Iron Man 2 (2010)

Justin Hammer: [about Christine Everhart] She's actually doing a big spread on me for Vanity Fair. I thought I'd throw her a bone, you know. Right?
Pepper Potts: Right. Well, she did quite a spread on Tony last year.
Tony Stark: And she wrote a story as well.

I have a love hate relationship with number 2 movies.  They are the middle ground, the space-filler, and tend to be the redheaded stepchild of the trilogy.  Most of the time their only purpose is to build you up to the fight at the end of the third movie, usually resulting in a cliffhanger.   This isn't to say that I don't like the middle of the trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite Star Wars movie, but I also like resolution and character arc's.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest bored the life out of me and the third movie failed to make the wait worth it.  And it would require an entire article and then some to cover my hatred for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (and will at some point).    

Bearing this in mind, I was a little nervous when when Marvel announced Iron Man 2 was in production as they released Iron Man.  I had no issue with Iron Man, but I had just seen it, of course it was awesome.  Would I feel the same in six months watching it at home on DVD?  (The answer is yes, but I didn't know it at the time.)  In their now apparent wisdom, Marvel wanted to keep the ball going and release a movie every year.  The other movies were pushed back, so an Iron Man sequel would buy them time for Captain America and Thor to get off the ground.  And to be honest, what if Iron Man was a one-time thing?  I liked Spider-Man 1&2, the third was just terrible.  Same can be said for both runs of Batman, and does anybody remember the Fantastic Four?  

So, all this building, then they replace Terrence Howard, aka James Rhodes, with Don Cheadle.  Now, as I stated in my Iron Man review, I really didn't care for Terrence Howard's soft-spoken Rhodey.  I like Don Cheadle, but it just seemed a weird choice to me, so more on this below. Of course, the fan-boys went nuts, especially after Iron Man had come out on DVD and it passed the second viewing challenge.  Along the way we learned Black Widow was going to make an appearance, Nick Fury was going to be in the movie for more than thirty seconds, and Mickey Rourke was going to be the bad guy.  Sounds great, but so did Transformers 2 before I saw it.

The movie opens with news coverage of Tony's coming out speech.  While listening to this we fly into a tiny apartment in Moscow where the News Report is playing on the T.V.  Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke)  is told by his dying father that it should be Ivan on the news, not Tony Stark.  His father dies, and we get a montage of Ivan building his own Arc Reactor from his father's plans!  When I first saw this, I was hoping it would lead to a Crimson Dynamo.

After the title card, AC/DC's Shoot to Thrill starts up and Iron Man jumps from a cargo plane into fire works, even hitting a few to show them who's boss.  While Tony Stark was never stated in the comics of being an AC/DC fan, I love the soundtrack for these movies.  He then lands on a stage, there's hot Iron Man cheerleaders dancing and Shoot to Thrill ends.  Tony gives a speech about being back, world peace, and pats himself on the back while calling himself a "phoenix metaphor", saying "I haven't come across anyone man enough to go toe to toe with me on my best day". He introduces a video about the Expo where scientists and engineers can work towards technology for world peace, another project of his fathers that got left behind at some point. Tony steps off stage, and pulls out a device that tells him he has a blood toxicity of 19%.  The of his father introducing the Expo ends and Tony is rushed out by Happy to the car where Kate Mara cameos as a U.s. Marshall and gives Tony a subpoena for a Congressional Arms Hearing.  At this point I am hoping this is a Demon in the Bottle movie.  It is one of the best Iron Man stories, and one of my favorites.

Cut to Tony being questioned by Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) about the Iron Man suit or weapons platform.  Basically, Iron Man has cool weapons, the government wants it and Tony is saying no in a smartass manner.  They bring out the new number one weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to give a lovely speech about how Iron Man belongs to the world and he just seems like an anti-Tony.  They then call upon James Rhodes to read from his report on Iron Man.  They have him read certain lines, "as he belongs to no particular branch of the military, Iron Man poses a real threat...", making it look worse than it is.  Tony then uses his super-genius and shows the other countries armour suit projects and their hilarious failures, most especially Hammer Industries snapping a guy in half.  Tony states that no one has this technology, and won't for like 10 years, leaving in high fashion and nothing is resolved. Flash to Ivan making his suit. 

We then cut to Tony checking his blood toxicity and learn from Jarvis that it is the palladium core that is poisoning him.  If you do not know what I am talking about, please watch Iron Man or read my review of it.  So Jarvis urges Tony to tell someone that he is dying and there apparently is no other substitute for palladium. Pepper Potts walks in, she tries to tell Tony he needs to take things at the company seriously, they flirt without realizing and Tony makes Pepper the C.E.O of Stark Enterprises.  What is it with movie people refusing to tell the people that can help them ANYTHING AT ALL.  Zombie movies always have people that get bite and hide it, somehow thinking they will be the one that doesn't turn.  Tony's dying and tells no one.  He could have made me understand by saying "Jarvis, I don't want to worry Pepper" but we don't get that at any point.  

A man gives Ivan an envelope.   

Tony and Happy are boxing, Pepper shows up with Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), a legal aid. Other than setting up hot scenes of Scarlett, background on Natalie, and then while looking at Natalie Tony says "I want one"; this scene is really just eye candy and showing Natalie is more than just a legal aid.  Tony signs over Stark and the group goes to Monaco for the races.  They run into Justin Hammer and Christine Everheart, the Vanity Fair reporter from the first movie.  Hammer tries to be cool, and is promptly slapped down by Pepper.  Tony has a moment, then decides to drive his race car, getting all the attention to himself, pissing of Hammer.  Which, I will be honest, at this point I can't tell if he wants to upstage Tony or be Tony's friend.  

Epic racing ensues! To be promptly smashed by Ivan and his energy whips.  The guy literally slices the race cars in half.   Ivan goes after Tony, Happy drives on the track, and after a funny but pointless scene, Tony gets his suitcase armour.  Honestly, I love the humour in these movies, but this scene was 45 seconds too long. Tony dons a silver and red armour, and after an effort he beats Ivan.  While being dragged off Ivan spits at him, making comment on taking Tony at his worst (referencing the Arms hearing for those not listening).

We then cut to Ivan in a cell.  Tony walks in, questions him, then tells him how he could have made the arc reactor stronger.  He seriously tells the guy who almost whooped his ass, how to whoop his ass. Tony leaves. We then cut to Tony and Pepper on a plane.  Tony tries to get serious, and says he wants to go on vacation.  Pepper blows him off saying theres to much work and he will feel better after the birthday party.  I actually felt sad for him, then remembered that Tony forgot to tell Pepper somethings wrong, she thinks he is just being his A.D.D. self.

Cut to Ivan being cleverly broken out of jail.  It's actually a pretty cool jailbreak.  He is rushed to Justin Hammer having dinner in a hangar and he wants his help in making Stark look like a fool at the Stark Expo.  They vaguely agree to help each other and Hammer proceeds to break basically every rule when dealing with criminals.  If you're dealing with a psycho path, do not expect him to follow the rules!  Hammer has suites he wants to go up against Iron Man and Ivan says he'll build him drones. Because "drones better".

At Tony's house, everyone is pissed at him except Natalie.  Tony's down because he's dying.  Rhodey is trying to stop the government from taking the Iron Man suits and learns that somethings wrong with Tony.  He also tries to tell Tony that he has friends and doesn't have to do the lone wolf act.  Pepper's upset, because Tony is being Tony and now she's responsible for Stark Industries and having to deal with the Monaco fight.  Tony asks Natalie what she would do if it was her last birthday and she replies "whatever I want with whoever I want."  So Tony gets utterly shit-faced and parties in the Iron Man suite.  He pisses in his suite, does a Gallagher act, then gets in a drunken brawl with Rhodey in the Mk. II suit (the all silver one he said "maybe next time" in the first movie).  Tony calls him "The Warmachine" and they go at it. This fight is awesome in the simple fact that it's Iron Man and Warmachine just going punch for punch.  We also have a nifty soundtrack, "Another One Bites the Dust remix", and the fight moves are well placed.  Also, Rhodey standing up to Tony and growing a backbone is a great change of pace from the soft-spoken version in the first movie. At the end knock each other out with repulsor blasts and Rhodey flies away with the Mk. II, Tony being unable or willing to stop him.  

Rhodey takes the Mk. II to Edwards Air Force Base, and Nick Fury finds Tony in a doughnut. They go inside and Nick presents Natalie, actually the Black Widow, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent at Stark Industries.  He then gives a typical Sam Jackson speech that sums everything up and he yells at Tony.  They go back to Tony's place where Fury gives Tony a box of his fathers stuff, because Howard was a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D.  He also gives Tony the rundown on Ivan.  Ivan's father defected to America and helped Howard Stark with the arc reactor.  Howard found out that Ivan was going to sell the plans to the highest bidder and had him deported back to Russia where Ivan grew up in "a vodka fueled rage".  He leaves, putting Agent Coulson in charge.  Tony tries to blow off Coulson, who then threatens to taser him and watch Supernanny.   

Justin Hammer shows up at the Air Force base.  He shows Rhodey all kinds of guns and asks which one Rhodey wants, to which he replies all.  it was fun seeing Hammers, presentation of the weapons, even though his nicknames for the minigun were wrong.  The chemistry between Rhodey and Hammer was pretty good, letting us see Rhodey's displeasure at working with Hammer while never stating it.  I almost wish we got a little more of Rhodey in this movie.  He is put in a tough spot, do his job or help his friend?  While Tony does treat him like crap, we can see that Rhodey does care and wants to help, though after the fist fight I think he is in cover his ass mode.

Tony watches a film which is outtakes from the Expo introduction film we saw at the beginning. We see that Tony's alcoholism probably comes from his dad in a few drunken clips.  Then it gets serious and Howard tells Tony that he is Howards greatest invention and he is leaving Tony a project he cant finish and pans over the Expo model. Tony rushes to Stark HQ, stopping to get Pepper strawberries that she is allergic to.  Here he has the most uncomfortable conversation I have ever seen with Pepper.  Not sure if it was written that way or if it comes off as awkward, but I just don't like this conversation.  Pepper's upset, Tony is, well, Tony.  Nothing is really resolved and we are just left pleading for them to bang and get it over with.  Tony takes home the model of the Expo that was in his office.  At home he scans it into Jarvis and realizes that the Expo was actually a blueprint for a new alloy, and that alloy would serve as a replacement for palladium!  Really, no way! Tony starts tearing up his house (honestly spent the whole time asking why. It's funny, but wouldn't Tony have set this up already, and it's ridiculous too) to build this new alloy.  We see a half finished Captain America shield, which he uses to prop up his collider (FORESHADOWING).  At the end we get a triangular piece for the Arc Reactor, turning it into the triangular chest piece from the newer comics.  Now, if the new element is a replacement for palladium, which was used to build the reactor, why does it just snap over the palladium reactor?  It really is the one part that I am going to call them out on.  If you watch the making of the first arc reactor, it is suggested that the palladium is coating the reactor core, and he replaces it by just snapping a triangle over it.  Wish every replacement was that easy.

At Hammer Industries we see Justin Hammer having a fit and yelling at Ivan because his suits aren't done yet.  Again, you trusted a criminal.  Hammer takes away his stuff, has some guards to watch Ivan, and tells him that he will deal with him after the Hammer presentation at Stark Expo.  We then have Ivan calling a relaxing Tony, telling him he is alive and going to destroy his life while the dead guards are hanging in the background.

Spoiler :

Cut to Justin Hammer dancing onto the Stark Expo stage. He introduces his Hammer Drones, topped off with Warmachine. As a fan, I was giddy. The Mk. II is all done up, black and silver paint, red eyes, guns, guns and more guns. He waves and then Iron Man shows up to the applause of the crowd. Ivan remotely takes over all the drones and Warmachine, immediately attacking Iron Man. This is actually one of those movies that leaves me wondering about all the people off screen getting blown up, shot or in this case; stabbed with falling glass.

Pepper and Natalie go after Hammer. They ask what's going on, he blows them off, Natalie beats him down, he says Ivan, and she rushes off to Hammer Industries with Happy.

More awesome armour action!

At Hammer Industries Natalie, now in Black Widow getup, breaks in and wipes out security with some very nice moves. It is actually a pretty cool beatdown showing off some moves and some of Black Widows gadgets. She finds Ivan isn't there, but frees up Warmachine giving Tony his friend back.

Iron Man and Warmachine are in a dome, have some entertaining banter and the rest off the Hammer drones land and prepare to attack. They wipe out the Hammer drones in what is one of the best comic movie fight scenes. And I don't say that lightly.

Flash to Black Widow pointing out there's one more drone left. Turns out its not a drone, its Ivan. He took Tony's advice and upgraded. The fight is pretty badass, like the first movie they use moves right from the comics. Working together, Iron Man and Warmachine take down Ivan. Unfortunately, he rigged all the drones to blow and Peppers right next to one. Iron Man rushes to rescue Pepper. On a rooftop her and Tony freak out,Pepper resigns, and then they kiss. Yes, finally they get together. Rhodey, who was apparently there the whole time, makes a joke and takes off with the Warmachine suit.

Cut to Tony at Nick Fury's current office. Fury runs down things again, telling Tony he doesn't think he would make a good Avenger, but wants him as a consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony agrees for a small favor. Que AC/DC's Highway to Hell and we see Senator Stern giving Rhodey and Tony Medals and commenting on how annoying a "small prick" can be. Roll credits.

We cut to New Mexico, where Agent Coulson pulls up to a bunch of people trying to lift THOR'S HAMMER!

Nuts and Bolts: 

So.  How did this rank?  Did it meet my standards of a good sequel?  For the most part, yes.  I was a little disappointed that it teased a Demon in the Bottle movie with the blood toxicity and drinking.  This is supposedly to come in the third movie, so maybe I'll see it there.  I also did feel that Tony and Pepper's love story was a little awkward at times.  When they kiss, it's fine, the flirting was fine, but there was a couple of scenes (the office) that just seemed weird.  

The acting was great, everyone had the same feel of the first movie, Robert Downey was spot on as Tony, Gwyneth Paltrow was a good Pepper Potts, and Jarvis made me want Tony's house again.  Sam Jackson as Nick Fury was entertaining and Scarlett Johansson was pretty awesome as Black Widow.  I liked the way they introduced her character, no needless backstory or lengthy exposition, just Widow doing her secret agent thing.  Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer was pretty awesome.  He seemed to go for an anti-Tony vibe that entertained me.  In the comics Justin Hammer is an aging old man who supplied Iron Man's enemies with advanced weapons.  He entered the comics during the Armour Wars (a lot happened in that storyline).  I hope this Hammer makes an appearance again, maybe doing some sneaky behind the scenes stuff.

Rhodey.  Got to admit, I liked Don Cheadle as Rhodey.  He stood up to Tony, had an attitude versus the soft spoken Terrence Howard.  I liked it, most especially when he became Warmachine.  The party fight and dome fight are some of my favorite comic movie battles.I was giddy when he split the Hammer Droid in half with his machine gun.

Now for the bad guy.  Mickey Rourke was pretty badass as Ivan Vanko.  While a simple revenge villain, he is done well. This guy was created by blending two Russian bad guys from the comics, Crimson Dynamo & Whiplash.  While the movie guy is nifty, I am sad we will never see a true Crimson Dynamo in the movies.  But then again, he was a cold war character and the cold war is over.  Plus, Tony has like 50 armoured bad guys to pull from.

The armour progression is well done.  In this movie we see armours 1 - 6.  Armours 1 - 4 are in the case, Mark 5 is the silver and red and Mark 6 being the red and gold.   We don't see him building the suits, we know he does that, and having the old models displayed is a nice touch.  I like that they are working their way through the comic versions, the suitcase armour, the Silver Centurion colour scheme, and at the end armour had the triangular chest plate.  With easter eggs of Cap's shield and then the Hammer scene, I really feel like I am watching the Marvel Universe.  

The search for a replacement alloy seemed to easy.  The individual parts of the story were nifty, the park designed to be a blueprint was cool if not completely ridiculous.   It honestly seemed like a plot from Indiana Jones and The Lost Alloy.  He watched a movie that led him to scanning a model and found a blueprint for a new alloy.  It was just to deus ex machina and required to much dumb luck to resolve it.  

All-in-all, I liked this movie.  Sometimes I love it, other times I watch it and wonder why I like it.  It is a nice one-off, and filled the space between Iron Man and Avengers.  It kept the movies in the spotlight leading to Captain America and Thor in 2011.  It confirmed that Marvel knew what it was doing and figured out the formula for comic movies.  Honestly the only problem with this movie is that it was more of the same.  It's an almost identical arc to the first movie.  Dying, bad guys. Fix dying with tech, kick bad guys ass.  Except this time we got Warmachine, which was awesome.  It is good, nice sequel if not great.  Continued Tony's story, fleshed out more of the universe while teasing us with things to come.  I highly suggest it for fans and people looking for a two hour action movie.  And who doesn't love robot fighting?