Iron Man 2
Our core cast returns, though Rhodey is now played by Don Cheadle (and keeps the gig for the rest of the MCU), and Scarlett Johansson joins as Natalie Rushman/Agent Romanoff. Tony’s father, Howard makes brief appearances, played by John Slattery. We pick up essentially where we left off in the previous Iron Man film, at Tony Stark’s press conference where he reveals he’s Iron Man. There is an old man in Russia watching, who calls his son, Ivan to him. He has knowledge to share, then passes away. Ivan then finds Stark blueprints to the Arc Reactor which also bear the name, Anton Vanko. With the wall of clippings about Stark and Iron Man, we can guess where this is going. And then Ivan is successful.
Time jump to six months later and Iron Man leaps from a plane, dodges explosions, to land at his dazzling Stark Expo to AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill. His opening address, he insists, is not about him, but about a legacy; what gets left behind for future generations and that is why for the next year, the expo will host the best and brightest from all nations to pool their resources in hopes of a better future. Then he shows a video of his father at the last Expo, who claims that technology is the way to better living and the possibility of world peace. Backstage, Tony is testing his blood toxicity level. Afterwards, Tony is ordered to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Rival Justin Hammer is called in, as is Rhodey to attempt to give testimony against Tony, but Rhodey knows what game the committee is playing. They want Tony to hand over the Iron Man suit to the military, or as Senator Stern puts it “to the American people.” Tony refuses. They attempt to show evidence of other copy cats out there, including Hammer, and then Tony shows them all failing. He is confident that he is the only one with the knowledge to make that kind of suit. He is America’s nuclear deterrent and has successfully privatized world peace.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Ivan is still working and adding whips to his arc reactor. And back in California, JARVIS informs us that Tony has palladium poisoning, as it is the core of the arc reactor. The thing that is keeping Tony alive is killing him. Together they have tried every known element, but nothing is a suitable replacement for the palladium. Pepper comes down and tries to get answers out of Tony about the company, which he evades, until he flat out tells her he wants her to run the company, to be CEO. And he’s given it thought, he can name his own successor. While Tony is boxing with Happy later, Pepper brings in Natalie Rushman from legal for the transfer. Tony is obviously taken by the pretty young woman, who can then flip Happy. He wants her as his new assistant.
Tony’s next stunt is to take over driving his racecar in the Grand Prix in Monaco. Which is where Ivan Vanko shows up with his laser whips and begins taking out cars on the loop in an effort to get to Tony. Happy and Pepper dash in with a suitcase that turns into a suit (Happy ramming Ivan a few times) and Tony can take on Ivan. He then convinces the French police (and no, Robert Downey Jr cannot speak French), to let him interrogate Ivan for five minutes alone. He muses to Ivan why he didn’t attempt to sell his device on the black market. Ivan snaps back that the Stark family is full of thieves and butchers and reveals his father was Anton Vanko. Ivan declares “when you make God bleed, people cease to believe.” He also knows that the palladium is killing Tony. Tony leaves.
Hammer then arranges for Ivan to be broken out of prison; he had seen his attack on Tony and instead of being horrified, enjoyed seeing someone try to take Tony down a peg. He recruits Ivan to build him suits like Tony’s. Back in California, Pepper knows Tony is hiding something from her, but he won’t outright admit it, so she goes on damage control with Natalie. Rhodey goes to check on Tony and discovers that Tony is not feeling well, but again, Tony won’t say anything. Rhodey insists he doesn’t have to do this alone. Tony retorts that “contrary to popular believe, I know exactly what I’m doing.” JARVIS also helps Tony research Anton and Ivan Vanko, but they don’t glean a lot of information. Tony goes through with his birthday party, acting like the masses expect an eccentric billionaire to act. Rhodey steps in, in another suit to get Tony to stop while Tony has the DJ play Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust. Rhodey knocks Tony out and flies the new suit to an Air Force base. The Air Force calls Hammer in to weaponize the suit, where he makes a ridiculous weapons’ demonstration. Hammer is thrilled to be working with Stark tech, considering that Ivan is now making his suits drones.
This is where S.H.I.E.L.D. steps in; Nick Fury talks sense into Tony and reveals that Natalie Rushman is Agent Romanoff, stationed at Stark Industries to keep on eye on Tony. They can get him back to working with an injection, but it’s not a cure. Nick further reveals that he knew Howard Stark, who was actually a founding member of S.H.E.I.L.D.; yes, Anton Vanko used to work with Howard, but saw the arc reactor as a weapon, not energy, and was in it for the money. Howard is the reason Anton was sent to Siberia and his life declined. Furthermore, Howard once told Nick that Tony was the hope of the future. Tony doesn’t quite agree with this; he remembers his father as cold and never said he liked him. Nevertheless, Fury has other problems to be dealing with and leaves Agent Coulson in charge. “I got my eye on you,” he warns Tony. Tony does as he’s instructed and goes through Howard’s notebook and watches the reels that are left, mainly of outtakes of his Expo introduction [which honestly remind me of videos I have seen of Walt Disney introducing Disney World…not wholly ironic, considering that Disney now owns Marvel]. At the end of the reel is a message that Howard leaves for Tony; all of what he was building was for Tony; it is the key to the future, he says. And above all, his greatest creation was Tony [there exists a version where Howard is holding a young sleeping Tony as he says this; apparently available with the Infinity boxed set…or on YouTube]. So Tony takes a quick trip in to Stark Industries, in attempt to apologize to Pepper and maybe explain. But it comes out wrong and she sends him home. Though on the way out, he catches sight of the old Stark Expo models. And they give him an idea. At home he makes a digital model he can manipulate and the layout is actually the atom of a new element. Coulson stops in long enough to say he’s heading to New Mexico, after using a shield to prop up the coils Tony is using. Of course Tony makes his own system to synthesize the new element after JARVIS tells him it’s impossible. And it works, with a few mishaps.
Hammer is not happy with Ivan, who doesn’t deliver on what he said he would. His drones will only be suitable for presentation, not demonstration. Hammer is mollified since he has a new suit to kick things off with, but he sets guards on Ivan while he heads out to the Expo. (Really dude, you didn’t think this ex-convict would try to double cross you? Are you that dumb?) After Ivan takes care of his guards, he calls Tony and Tony realizes what Hammer has been up to and the danger that is looming. Tests will have to wait on the new care (which is a new shape as well), he shoves it in and suits up. Tony arrives in the middle of Hammer’s military presentation and manages to warn Rhodey before the new suit shuts Rhodey out and the drones actually open fire. Tony flies off to draw fire away from civilians and evades what he can. [SPOILER: the kid that has an Iron Man mask on, that Tony saves, is a young Peter Parker, confirmed by Tom Holland and Marvel studios, which a lot of fans theorized for years.] Pepper confronts Hammer behind the scenes and Natalie heads to his headquarters with Happy. Happy keeps one guard busy while Agent Romanoff kicks butt. But Ivan has escaped, though she manages to override his code to Rhodey’s suit so the friends can take on the rest of the drones, and dropping the bomb that Tony had been dying, freaking Pepper out momentarily. Their last opponent is Ivan in a new suit with larger whips. The blast from their two hands manages to take him out, yet he had rigged the drones to blow, so Tony races off to rescue Pepper.
Their argument on the rooftop results in a kiss, interrupted by Rhodey. Afterwards, Tony meets with Fury and while he is not recommended for the Avengers Initiative at this time, they would like him to be a consultant. The film closes out on a presentation for Rhodey and Tony by Senator Sterns to Highway to Hell by AC/DC, and the after credits scene is Coulson’s arrival to New Mexico (the license plate confirming it is the Land of Enchantment as Tony joked). There is a carter holding a hammer and Coulson remarks “we found it.”
Overall, I still enjoy this film. Does Tony act like an idiot at times? Yes. Do we forgive him a little considering he was dying? A bit. On the one hand, it looks like he doesn’t trust those who truly care about him, but in reality, he does. He trusts Pepper to run him company. He trusts Rhodey to have a suit, because he certainly could have made it impossible for Rhodey to take one if he really wanted. He is looking out for the future and what mess he’ll leave behind and he’d rather be remembered as that crazy billionaire who went out in a bang. He’s just bad at actually having serious conversations with those closest to him.
Next Time: Thor