an IRON MAN 2 retrospective musing


Notorious for being “the worst” MCU movie, I’m glad I was able to give this another rewatch to at least elevate IRON MAN 2 to something better than “worst”. A lot of the problems cited stem from the movie’s focus on setting up the rest of the universe, while not letting the story develop naturally. This was the only MCU movie I didn’t watch in theaters, only seeing it on DVD later, mainly because of its reputation. I thought it was alright, since RDJ is so damn good, and more of the Universe is being fleshed out.


  • Robert Downey, Jr. is back, embodying the character he was born to play. The movie picks up six months after the first IRON MAN, dealing with the fallout of Tony’s identity reveal. Tony gains even more popularity, but his artificial heart is killing him, and drinks to ignore the reality. This is the MCU’s version of the “Demon In A Bottle” storyline, where Tony fights his true enemy, alcoholism. This plot thread in the film is truncated, but touches on Tony’s problems, albeit very lightly. He eventually creates another heart with more sufficient materials. With this powering his suit, he is able to defeat Whiplash with the help of Rhodey.
  • Pepper Potts is now the CEO of Stark Industries. She’s not the main focus of Tony’s wandering eye (more on that later), but it’s great to see her in charge and keeping the company running.
  • Goodbye, Terrence Howard, hello, Don Cheadle. Cheadle’s first appearance as Col. Rhodes is lampshaded, as the dialogue is basically telling the audience to get over it, he’s here. He has a much more easygoing charm than Howard. He has an extremely warm quality, but Cheadle seems to overact in some scenes. Rhodey finally gets to be the War Machine.
  • Getting the full brunt of awkward, creepy pick up lines, Scarlett Johansson gets to be in these scenes and look pretty. There’s not much else she’s doing as Natasha Romanoff, other than being an object. It’s telling that the director of the movie puts the character he himself is playing in a scene driving Natasha as she’s changing and trying to sneak a peek at her. This and other scenes of Tony hitting on her and hiring her to be his personal secretary play outrageously creepy in this current climate. Johansson does kick ass as the first female superhero in the MCU when she does get to go crazy, though. It’s a shaky, ultimately forgettable first appearance in the universe.
  • The big casting get of this movie was Mickey Rourke, who was experiencing a major resurgence in popularity due to his Oscar nomination for THE WRESTLER. He wasn’t happy with the way his character ended up in the finished IRON MAN 2 film, and talked badly about the MCU and its higher-ups. I can see why, since his character is relegated to side-crony, even though he is the heavier/stronger/brutal, and in the end, smarter enemy. His family backstory isn’t the most realistic, since it requires tons of bending over backwards to connect him to Tony through their fathers. Rourke makes some interesting choices, all of which became distracting. Whiplash isn’t the strongest nor most memorable MCU villains, especially since he essentially becomes a bigger, badder version of our hero, just like in the first IRON MAN and THE INCREDIBLE HULK.
  • Sam Rockwell plays Justin Hammer, who ends up being the “mastermind” behind the villainy. Underneath it all, he’s just a weasely man, with a facade making up for his insecurities. Rockwell became one of my favorite actors after seeing him in THE WAY, WAY BACK, and he does great work in this. The scene of Hammer selling the weapons to Rhodes is obviously improvised, and Rockwell sells it so damn well. Justin Hammer is still out there in the MCU, appearing in an MCU One-Shot (a short, 5-10 minute movie released with the DVD/Blu-Ray releases), so maybe one day, he’ll come back into the fold.


  • The green screen and compositing in this movie is real bad. The movie experienced a rushed production, and it really shows.
  • A lot of the hand-to-hand, close quarters fights look a little choppy but at the same time hyper-realistic, but it adds to the comic book-ness of the movie. This is an aesthetic that the MCU will continue to use throughout their movies.
  • Each MCU movie has a “splash page”, a “money shot” sequence which is usually an elaborate one-take scene within a huge fight. IM2 has a few of them, but most notably in the Japanese garden fight at the end of the movie. Stark and Rhodey have their backs to each other, defending themselves from the attacking drones. It’s a beautiful sequence, and it’s a sign of things to come in the MCU.


  • A huge subplot involves the introduction of Tony’s father, Howard. He only appears in videotape form, played by John Slattery playing a very Walt Disney-type man, telling Tony that only he believes his son can find the answers he needs. This movie sets up Tony’s rocky relationship with his father, and Howard’s personality and presence, in general. These scenes of Tony watching the reels are made interesting because of Robert Downey, Jr.’s acting.
  • SHIELD uses Natasha Romanoff to keep an eye on Stark and his behavior so they know if he is the right man to lead the Avengers Initiative. Samuel L. Jackson comes back to play the one-eyed Nick Fury, with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) popping up then leaving shortly after, pretty much only there to set up his appearance in THOR.
  • When Coulson visits Tony at his lab in his Malibu home that he’s leaving, he pulls out Captain America’s shield and is ecstatic (in relative Coulson terms) to see it. But Tony uses it as a fulcrum for his experiment. A great hint for Coulson’s love of Cap, and a hilarious Tony moment.
  • The little boy in an Iron Man mask that Stark saves from the drones is Peter Parker. Now that’s some inventive retconning.

In-Universe Timeline:
IRON MAN - Spring 2008
IRON MAN 2 - Fall 2008


  • IRON MAN 2 was released in May 2010, two years since a movie in the universe came out. From here on out, there has been at least one MCU movie coming out each year.