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Iron Man 2 (2010)

Two years after Iron Man was born and the brazen, headstrong Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) announced to the world that he was, in fact, Iron Man, the metal badass is faced with new, incredibly challenging tasks. When Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) hears of the young genius’ success, he takes it upon himself to exact revenge in the name of his late father. In addition to dealing with the psychotic Vanko, the United States government is also hot on Tony’s heels, as they plan to commandeer his Iron Man suit and label it a weapon of mass destruction. With his life on the verge of shambles, Tony and his closest confidants must face the harsh realities of the world together if they hope to be successful.

Revenge is one of the oldest stories in the book. Throughout history a number of escapades centered on revenge have plagued the world and destroyed some of its most powerful men. For the first time in Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) history, the story of the film’s antagonist revolves entirely around that of revenge. Iron Man 2 explores the world of Vanko and what the legacy of Howard Stark (John Slattery) means to him and the father who was slighted by that legacy. As the story of Vanko and his father unfolds before viewers, those viewers become enveloped in the emotion presented by Rourke and the number of other characters that become part of his journey.

Along with the new take on the antagonist, Iron Man 2 explores something that many Marvel related superhero films have been unsuccessful in developing since that genre became truly popular in the 1980’s, more than one superhero. With the introduction of Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle this go around), Iron Man 2 brilliantly kickstarts the MCU’s team up formula and does it beautifully. The obvious risk that producer Kevin Feige, writer Justin Theroux, and director Jon Favreau must face is overcrowding the film and watering down who and what the titular Iron Man is. The dynamic among the characters is glowing, infectious, and one of the driving forces behind Iron Man 2.

The most glaring difference between the first film and Iron Man 2 is Terrance Howard’s absence. Due to a falling out between Howard and Marvel, the role of James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes was given to Don Cheadle. While switching up actors in the middle of a role can be dangerous for continuity, Cheadle’s presence in the film is far more brilliant and lightyears more entertaining than anything that Howard was able to provide. Cheadle brings a vigor to the table that Howard was simply incapable of in the previous film, adding depth to this character and preparing viewers for a number of future appearances in the MCU.

Iron Man 2 sees a number of differences compared to Iron Man, essentially becoming the theme of the film. Tony, struggling with the idea of life and death is forced to change his way of thinking and his approach toward the world around him. The playboy that has often attacked everything with a genuine nonchalance is now conflicted, creating a dynamic within that character that draws viewers further into his orbit. Seeing how multidimensional the character has become allows viewers to appreciate him more than before and prompts him to become a fan favorite in the MCU. There is an emotional connection that viewers are able to make between themselves and Iron Man 2 as a whole, and Tony--and Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the brilliant character--is the cornerstone of that connection.

The MCU is always progressing, always improving; the masterminds behind these films refuse to take no for an answer, always pressing forward and trying to find new ways to entertain the world. Iron Man 2, still one of the earlier installments of this cinematic universe, is a testament to how wonderfully talented the people are that are working on these films. Everything about Iron Man 2 is better than previous films, and, more than any film prior, Iron Man 2 resonates emotionally and morally with everyone watching. With more energized action sequences, better chemistry between actors, and a story that viewers are able to relate to, Iron Man 2 makes clear strides in the grand scheme of the MCU. Iron Man 2 is breathtaking, entertaining, and full of life, making it the best Iron Man film of the trilogy.

Directed by Jon Favreau.

Written by Justin Theroux, Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, & Jack Kirby.

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, etc.




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