“Iron Man 2” was directed by Jon Favreau who did the previous film and is the second film in the “Iron Man” trilogy but the 3rd film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. The film saw Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow & Favreau himself all return to their respected characters and would be joined by Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson & Mickey Rourke. Don Cheadle replaces Terrance Howard as “Rhodes” from the previous film. Paul Bettany would also return as the voice of Jarvis, Tony Stark’s personal A.I. butler. Clark Gregg & Leslie Bibb also make brief reappearances from the first film. Jackson’s scene from the first film is the post credit which initially sets up the “Avenger” Initiative but here he is given much more screen time.
After the events of the previous film, the world has its first major superhero without the secret identity. Tony Stark (Downey) unveils The Stark Expo, a futuristic world of advanced sciences, in hopes to continue his father’s legacy. Tony soon discovers that his chest piece, the only thing keeping him alive, is slowly poisoning him. Tony is then summoned to appear before the U.S. Senate in which the government tries to get him to turn over the Iron Man suit. Justin Hammer (Rockwell) is also summoned & he’s not only the head of Senate’s weapons division but also a rival to Stark Industries. With his HammerTech, Justin is looking replicate the Iron Man suit. Pepper Potts (Paltrow) has taken over as CEO of Stark Industries and hires Natalie Rushman (Johansson) as her secretary. While the 3 are in Monaco attending the historic Grand Prix, Tony is attack by a mysterious man with similar technology to the Iron Man suit, including his very own chest piece and electric whips. Tony manages to stop this man who is later revealed as Ivan Vanko (Rourke) a Russian scientist who managed to have his own copy of Stark’s Arc reactor designs. While imprisoned, Vanko escapes with the help of Justin Hammer. Together, these 2 develop a plan to destroy Tony Stark & Iron Man. With help from his friend, Lt. Colonel James Rhodes (Cheadle), Tony must not cure himself from the chest piece but find a way to stop Vanko & Hammer from turning his suit into another weapon of mass destruction.
After the success of previous film & even “The Incredible Hulk” film which also came out in 2008, Marvel was looking to keep the momentum going. “Iron Man 2” was entertaining in its own way but a bit of a disappointment following the first film. A lot of sequels do go big and out do their predecessors but there are also some that fall short like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” & “Ant Man & the Wasp”. Iron Man 2 had its moments of promise but with a mediocre performance from Mickey Rourke and some action movie cliches, the movie comes off as just a water down version of the first film. Downey still nails the Stark character and has a much more success as Stark within the story. Sam Rockwell was solid as Hammer but this would be the beginning of Marvel’s uninteresting villains and one off characters. Another complaint was the number of references to other heroes and upcoming films. “The Amazing Spider Man 2” & “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” did the same thing and it really bogs down the film and takes away any interest.
After “Iron Man 2”, Marvel would keep their cinematic universe going releasing “Thor” & “Captain America: The First Avenger” before unleashing “The Avengers” in 2012. Robert Downey Jr. kept going as Tony Stark for 2013’s “Iron Man 3” and would make several appearances in other Marvel films like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” & “Spider Man: Homecoming”. Sadly, “Iron Man 3” would be the final film in Tony Stark’s trilogy. Downey did appear in other films including 2008’s “Sherlock Holmes” and its 2011 sequel as well as 2010’s “Due Date”, 2014’s “The Judge” & 2009’s “The Soloist”. Jan Favreau would also leave Marvel as the director but his character would still return for “Iron Man 3”, “Avengers: Infinity War”, “Avengers: Endgame”, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” & “Spider-Man: Far From Home”. Favreau would go on to direct “Cowboys & Aliens” and Disney’s live action versions of “The Jungle Book” & “The Lion King”.