At the beginning of the MCU, connectivity was all though easter eggs and small cameos. It wasn’t until Iron Man 2 that we start to see the world expand through WHiH footage from the Incredible Hulk to a board showing places of interest in this world.
Iron Man 2 has returning stars Robert Downy Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow, along with secondary stars Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, and Paul Bettany.
Iron Man 2 added Don Cheadle as James Rhodes, who was played by Terrence Howard in the first Iron Man, in the MCU’s first instance of recasting. New roles that were introduce were Mickey Rourke, as Ivan Vanko, Sam Rockwell, as Justin Hammer, and Scarlett Johansson, as Black Widow.
Iron Man 2 continues the world that was first established in Iron Man. We still are shown that it is grounded in our world through Christine Everhard working at Vanity Fair, Pepper and Black Widows’ designer shoes, or the Grand Prix of Monaco.
There are a few questions that I have, though. Is the explosion during the Grand Prix an oversite meant to look cool? Or are the cars running on something more flammable than gasoline? And why does Pepper think Latin is a dead language? If you can read and write it, why is it dead and cannot be spoken?
Speaking of small things that make me ask questions, how is there still dust on that model after Tony had it sticking out of a convertible going so fast?
Iron Man 2 would not able to expand the world of the MCU if it was not for the new characters it introduced. Be it the Iron Man specific characters like Ivan Vanko or Justin Hammer, or the more overarching characters like Howard Stark and Black Widow.
We do see within Ivan Vanko another aspect of Tony Stark used for more nefarious means. He shows an intelligence and innovative spirit but for darker purposes like Tony did. And Mickey Rourke’s idea of Ivan speaking mostly Russian gave him that harder edge. Making people bend to him instead of the other way around.
Justin Hammer is almost a full rehash of Obadiah Stane, presenting as an intelligent man and industrialist rival of Tony Stark. Though, by the end of the film, he is almost Pepper Potts’ Stane based on how the story plays out.
The performance that Sam Rockwell put in was spectacular. For future movies, I would love to see Hammer return. It’s the small scenes where he truly shines, be it the comedic scene with Leslie Bibb’s Christine Everhard or the scene where he weaponizes War Machine. Personally, I do wonder how many times that needed to be shot as there was a crazy amount of dialog there.
Iron Man 2 shows Tony in a place where the technology that he made to save his life is killing him. There are scenes where you see Tony dive headfirst into alcoholism and what seeing that does to his closest friends.
It’s that aspect that you can see this being the closest thing that the MCU will come to doing the Iron Man comic story “Deamon in a Bottle”. For those unaware, that is a nine-issue story that was published between March and November 1979. It detailed what happened to Tony when he drank to forget the issues that he was having, a textbook symptom of alcoholism.
There was also a scene with Nick Fury and Tony Stark that makes me wonder about the full timeline of the MCU. Fury states that not only was Tony’s dad a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. but that he loved Tony more than he ever would admit. It makes me ask when S.H.I.E.L.D. was actually formed. If Obadiah Stane knew what it was, did Howard plan to bring Tony into S.H.I.E.L.D.? And how do everyone’s ages really work out?
Iron Man 2 was actually more fun than I remember it being, even if it did spend most of its time setting up the larger MCU. Showing little easter eggs on a map and footage from The Incredible Hulk was a tie in I feel was needed at the time. While the final battle was a site from a visual standpoint, it ultimately felt crowded and underwhelming. Even a full assault from Black Widow couldn’t ramp up my excitement.
While generally considered one of the poorer MCU films, Iron Man 2 was a fun ride even if it is overcrowded. A film I’d recommend to anyone wondering how Tony Stark got to where he is today. Though it’s not necessarily one that is needed for complete understanding of the MCU today.