Following the release of “Ant-Man” this past summer, this list was published ranking all of the Marvel films (excluding those distributed by 20th Century Fox). I was surprised to see “Iron Man 2” listed as the very worst of them all, behind the forgettable “The Incredible Hulk,” the convoluted “Thor: The Dark World,” and the vastly overrated “Iron Man 3” and “Avengers: Age Of Ultron.”
Really, the Marvel films all have certain elements in common, and to a degree that makes ranking them a bizarre endeavor. After all, isn’t the whole point of the Marvel “cinematic universe” to great one gigantic, cohesive experience? Nevertheless, while “Iron Man 2” was far from a perfect film, I believe it deserved a little more respect than the last place ranking. Here’s why.
Whiplash Is Terrific
For some reason everyone seemed to hate Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko/Whiplash character, and I’d agree the character wasn’t written thoroughly enough to take advantage of Rourke’s considerable talents. But more and more with each new Marvel film that releases a clunky, underdeveloped metallic superhero, I appreciate Whiplash.
“Game Of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin made waves earlier this summer when he criticised Marvel for making all its villains the same, and specifically by making them little more than evil versions of the heroes. It’s almost impossible to argue with Martin in this regard, but Whiplash was one of the few different villains. Yes, he uses the same core technology as Iron Man. However, instead of just replicating the Iron Man suit to fight his nemesis, he creates original (if ultimately cumbersome) tentacle-like whips of crackling energy, and then walks around with his shirt off, chewing on a toothpick. He may actually be the most unique villain in the Marvel cinematic universe.
Sam Rockwell Is Impossible To Dislike
In my opinion, Sam Rockwell (who plays hapless Tony Stark rival Justin Hammer in “Iron Man 2”) is one of the most underrated actors in the business. Whether he’s playing an off-his-rocker killer in “Seven Psychopaths,” a charming bum full of dumb wisdom in “The Way Way Back,” or even taking on the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” this guy always entertains, and “Iron Man 2” offers no exception. Rockwell’s Hammer character is not only a perfect foil to Stark, talking the same talk but unable to walk the walk, he’s also a great example of what keeps pushing the Avengers underground: not villainous attacks, but attempts at imitation by government and private interest groups.
Stark Becomes The Deepest Marvel Hero
Part of what got “Iron Man 3” so much recognition was that it forced Tony Stark back to his roots. Beaten, battered, and stranded, he’s forced to enlist the help of a child and get back to garage mechanics to get back on his feet. Sorry, but that’s not character depth so much as a contrived effort to ground an otherwise absurd story overflowing with ambiguously powerful orange something-or-other that’s creating, um, demons or something.
Stark is the deepest and most human character in the Avengers because of the way “Iron Man 2” expanded on the origin story in “Iron Man.” This article agrees with my assertion that “Iron Man 2” is underrated, and addresses this same point rather well: Stark’s sense of morality, relationship with himself, and connections to the likes of Lt. Col. Rhodes and Pepper Potts are all developed nicely here.
The Real World Sets Are Gorgeous
This is one of my favourite things about the whole “Iron Man” series in retrospect. Marvel films are increasingly connected to the cosmic, if not through actual trips to outer space then through intergalactic conflicts and supernatural powers influencing events on Earth. “Iron Man 2” is far more grounded and filled with beautiful shots that are distinctly Earthbound.
I might argue that the popular image of Whiplash crashing the Monte Carlo Grand Prix to take Tony Stark out as publicly as possible is one of the most memorable and impressive shots from the whole Marvel cinematic universe. In addition, stretches of the film make use of plenty of perfectly ordinary locations: a Russian prison, an airplane hangar, a home boxing ring… The final showdown even takes place in a deserted park!
The Film Had A Strong Gaming Presence
Not that it matters in assessing the film specifically, but with so few Marvel films and characters leading to decent games, this is another plus for “Iron Man 2.” Reviews were correct in ascribing the official “Iron Man 2” game mediocre reviews, but it was better than its predecessor, and that’s certainly saying something. Besides that, here you can also find a jackpot casino game built into an online bingo platform, and it’s based in part on the film. Images of Iron Man, War Machine, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, and Whiplash, of course, make up the cover of the game. Within, various symbols directly from the movie make for a more intriguing game than most expect to find at such sites.
Again, the gaming presence of a film shouldn’t have any bearing on how the film itself is viewed, but when looking back on a whole franchise and a greater studio empire, it all feels bundled together. “Iron Man 2” didn’t produce great games, but it has a few decent ones, and that’s more than most of its counterparts can say.
For all of these reasons, I’m sticking to the assertion that “Iron Man 2” was severely underrated. Sure, it’s got its cheesy and regrettable moments (such as when Tony Stark invents a new element in his basement, with scrap metal), but what superhero film doesn’t? Ultimately it represented a great blend of character development, real world action, and memorable moments.