Last week I reviewed Iron Man 1 and said I was going to watch Iron Man 2 that sunday. I did and now I have time to review it as well. The tone is different and that should be expected. Tony is no longer a muggle transforming into a hero but a hero sustaining that image in a world that knows both of his identities. It's a great movie, not like the first, but in it's own way.
The plot has a tremendous emphasis on 'legacy' and appropriately Tony's first scene is giving a speech on the importance of leaving behind a bounty for the world's children, of course with his trademark arrogance ("I'm not saying that the world is enjoying it's longest period of uninterrupted peace in years because of me.") and dancing girls in skimpy attire designed to look like Iron Man. Sins Of Our Fathers appears on the other side of the coin. It turns out that Howard Stark is not solely responsible for Arc Reactor technology. Anton Vanko worked with him but they had a disagreement in how it should be used so Howard deported him back to Russia, where he spent forty years in a vodoka rage. His son, Ivan, seeks revenge on Tony for the suffering Howard's actions caused him.
Entwined with the idea of legacy is the future of the Iron Man technology. Countries such as Iran have been trying to duplicate it in the six months since the last movie ended and The United States Government demands that Tony turn over his technology to them. Senator Stern is made to look like a minor villain for his attempts to paint Tony as a threat and it's not hard for the audience to agree. What he wants to do is the same thing that the first movie's villain did: create a more lethal version of Iron Man and mass produce it for war. Tony, being more paranoid than ever, refuses to do so and proclaims himself the world's guardian. ( "I have successfully privatized world peace.")
To contrast the first film, this story is not an upward climb of Tony becoming more heroic but a downward spiral as he self-destructs. He's dying from Palladium poisoning caused by the reactor that keeps him alive. His personal character arc is split between selflessly providing for the future and selfishly enjoying himself as best he can. The problem is this looks like erratic behavior because no one knows except Nick Furry and Ivan Vanko so he alienates his friends tarnishes his claim to be the world's guardian.
The climax is suitably exciting and resolves most of the plot threads but there is one left: the government demanding Tony's Iron Man technology. This could be because Rhodes keeps the War Machine model so they have what they want, or it could be that after a second disaster with someone stealing Tony's technology (which Tony himself has to clean up) they backed off for now. (Avengers offers a third option but I won't say it here in case you haven't seen it. It will come out on DVD this week. See it!) In any case, I would have liked to see something definitive. Though the award ceremony does show Tony and Uncle Sam are back on friendly terms.
As you can see, Iron Man 2 is a lot more political than it's predecessor but I believe this is an attempt at Deconstruction and it works well. It's a good source of conflict, nicely compliments the villain's Evil Plan and sharpens Tony's character as a Technological Pacifist, albeit an arrogant one.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Iron Man 2" an A.
The Stinger points toward the next Marvel Hero, Mighty Thor, and I will review that later this week.