"You come from a family of Thieves and butchers, and like all guilty men, you try to rewrite your history, to forget all the lives the Stark family has destroyed…. If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you.” - Ivan Vanko
“I’m not saying I’m responsible for this country’s longest run of uninterrupted peace in 35 years! I’m not saying that from the ashes of captivity, never has a Phoenix metaphor been more personified! I’m not saying Uncle Sam can kick back on a lawn chair, sipping on an iced tea, because I haven’t come across anyone man enough to go toe to toe with me on my best day! It’s not about me…. It’s about legacy, the legacy left behind for future generations.” – Tony Stark
“We all know why we’re here – in the last six months Anthony Stark has created a sword with untold possibilities, and yet he insists it’s a shield. He asks that we trust him as we cower behind it.” – Justin Hammer
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, and Sam Rockwell.
Writer: Justin Theroux
Director: Jon Favreau (and Kenneth Branagh uncredited)
When Iron Man 2 first came out, the response was somewhat lackluster. It was written off as a feature length glorified trailer for the forthcoming Avengers film; a criticism that holds a lot of truth. Yet, this is a film that works with the benefit of having hindsight. What seemed dismissible at the time, actually holds many key components to the structural integrity of the whole MCU. This film sets up dominoes that don’t get payoffs until Thor, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Captain America - The Winter Soldier, Avengers – Age of Ultron and the core debate presented by the villainous Justin Hammer and Senator Stern becomes the main focus of Tony Stark’s position in Captain America – Civil War. None of these films work as well without Iron Man 2. The problem with the grand plotting/world building is that it comes at the expense of a focused narrative.
The film picks up at the moment the first film concludes with a shift of perspective. That shift brings us to Ivan and Anton Vanko who had been slighted by Howard Stark decades ago when he stole sole credit for building the Arc Reactor technology. Anton slips into death at the knowledge that this tech is now powering Stark’s son, so his son vows vengeance by using Stark’s own tech against him when he builds his own suit powered by a facsimile Arc Reactor. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is concerned that Stark is unfit to use the suit and wants him to hand it over for military needs as Stark acts of his own accord and has no accountability. When Stark refuses, they turn to a rival industrialist – Justin Hammer – to have him build suits for military use. Hammer is unable to provide so he teams up with Vanko to deliver the suits. All the while, Stark is slowly being poisoned by the Arc Reactor and finds unlikely help from Nick Fury and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. who are trying to keep Tony in the hero game, but his erratic activity may be his undoing.