Returning to direct Iron Man 2, Jon Favreau delivered a movie that wasn’t particularly well-received at the time even though it made excellent profits ($623 million off a $200 million budget), but works really well in hindsight. It has some interesting parallels with A Christmas Carol (bear with me here) in that Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko are representative of Tony Stark’s past and possible future, respectively. Hammer is who Stark used to be, or a pale shadow of it; hard-parting, wheeling and dealing arms dealer who cares about nothing but the next deal and being The Greatest. No wonder Tony dislikes him so much; Hammer’s one of those distorted funhouse mirrors. And Vanko? Well, Vanko is tortured by his father’s ghost and intent on ‘putting things right’. Sound familiar? It should, because it describes Tony in Civil War perfectly. We also have Rhodey, of course, now played by Don Cheadle, and it’s interesting how Tony later seems to forget so easily how disastrous War Machine’s suit proved in the wrong hands, how Rhodey became a nothing more than a hapless bystander as his suit was enslaved by Hammer and Vanko.
At the time, all this wasn’t known, of course, at least not the future stuff. It’s a testament to the continuity of the MCU that the writers of the later films have looked back and riffed off all this stuff which came earlier; probably only Kevin Feige could tell you if these were all intentional Easter Eggs planted for later. In fact, Iron Man 2 makes most sense if you assume Marvel did require all these things to be packed in; otherwise there’s a bit too much happening, with all the setup for Avengers going on and characters like Coulson, Fury and Natasha Romanoff.
Talking of Natasha, this was a great introduction for Black Widow. From the first moments it was obvious she was more than just a pretty face, when she took down Happy with the first appearance of the now-infamous Thighs of Doom move. I really liked the way she worked with Pepper here; this is the first Marvel movie where we got two female characters who weren’t rivals, who worked well together. Pepper is wonderful as she takes over Stark Industries and takes no shit from Tony, telling him to basically get out of her way and trust her as he claimed he did, and she was nothing short of magnificent as she imperiously swept Justin Hammer out of her way to start managing the drone crisis.
Favourite moment: The first ‘corridor fight scene’ in MCU canon. Natasha kicking ass and taking names. The way she sprayed the last guy in the face without even looking at him was just utter perfection.
Best one-liner: Oh, Coulson. How I miss you. “I will tase you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet.”
Least favourite moment: Tony making the new element. His health issues felt like an extraneous part of the story, and considering we revisited them AGAIN in IM3, I really think this could have been skipped. Kieran says it’s Vanko destroying the Ferrari. He likes cars. I think you can probably guess Connor’s least favourite moment… though he did laugh when Rhodey interrupted Tony and Pepper’s kiss.
Overall star rating: 7/10. Maybe Favreau felt under pressure to jack up the drama; more explosions, more tension, more suits, more everything. There’s just a little bit TOO much going on. It’s a movie which works much better in hindsight, fitting much better into canon as a whole than it looked when it was only the third movie in the MCU.