A Good But Not-Quite-Great Sequel
Following the success of Iron Man was never going to be an easy task, especially given the critical success of the original film. Despite an injection of pace, more action and the introduction of both Black Widow and War Machine to the fray, Iron Man 2’s enthusiasm to cram as much as it can into two hours ultimately causes it to buckle under its own expectations, despite being a highly enjoyable action film nonetheless.
With Tony Stark’s identity as Iron Man known to the world, Iron Man 2 sees Tony contend with the prying greed of the military, a potentially fatal issue with his suit and new baddie in Russian antagonist Vanko. Along with the introduction of both Black Widow and War Machine, Iron Man 2’s narrative feels bloated, with an awful lot going on. For most of the film, the three separate stories are interwoven nicely together, although the final fight with Vanko feels a little predictable and cliched.
War Machine happens to be one of my favourite characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Don Cheadle does a fantastic job adding his spin to this character. His iteration is the perfect accompanying player alongside Downey’s Iron Man too, and they both work really well together here. If I’m honest, Black Widow is a little under-utilized here and despite some nice action beats, she doesn’t add an awful lot to the fold, other than further teasing the upcoming Avengers project.
Vanko is predictably bland too if I’m honest, and his inclusion feels more like a formality than an actual antagonistic threat. Don’t get me wrong, the opening segment with the Monaco Grand Prix, showing off the might of his electric whips, is certainly one of the hightlights of the film but there’s just not enough meat to his character to make him stand-out next to the other charismatic players here. There are some nice ideas with his character – in particular his history and use of Stark’s own technology – but beyond this you never feel like Tony Stark is in any sort of danger.
As a follow-up to Iron Man, Iron Man 2 does well to bring more action and world-building into the fold, but it does so in favour of deeper characterisation for its new players. It’s still a very enjoyable action flick no doubt, boasting some really impressive set pieces dotted throughout its run-time. While it’s unlikely to be a film remembered as the best in the franchise, Iron Man 2 does enough to make for a highly enjoyable, action-orientated follow-up.