Countdown to Age of Ultron: Iron Man 2 Revisited

Sometimes a great work of art has an intentional flaw so you know it was was made by a human being. Let’s pretend that’s what Marvel Studios was going for with Iron Man 2. A chink in the armor, as it were.

Let’s get this over with!

RG: It’s spring, 2010. I had very recently become a mother and was excited about a night out at the movies. We open on Moscow and I am buzzing with excitement over this new Iron Man movie that is definitely going to be FANTASTIC.

Like The Incredible Hulk, I have only seen Iron Man 2 once. It's the only one I've been dreading re-watching. And now that I have…

 Those brief opening minutes when I thought this movie would be good.

Those brief opening minutes when I thought this movie would be good.

RG: I actually like the Stark Expo. It's completely ridiculous but it's very Tony. They should have just filmed it at ComicCon. I also like John Slattery as Howard Stark, even though nothing he does in this movie makes sense. And he looks nothing like Dominic Cooper.

Tony Stark looks ten years older in this movie. Gwyenth Paltrow looks fantastic. Rhodes looks better, too.

I reacted to Garry Shandling's appearance in this movie the same way I reacted when he showed up in The Winter Soldier: spit take. I always forget he's in these movies.

DH: He looks weird in this but not nearly as weird as he does in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he seems to be auditioning for a Henry Kissinger biopic. I can’t tell if he had too much Botox injected into his face, or if he’s just aging strangely, but he looks hideous!

RG: I also forgot that Sam Rockwell is in this movie.

DH: The way Rockwell is used here is very similar to the way Topher Grace is used as Eddie Brock in Spider-Man 3--he’s not very close to his comic book counterpart, but instead is basically a smarmy doppelganger of our hero. A good villain provides contrast with the hero, but having a villain who’s only slightly more of an ass than the hero isn’t very interesting to watch.

RG: Yes, that is exactly right. And, actually, everyone in this movie talks like Tony Stark. Justin Hammer is Tony Stark. James Rhodes is Tony Stark. Black Widow is Tony Stark. It's the worst.

The first one changed everything for me and with the second ‘Iron Man’ there were certain aspects that were dissatisfying and disappointing to me but at least they lit me right.
— Robert Downey Jr., Los Angeles Times, 2011
Here we knew that people were going to show up. We just wanted to make sure that everyone who showed up had a good time and that this was going to be fun or more fun than the last party. So it’s a different kind of pressure.
— Jon Favreau, Iron Man 2 Press Conference, 2010

DH: The movie seems to start out from a very odd notion that, somehow, by building a robot suit, Tony Stark seems to have brought about world peace. Every TV news talking head in this movie is always going on about how he protects everyone, and when he’s at the Senate subcommittee hearing Tony is boasting about how he’s responsible for the longest period of uninterrupted peace in years or something. Then later, when things aren’t going so well for Tony, everyone is all like “How will Iron Man protect us?” The script is kind of childishly simple in that respect. One guy in a battle suit = total world peace within two years, a peace that is also completely dependent on the reliability of that one guy. What?

RG: It's beyond dumb.

 Will be performing his Mindfreak magic act all month in Vegas.

Will be performing his Mindfreak magic act all month in Vegas.

RG: Whiplash is a terrible choice for a villain, and Mickey Rourke is a terrible choice to play him. And it looks like he refused wardrobe and just wore his own clothes. He also got really involved in choosing the tattoos for his character, and apparently paid for the bird and the gold teeth with his own money. What is with Marvel's obsession with getting very difficult to work with Oscar nominees in these films? It never works, guys! It's like the ice cream machine on Chopped!

DH: I have no idea what that means.

RG: Every time Mickey Rourke is on the screen my brain screams WHO CARES?! Look, he's a perfectly good actor when he wants to be and he really does try hard with this stupid, stupid character, but still...

Question: ‘Can you talk about how much fun it was to play this character, Mickey?’
Rourke: ‘I had a lot of fun.’
— Iron Man 2 Press Conference, 2010

RG: Ok, so let's talk about Black Widow, because this is where she is introduced. Don't remember that? It's completely forgettable. Why was she in the boxing ring with Happy? I mean, seriously, why? And why would she kick his ass? Isn't she supposed to be undercover?

I'm trying to enjoy her more in this movie than I did the first time because now I know where her character ends up. I mean, she is seriously so great in The Avengers and in Winter Soldier. Thank God. I was so depressed after I saw this movie the first time.

 I'm so glad they fix her hair in the next movie.

I'm so glad they fix her hair in the next movie.

RG: THE CAR RACING SCENE IS SO BORING AND DUMB!!!

Seriously save it for a movie that doesn't have a guy with a FLYING ROBOT SUIT. Happy driving a car the wrong way on a race track: that is some intense super hero action.

The Iron Man briefcase: cool or ridiculous? Dave?

DH: I’m gonna go with cool. I wish we’d gotten to see more of that red and silver suit, too. Pretty sharp.

 "This is my travel-size suit."

"This is my travel-size suit."

RG: Drunk Tony Stark in Iron Man costume DJing: hilarious or horrible? I honestly can't decide.

DH: I kind of snickered and then immediately rolled my eyes. It’s a pretty cheap gag.

RG: THE ORIGIN STORY OF WAR MACHINE: Rhodes puts on a suit to stop drunk Tony from skeet shooting champagne bottles!!! This movie is terrible!!!

I will say this: nothing makes me laugh like an Iron Man suit emoting. Whether it's in these movies or in the comics. Always funny.

 I don't wanna wait for our liiiiiiiiiives to be over...

I don't wanna wait for our liiiiiiiiiives to be over...

Also funny: the scene in the donut shop with Fury where Tony is still wearing the suit. It's also the reveal of Black Widow, which I remembered being much later in the movie, so yay!

 Can you imagine sitting while wearing that suit? That must feel so weird.

Can you imagine sitting while wearing that suit? That must feel so weird.

DH: Her presence in this movie is badly handled, but I love Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. I mean, I know she’s not really kicking those guys’ asses, but for me it’s like Christopher Reeve as Superman: I know he’s not really flying, but he sells it with his performance. He makes you believe it. And she makes you believe she can beat the everloving bejesus about of anyone in the room.

At the end of the day you’ve got some nerd with a pocketful of money calling the shots. You know, Favreau didn’t call the shots. I wish he would have.
— Mickey Rourke, Crave Online, 2011
 Bathroom break!

Bathroom break!

RG: I don't like how GUNS! GUNS! GUNS! GUNS! this movie is. It's exactly what I feared these movies would be and it's exactly what they don't do in the excellent movies that come after this one. As I am watching this I am thinking about how great Captain America: The First Avenger is and tears are streaming down my face.

I actually think the climax scene at the Hammer Expo with all the drones and Rhodes being controlled by Venko is pretty good. Not amazing, but a decent Iron Man action scene. Black Widow's action scene at the end is also pretty rad.

DH: It all looks cool and everything, but as I was watching it this time, I found myself asking “What is anyone even trying to accomplish in this scene?” Like, everything’s going fine at the Expo, but then Tony shows up and says “These people are all in danger”, and then Vanko activates the Hammeroids (gotta admit, that one is pretty funny) and all hell breaks loose. What exactly would have happened if Tony hadn’t shown up? What exactly was the plan here?

 Don't let this image fool you. This movie is not good.

Don't let this image fool you. This movie is not good.

RG: I do love the botanical garden setting where Tony and Rhodes' fight ends. One of my favourite things about superhero movies is when they place the characters in costume in ridiculous settings.

 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

But then Whiplash shows up in a stupid robot suit with electrowhips, and Rhodes is not kidding when he says "This isn't going to be good." It is not good at all.

DH: One of the biggest problems with this movie is that it’s a superhero movie with only two (maybe three, if you count the fight between Tony and Rhodey at the party) action scenes--the fight in Monaco, and the fight at the end. Why would you want to watch, or make, a superhero movie with almost no action in it? It’s like when people tell me they like The Ultimates because it’s what superheroes would really be like if they existed. Do people want to read superhero comic books for gritty realism? I read ‘em to ESCAPE gritty realism! And I don’t watch superhero movies to see people arguing about parrots or strawberry allergies or trying to make imaginary elements or whatever! I’ve already compared this movie to Spider-Man 3 (which, for the record again, you and I enjoyed), and it’s also similar to most of the Batman sequels in that it has more than one villain who separately bedevil our hero, then join forces to try and destroy them. But unlike Iron Man 2, those movies have action scenes peppered throughout them. This movie is just tedious.

Oh yeah, and that whole subplot about Tony’s heart slowly killing him is complete nonsense. Howard Stark hid a puzzle inside the Stark Expo, which you can only see using holographic technology that wouldn’t have existed at that point, knowing that his son would have one day built a robot suit and then needed a new artificial heart because the old one was killing him? Is that what happened? I honestly have no idea.

 I know, Tony. I know. It's stupid.

I know, Tony. I know. It's stupid.

RG: YES! Oh my GOD that subplot was weak. It's just so low stakes, too. Tony's thingamajig is killing him. Ok, so he'll build a better one. It's just not interesting.

DH: “Well, son, you had a circle and now it’s killing you, so what you REALLY need is a triangle.”

RG: Speaking of not interesting, who doesn't have a custom robot suit in this movie? Almost no one.

 So many people are dying all over the city right now.

So many people are dying all over the city right now.

RG: Rhodes providing commentary on Tony and Pepper's kiss is so weird but pretty funny. I do love Don Cheadle. Rhodes probably should have been saving people from those exploding robots, though, instead of lounging on a rooftop watching his friends make out. Again, very little superheroing in this movie.

The Thor tease at the end of the credits is the best part of this movie.

 Finally! Something cool!

Finally! Something cool!

Alright! It’s over! I never have to watch that movie again until they produce the very last Marvel movie and Dave and I inevitably watch all seventy of them from the beginning.

We move on now to Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers, which means I will be in a state of constant arousal for several days!