell us about Iron Man’s role?
CT already speculated on Iron Man/Tony Stark’s role on the team, but Iron Man 2 gives us a little better sense of how Stark will work as part of a team. Tony Stark is definitely going to have a strong opinion about how things should be done, but he will cooperate with those he trusts. The process of earning that trust should lead to some interesting interactions with the other Avengers members (as the trailers hint at). Beyond fightin’ the bad guys and other superhero activities, Iron Man is probably best suited to provide some levity to what could otherwise be a pretty serious collection of heroes. Since Downey is the key to this incarnation of Iron Man, I hope that a significant piece of that interplay between the Avengers characters takes place out of costume so we can get the full effect.
Some thoughts from Pax over at Cavalcade of Awesome
Iron Man 2. What can we say about Iron Man 2? A movie with a bunch of great ideas but that never really joins together into an enjoyable, cohesive movie. Downey is great. Again. I actually really liked Cheadle and the inclusion of War Machine. I love the idea of Whiplash and Justin Hammer. And how unbelievably awesome is that Mark V suitcase armor? But combine all that AND a bunch of setup for Avengers and you have a haphazard, somewhat unfocused movie. Iron Man 2 felt more like Avengers 0 than a true sequel to Iron Man. Like Marvel couldn’t decide if they wanted to make an Iron Man sequel or a prequel to Avengers, so they just combined them into one movie. It was a bit too ambitious. And what happened to dropped subplots from the first movie like The Mandarin and the 10 Rings? That stuff had to make way for the more important Avengers initiative story line.
In all of the other Marvel movies the Avengers stuff was kept to tags at the end of the credits. However, Marvel decided to put the Avengers all up in the middle of this movie which was really distracting and honestly the actual Iron Man storyline suffered. I mean, how bad was the War Machine/Iron Man fight at the party? And how confusing and awkward was the reveal of the new scientific element that saved Tony’s life? All of this should have been the focus of the movie and fleshed out a bit. Maybe even utilizing some of the previously mentioned Mandarin setup and leaving the Avengers stuff for the end. The movie should have been about Tony Stark and Iron Man but it was about everything else but Iron Man.
I think Marvel’s decision to focus on the Avengers story over everything else is the main reason Iron Man 2 under performed and the main reason Favreau has bowed out of Iron Man 3. I also think this decision is just a symptom of Marvel trying to get all of their "ducks in a row" for the Avengers movie this summer. They just got a bit too ambitious and wanted to have it all. To make Iron Man 3 a hit, Marvel needs to get back to basics and focus a bit more on Tony Stark and Iron Man. That’s what made the first one such a surprise hit.