Countdown to Avengers Endgame: Iron Man 2
We’re in the Endgame now. Just 18 days to go before Marvel Studios unleashes the biggest theatrical event in a generation (if not ever), capping off a story that is 11 years and 21 films in the making. There’s no denying that what Marvel has done here is unprecedented. As we approach the big day lets take a look back at the films that lead us here.
Someday people will speak of the simple days of the MCU. When one of the main criticisms of Iron Man 2 being that it felt less like a stand-alone movie and more like the trailer for Avengers. Least that’s how it felt when Nick Fury had more than one line and they were setting up both War Machine and Black Widow as heroes. Looking back now, after films like Civil War and Infinity War, it can be easy to forget how big of a swing Iron man 2 really was for audiences. It really deserves credit though for being the first true MCU film and the first time that it truly felt like these characters inhabited the same universe.
There’s no denying that Iron Man 2 suffers from a handful of issues, though none bigger than being rushed to theaters after the success of Iron Man. It was understandable. Marvel was eager to not only capitalize off of the phenomenal success of Iron Man but to show that they were not kidding with this whole shared universe thing. It blew people’s minds when Tony Stark popped up in a single scene of The Incredible Hulk (even if it wasn’t a proper after credits stinger), yet somehow Black Widow showing up in Iron man 2 and Fury being more than a cameo rubbed people the wrong way.
Black Widow and Nick Fury both have relatively small parts in the film though. Most of the film Natasha (or Natalie) is just a new assistant to Tony Stark (though of course there are a lot of winks and nods to the audience about her true identity). She does get a fun action scene though that plays nicely off of Iron Man’s technology/explosion driven action scene happening at the same time. Meanwhile, Nick Fury only really shows up briefly as well (but in typical Samuel L. Jackson form steals the scene). So why all the hate? I believe it was simply misplaced. The film felt “off” and for audiences of the time not used to so many Marvel heroes in their movies this became the obvious target for what went wrong. However, the problem was always the “Tony is dying from his Palladium poisoning” subplot.
While it does serve as character motivation for a few scenes (including the wildly unpopular Tony drunk in his Iron Man suit scene), it is a plot that could have been cut completely. Not only does it offer little to develop Tony’s character it mostly serves to revert the character to what we saw at the start of the first film. Much of the same plot points could have been accomplished by simply having Tony deal with a “sins of the father” story line in the form of Whiplash. This would have even allowed more time for Mickey Rourke’s character to shine as well (rumor has it much of his performance was left on the cutting room floor). Plus, no matter how much Sam Rockwell they’re giving you it isn’t enough.
The entire subplot feels like it would have been removed with at least one more re-write of the film. Case and point, it’s magically cured later in the film and has literally no impact on the rest of the film or Tony’s character going forward. I have to believe with one more pass of the script, someone would have identified it as an unnecessary complication to the overall story that did more to distract rather than propel the story forward. Perhaps if this had been the case Iron Man 2 would come to a conclusion in which it felt like Tony had grown as a character (rather than just getting back to where he was). Perhaps Iron Man 2 wouldn’t be hanging out with The Incredible Hulk and Thor: Dark World at the bottom of every “MCU Film” list. The world will never know.
That said, looking back at Iron Man 2 from a 2019 perspective I appreciate that Marvel assumed audiences could handle multiple heroes and characters leading to longer plot threads that would play out over several movies. It paid off. It just could have used a bit more polish to get there.
Next, Marvel really puts the hammer down with Thor.