“Like all guilty men, you try to rewrite your history…”

I’m still feeling my way around reviewing these Marvel movies. I was thinking that, when I review the first movie featuring a hero I’ll give you some history and overview of that specific character, and when the time comes to review the sequel I might take a look at their rogues gallery and what their villains say about that particular hero. Problem: Iron Man has quite possibly the worst rogues gallery of any major superhero. Notoriously so. Legendarily so. If you were to make a chart of superheroes by the quality of their rogues’ gallery it would be Batman at the top, closely followed by Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, then respectable mid-carders like Captain America and Superman and then waaaaaaaaaaaay way down at the bottom Iron Man and Wonder Woman are hanging out and getting sloshed on Ouzo. Yeah, yeah, no such thing as bad characters, only bad writers. True as far as it goes. Any villain, no matter how lame, can be made compelling with the right scribe working on them.
Some, however, take more heavy lifting than others.

Some, admittedly, take more heavy lifting than others.

But Iron Man’s villains probably require more heavy lifting than probably any other hero’s. Even Tony’s arch-nemesis, The Mandarin, while certainly a cool villain, doesn’t really have that much that sets him apart from similar bad guys like Doctor Doom or Baron Mordo other than the fact that in his early days he looked like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Oh sixties.

Oh sixties.

As for the rest, they were mostly just an interchangeable series of commies in robot armour and rival industrialists. I mean hell, when the time came to find a villain for Iron Man 2, they actually just slapped two of them together. Ivan Vanko is a mishmash of Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo. And nobody even cared. Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine if they did a Batman movie and they just merged the characters of Joker and the Penguin into one guy and called him the Penker? My God, the fans would skin them alive and hang their carcasses in the online forums as a warning to others. That’s how lame Iron Man’s rogues gallery is. Not even Iron Man fans care enough to get mad about changes to the source material.  But, did it work? Were they able to reverse Iron Man’s traditionally awful luck with villains? Will our hero triumph over the Penker? Let’s find out! Right after these messages.

AD

Oh don’t bitch. I spend seven unpaid hours a week on these reviews and it’s this or Patreon. Okay, so it’s two years later and Tony Stark is still giving that damn press conference (dude likes to hear himself talk more than William Henry Harrison). In a tiny, dingey apartment in Moscow the press conference is being watched by Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) and his father Anton, with Russian State TV helpfully translating.
"I am the Iron Man, greater than all men except of course for Putin, who I love and fear."

“I am the Iron Man, greater than all men except of course for Putin, whom I love and fear.”

Anton tells Ivan that it should be him up there on that podium, proclaiming his greatness over all with the obvious exception of the great restorer of Russia’s might and glory. He tells Ivan that all he can leave him is his knowledge, and then dies, leaving him with nothing but his knowledge. And, as is Russian custom, Ivan roars to let the warriors of Sto Vo Kor know that a soul is coming to join them in their endless revels.

"QAPLA!"

“QAPLA!”

Vanko I think has now largely been written off as part of Marvel’s “villain problem” and revisiting this movie I don’t actually think that’s fair (and yeah, I know I said the same thing about Stane but humour me). Mickey Rourke basically has two types of performance, crazy committed dedication to the part that would make Kirk Lazarus proud or phoned in to the point of barely concealed contempt for the project. This is definitely the former. Rourke visited Russian prisons, researched Mafiya tattoos and learnt some Russian to prepare for the role. He clearly cared a lot about this character and making sure he was a real person. I also really like the concept of Vanko, a Russian Tony Stark who did with his mind and determination alone what Tony did with the world’s largest fortune. Sure, Tony built that suit in a cave with a box of scraps, but all Vanko ever had was the box of scraps. He was born in that cave. And damn it, Rourke just gives a really good performance. Vanko is a complicated dude. He’s a huge, hulking, tattooed mobster with a genius level IQ who genuinely loves his Pop and his burd. Unfortunately, concept and performance aren’t enough on their own, you also need a good script and this is where Iron Man 2 really falls down but I’ll get into that later.  Vanko pulls out some old blueprints for an arc reactor that, interestingly, bear the names of Howard Stark and Anton Vanko. Vanko gets to work.

After the credits it’s six months later and Iron Man arrives at the Stark Expo for the opening ceremony complete with fireworks and Iron Man themed Go Go dancers.

Pff. And they say Marvel doesnt write any parts for women. Look at em all!

Pff. And they say Marvel doesn’t write any parts for women. Look at em all!

Tony then gives a speech where he says that the world is now enjoying its longest period of interrupted peace in years because wait, wait, wait, wait hang on. This has been six months since Tony gave that press conference. I mean okay, we can say that Vanko took a few months between seeing the press conference and building his own arc-reactor but Iron Man has definitely been active for less than a year. So, what does Tony mean when he says “the world is at peace”? Does he just mean the general “well, there aren’t any major wars going on” kind of peace that we’ve had since the end of Word War 2? Because if so, I don’t think he can really take credit for that. Or does he actually mean that Iron Man has brought total peace? As in, there are now no wars anywhere? I mean, that at least would tie in with the fact that it’s only been less than a year (that would be the longest period of “no war” since we developed thumbs) but then that raises a completely different question. Namely, Tony?

"Are you a God?"

“Are you a God?”

 I mean, sure, Iron Man’s pretty powerful but he’s not Superman! And he’s just one guy! Are we really meant to believe Tony was able to singlehandedly bring every last dictator, terrorist leader and warlord to heel in less time than it takes to get a diploma in Social Sciences? And this isn’t just one dumb line either. A big part of the plot rests on the fact that Tony Stark is basically now the foundation on which global peace rests. Okay, let me try to explain why that’s a stupid idea.

"And he was the man we trusted to keep us safe?" "And thats why the world got blown up and the sun went away?" "Yes sweetie. Now eat your rat."

“And he was the man we trusted to keep us safe.”
“And that’s why the world got blown up and the sun went away?”
“Yes sweetie. Now eat your rat.”

 Anyway, Tony declares the expo open and then plays a film his father Howard (John Slattery) recorded in the seventies welcoming everyone to the expo. Howard Stark (in this movie at least) is clearly based on none other than good old Uncle Walt. Huh. I guess that would make Anton Vanko Ub Iwerks if Disney had had him deported to Russia.

"Not for want of trying. But it turns out you can't deport someone to a country they're not actually from."

“Not for want of trying. But it turns out you can’t deport someone to a country they’re not actually from.”

 Outside the expo, Tony is approached by a gorgeous woman who it turns out is just there to serve him a subpoena.

In the Marvel universe, subpoenas aren't binding if the person serving them isn't at least an eight.

In the MCU subpoenas aren’t binding if the person serving them isn’t at least an eight.

Tony is summoned to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington. The hearing is being chaired by Senator Stern, the man for whom the word “oleaginous” was built. Stern wants Tony to hand over the Iron Man suit because he claims it’s a weapon and Tony counters that it’s not. Which I suppose is technically true. The suit isn’t a weapon, just the lazers, machine guns, rocket launchers and nuclear bomb hidden in the crotch that are all attached to it. Stern then summons an expert witness to testify on the Iron Man armour, Justin Hammer, played by talentless slack jawed lackwit Sam Rockwell IHATEHIMIHATEHIMIHATEHIM…

"Easy Mouse. Remember your breathing exercises."

“Easy Mouse. Remember your breathing exercises.”

Sorry. Sorry. I’ll try not to let my visceral hatred of Sam Rockwell and how he ruined my life derail the review. I’ll just content myself with spreading vicious rumours about him as I usually do, for example how he steals from children’s charities and has a penny for a dick.

Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favourite books. Zaphod is my favourite character. There can be no peace.

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favourite books.
Zaphod is my favourite character.
After what he did, there can be no peace.

 Hammer gives a spiel about how America can’t always rely on Iron Man to defend them (gee, if only they had a military larger than the next fourteen largest combined). Stern then calls Rhodey to testify. Rhodey’s first line of dialogue to Tony is fittingly enough “I’m here, it’s me, deal with it” because of course he is now played by Don Cheadle. Hey, no complaints from me. Terrence Howard was my least favourite part of the first movie and Don Cheadle is great in the role even if I’m having a hard time thinking of an African American actor who looks less like Terrence Howard. Hell, I can think of a ton of actors who look more like Terrence Howard than Don Cheadle and some of them are white. Anyway, Rhodey is ordered to read a select passage from his report on Iron Man that paints Tony in a much more unflattering light that he intended and then tells the committee that certain nations are already trying to build an Iron Man of their own and shows them satellite footage of dots in a desert. And of course, you don’t argue with satellite footage of dots in a desert. I mean, those dots could be anything.

 Tony then hijacks the feed and shows them footage demonstrating that the Iranians, North Koreans and Justin Hammer himself are all trying to build their own Iron Man suits but are making advances only in the field of physical comedy. The Hammer footage in particular shows one of Hammer’s suits twisting a test pilot’s spine like fusilli. Tony then saunters out saying “You’re welcome everybody, I’ve successfully privatised world peace.” and gets a standing ovation.

"That sounds like a great idea. Lets all stand and clap."

“That sounds like a great idea. Let’s all stand and clap.”

 Back at the Stark ranch though it turns out that Tony is being even more of a reckless ass-hat than we first thought, namely that he’s expecting the US to rely on him as its sole defence despite the fact that he’s a dead man walking. As JARVIS informs him, the palladium he’s using to fuel the arc-reactor is slowly poisoning him. As JARVIS puts it, “The thing keeping you alive is also killing you.”

"Might I suggest you change your name to Irony Man, sir?" "Shut up Jarvis." "Shutting up, sir."

“Might I suggest you change your name to Irony Man, sir?”
“Shut up Jarvis.”
“Shutting up, sir.”

 Pepper now arrives and this is where I ask what the fuck happened, just what even the fuck happened? I liked Pepper in the first movie. A lot. I thought Paltrow and Downey had great chemistry, they had snappy banter, they were cute and funny together WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?! Every scene Pepper Potts has in  Iron Man 2 is as brisk and pleasant as the STATIONS OF THE CROSS. She is UNBEARABLE in this. Just a constant stream of nagging and complaining and negativity…it’s like when they cut Terrence Howard’s Rhodey from the first movie he telepathically leapt into Pepper’s body like a Star Trek villain. And now he just watches, secretly fuming. Waiting for his moment to strike.

"Soon. Soooooon..."

“Soon. Soooooon…”

Probably because he knows it’s the only thing that’ll buy him five precious minutes of stunned silence Tony tells Pepper that he’s making her CEO of Stark Industries. To make it official they summon a notary named Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) and holy moly…

Painted on walls

Excuse me, I must compose a sonnet forthwith.

Okay, full disclosure, Black Widow is my favourite Avenger but that is almost entirely on the strength of the Avengers movies and Winter Soldier and that is because Joss Whedon and the Russo Brothers are actually interested in her as a character whereas Jon Favreau quite clearly is not. Also, I hate to say it but Johansson hasn’t quite figured out what she’s doing with the character yet. She gets better, much, much better, but here her performance is more than a little bland. All in all, it’s an inauspicious introduction to one of the great action movie heroines of early 21st century cinema. 

Anyway, Tony is so impressed with Natalie that he hires her on the spot as his assistant because of her impeccable credentials and language skills and relevant experience and is anyone buying this, anyone? Anyone? Well anyway, Pepper, Tony, Happy and Natalie jet off to Monaco to take in the Grand Prix. There they meet Justin Hammer and Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb) and Tony and Pepper lose no time in bringing up the fact that Tony and Christine slept together in the first movie to embaress her because in the intervening time they’ve both become the worst human beings ever, I guess? Seriously, it’s not cool. I mean, sure Pepper had the “taking out the trash” line in the first movie but that was only after Christine had thrown some serious shade herself. Here it’s Justin basically saying “Have you met respected journalist Christine Everhart?” and Pepper and Tony going “Oh yes. The slut. How’ve you been?”

Meanwhile, Tony checks his blood toxicity in the bathroom and finds that it’s 53% percent which sounds like he should be dead, but I’m no fancy big city doctor. So Tony decides to do something reckless and drive one of his Formula 1 cars in the Grand Prix himself. Pretty fucking dangerous in and of itself but then Vanko suddenly emerges on the track dressed as one of the emergency crew and starts slicing up the approaching cars like frickin’ celery with his arc-reactor powered whips.

This would have improved Cars 2 immeasurably.

This would have improved Cars 2 immeasurably.

 Tony looks like he’s about to get whipped to within an inch of his life plus one inch but fortunately Happy and Pepper arrive with the portable Iron Man suit (silver and red, beautiful, beautiful prop). Fully armoured, Iron Man’s easily a match for Vanko and knocks him down and takes his lunch money arc reactor. He watches as the Monaco police take the bloodied Vanko away, who yells “You lose Stark!” because his English ain’t so hot.

So can anyone spot the problem here? Tony’s decision to drive the race car himself is a spur of the moment thing. But Vanko’s whole plan involved disguising himself as one of the emergency crew, walking out onto the racetrack and killing Tony as he drove past which he would only have done if he’d somehow known Tony was going to be in the car. What gives? If I had to guess, I’d say there was an earlier draft of the script where Tony was always supposed to be the driver and the two drafts just collided. There’s a lot of that going on in this script.
Tony asks to speak with Vanko alone in his cell and the Monaco police are all “No, that would be completely unethical for us to leave a restrained prisoner in the same room unattended as the man who he just tried to kill…BWAAHAHAHAHAHA yeah, this is Monaco and you’re rich we have no power over you. Go nuts.” Vanko tells Stark that he comes from a family of thieves and butchers and that he’s doing this to get revenge for his father. He also tells Tony that he knows the palladium in his chest is killing him.
On the flight back Tony sees Stern on TV lambasting him for saying that there was no possibility of anyone else ever creating their own arc reactor given what just happened in Monaco. Tony says that Stern should give him a medal (what, the congressional medal for being completely, catastrophically wrong?).
Meanwhile in jail, Vanko’s death is faked and he’s spirited away to a warehouse where Justin Hammer offers him a job. Hammer’s so impressed by the way Vanko almost whipped Tony to death
that the erection hasn’t quite gone away yet and he tells him that he wants him to build an Iron Man suit and oh Jesus what is this?
How rich can you be if you have to put on your own fake tan?

How rich can you be if you have to put on your own fake tan?

In fact, this movie might as well be called Iron Man 2: More Fake Tan. Almost everyone in this movie is glazed in the stuff, Tony, Pepper, Vanko, Hammer…it’s like Donald Trump rolled over this movie naked and &*&^&^*&(*&^&(*&*&*…
Sorry. Sorry. I puked and shorted out my keyboard. Moving on.
Thats the kind of searing political satire that brings the people to Unshaved Mouse.

Just one example of the kind of searing political satire that brings the people to Unshaved Mouse.

Anyway, Vanko agrees with the condition that Hammer brings him his burd. And Hammer seems to have a weird inability to understand what he means by that. He wants his burd. What’s to understand? Dude just wants his burd. Really ties the room together. He shows him some of the prototype suits Hammer Industries has been working on and nearly has a conniption when Vanko pulls the head of one off because they cost over $120 Million  each. To be honest, if I were him I’d be more worried that I’d just spent $120 Million on a war machine that one largish dude was able to tear apart with his bare hands.

Back in California Rhodey visits Tony and tells him that the US Government is this close to just knocking down his walls and taking his toys. Rhodey is clearly worried about his friend Tony and man that feels weird to type. Good weird, through. Tony reassures him that he knows exactly what he’s doing. He then proceeds to throw a big fuck off birthday party and dance around sloshed off his face in the Iron Man suit. Which is kind of like drunk driving, if your car could fly at supersonic speeds and had enough weaponry to craterise most of Asia. Outside, Rhodey is on the phone with his superiors promising that “Iron Man will be back on watch within 24 hours.” GODAMMIT MOVIE, PICK ONE. Either Tony Stark is not trusted by the US government and is regarded as a potential risk or he’s America’s last best line of defence. HE CAN’T BE BOTH. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE FOR HIM TO BE BOTH. IF THEY DON’T TRUST HIM THEN THEY SHOULDN’T BE RELYING ON HIM AND IT SHOULD MAKE NO DIFFERENCE TO THEM WHETHER HE’S ON WATCH OR NOT BECAUSE HE DOESN’T BLOODY WORK FOR THEM.

Going back inside, Rhodey realises just how bad things have gotten when Tony starts blowing shit up to entertain the partygoers. Pepper begs him to stop Tony, with no ulterior motive whatsoever.

"Yes. Fight him imposter. He shall kill you. Then I shall be the true Rhodey!" "You say something?" "Nothing. Friend."

“Yes. Fight him, imposter. He shall kill you. Then I shall be the true Rhodey!”
“You say something, Pepper?”
“Nothing. Friend.”

 Rhodey runs downstairs and changes into the silver Iron Man suit and engages party-pooper mode and orders all the guests to leave. Realising that the party has entered the wine, cheese and robot battle phase Rhodey and Tony throw down. After destroying Tony’s living room, Rhodey leaves him and flies off to the nearest Air Force base. You know, Rhodey just beat Tony senseless, wrecked his house and stole his shit, but he’s still a better friend in this one than in Iron Man 1.

Depressed and miserable after his break up with Rhodey, Tony flies off and ends up in the hole of some Randy guy.

What did you think I meant?

What did you think I meant?

Nick Fury shows up along with Natalie, who he introduces to Tony as Natasha Romanoff, a SHIELD agent who was working for Fury the whole time.

The Whole time

Yes, the whole time. Fury tells Tony that he needs to stop fucking around and get to work on a cure and Tony tells him that there is no cure because he has tried every damn element on the table and nothing works. And Fury tells him that there’s still one element he hasn’t tried.

Moolti pass

Meanwhile Vanko is paid a visit by that pudding faced puffy spots blubber mouthed jowls no neck dog-stupid Justin Hammer (sorry, sorry, it’s my problem I’ll deal with it) who gives him a burd and Vanko tells him that it’s not his burd. And then Hammer throws a hissy fit because apparently he “pulled a lot of strings” to get the burd. What’s with this guy? He can fake a death in a foreign prison and bring one of the most wanted men in the world into his private facility with no problem but he can’t just send someone to Vanko’s apartment in Russia and pick up his damn cockatoo? What the hell? Anyway, Hammer is not happy when he sees that Vanko has converted the Hammer suits (“Hammeroids” as they have been named because Hammer is as good at branding as he is at tech) into unmanned drones. Vanko tells Hammer that they’re better than suits and Hammer asks why drones are better.  Um…because they’re cheaper and can fly lower to the ground and get a much more accurate bead on targets which reduces the risk of civilian casualties and you don’t have to worry about pilots coming back in wood suits with American flags draped over them? How the fuck did this guy get a Pentagon contract?

So in the ruins of Stark’s mansion, Fury explains that the arc reactor that Howard Stark built was simply an early proto-type of a clean energy source that was going to change the world. Tony asks how Anton was involved and Fury says that Anton saw the arc reactor as a way to get rich, unlike Howard of course who was just in it for the science man and had Vanko deported. Seriously though, anyone else smell something fishy about that whole story?

Also, according to this movie Anton Vanko defected to the US in 1963, which is weird because Agent Carter shows him working with Howard Stark as early as 1946. It’s not necessarily a continuity error though. Seventeen years is a long time and there’s no reason Vanko couldn’t have returned to Russia when the Cold War got frostier and then returned to the States in the sixties.

Fury tells Tony that Howard always intended him to finish his work, saying that he was the only one who could do it. Tony’s a little thrown by that because as far as he can remember his father didn’t even like him. Fury leaves him with a box of Howard’s stuff and tells him to figure it out while leaving Coulson in charge. While looking through Howard’s effects, Tony finds a message from him hidden in the most logical place possible, in a reel of outtakes from the film welcoming visitors to the Stark Expo which was hidden in a suitcase in the attic for God knows how many years. Howard tells Tony that he built the Expo for him and that “one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world. What is, and always will be, my greatest creation… is you.”
You're a robot

“Yes, you’re a robot. Sorry I never got to tell you while I was alive but there just never was a time that felt right.”

Tony realises that the layout of the Expo is actually a diagram for an atom of an entirely new and as yet undiscovered element, something that Howard could realistically just have done with a pen and a napkin. That’s how rich Howard Stark was, kids, “Expos as notepads” rich.
Coulson returns and helps Stark synthesise the new element, as well as geeking out over something he finds in Tony’s workshop.
“My God…the legendary unfinished shield of Captain Half-Assed!”

“My God…the legendary unfinished shield of Captain Half-Assed!”

With the new element, Badassium (really), powering his arc-reactor it looks like Tony’s problems are over but then he gets a call from the Russian mad scientist who he thought was dead and is now threatening to blow up his entire life (oh man, been there). Vanko gives the standard “I have prepared a little surprise…” speech and Tony flies off to the Stark Expo where the Hammeroids are being unveiled. Justin Hammer, that greasy lesion on the ass cheeks of the human race, introduces four battalions of Hammeroids, one for the Army, one for the Navy, one for the Air Force and one for the Marines.
Poor Coast Guard. Nobody likes you.

Poor Coast Guard. Nobody likes you.

Oh they also unveil War Machine, which is the silver Iron Man armour painted grey and black and covered in so many weapons it’s like they dipped it in chocolate and then threw it into a vat of guns. Also, let me reiterate that Justin Hammer has just taken a multi-billion dollar piece of equipment that belongs to one of the wealthiest men in the world, repainted it, and strolled right into the Stark Expo and tried to pass it off as his own intellectual property. A veritable Sharknado of lawyers is about to descend on Hammer and strip his assets to the bone. What kind of moron is this guy?
YES IM STILL BITTER FUCK YOU.

YES I’M STILL BITTER FUCK YOU.

Tony arrives and demands to know where Vanko is but Hammer plays dumb (very convincingly I might add). Suddenly, the Hammeroids and War Machine open fire because Vanko has taken control of them remotely. Okay, question. Vanko can hack the Hammeroids, that’s fine. But Vanko had nothing to do with War Machine. He didn’t work on it, and it’s not designed to be controlled remotely. So how can he control it? Or, if he’s just that good that he can hack Tony’s tech, why not just take control of the Iron Man suit and force Tony to go on a killing spree?

Well anyway, Iron Man leads War Machine and the Hammeroids (sounds like a band from the sixties) on a merry chase through the air while Black Widow inflicts severe pain on Hammer until the joy centres of my brain overload and he tells her where Vanko is. Natasha and Happy storm Hammer’s facility and find that Vanko has flown the coop like a burd, but she is at least able to use his computer to reboot Rhodey’s suit and return it to his control. Rhodey and Tony fight off the Hammeroids in a big kick ass fight scene that is pretty damn kick ass. Meanwhile the cops arrive at the Expo and Pepper orders them to arrest Hammer and then arrange for buses to take all the visitors back to the city and they’re all “Uh lady, we’re cops, we don’t take orders from you BWAAAHAAHAHAHA no this is America and you’re a CEO we’re basically at your beck and call.”

Rhodey and Tony destroy the last of the Hammeroids but they didn’t realise that they were just the warm up before the final boss fight. Vanko arrives and oh are you fucking kidding me?

Iron Monger

That’s the Iron Monger armour! That’s just the Iron Monger armour with some lightning whips! Obadiah Stane could sue if he wasn’t dead, may he rest in peace. Anyway, they fight and fight and fight some more until Tony and Rhodey combine the power of their repulsors to create a big feck-off explosion and defeat Vanko. Lying bleeding and burnt on the ground, Vanko whispers to Tony “You lose.”

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

 Vanko starts a countdown for all the Hammeroids to explode but Iron Man and Rhodey just…you know, fly out of there and Vanko is left going “Oh yeah, they can do that. Shit.” and then he gets blown up. Tony flies Pepper to safety and they land on a rooftop. She tells him can’t handle this anymore and she resigns and then they kiss and it just comes out of fucking nowhere. It actually makes less sense for them to end up together after two movies than it did after just one.

"Ugh. The things I do for vengeance." "You say something Pepper?" "Nothing. Friend. I mean. Lover. Ugh."

“Ugh. The things I do for vengeance.”
“You say something Pepper?”
“Nothing. Friend. I mean. Lover. Ugh.”

***
In my review of Age of Ultron I namechecked Iron Man 2 as one of the weakest Marvel movies but called it “shaggy but still fun”. Watching it again after all these years, it feels like a whole lotta shag and precious little fun. This is a movie with some great actors and some really interesting ideas (I’m convinced Vanko is just a few tweaks away from brilliance as a concept). But the script!
Oh the script, the script. This is a Frankenstein’s monster of a story with various parts that feel like they’re aware of what’s going on in the rest of the movie but only the gist. It is, in the end, just not that good. But hey, it made well over half a billion dollars so what do I know?
Scoring
Adaptation 10/25
A sloppy, uncertain Iron Man story that doesn’t really seem to know what Iron Man is in this world. A Superman-man esque techno-messiah that America is pretty much relying solely on to uphold the security of the West? Or a distrusted potential menace?
Our Heroic Hero: 20/25
It’s still Downey as Iron Man and that counts for a whole lot but the poorer script makes for a less witty, less engaging Tony Stark.
Our Nefarious Villain: 17/25
Again, the problem is not the elements of the film but how they’re arranged. Mickey Rourke is great as Vanko and actually a lot better on a second viewing. He may not always make the best choices (in movies or in life) but he’s a damn good actor and when he’s engaged in a role he works damn hard. With a better script…oh, there I go again.
Our Plucky Sidekicks: 11/25
Marvel’s casting department giveth and taketh away. Terrence Howard is gone (hooray!) but unfortunately he was replaced by Gwyeneth Paltrow in the role of Tony’s nagging, killjoy girlfriend. There is virtually nothing left of the sweet, witty chemistry from the first movie between Tony and Pepper. Johannsson’s Black Widow would go on to great things but she’s pretty bland here. Oh but at least  Don Cheadle is War Machine now. Thank God. Our long national nightmare is over.
The Stinger
Phil Coulson gets out of his car in the middle of a desert and calls Fury to tell him “We’ve found it”. And then we pull out to see what “it” is.
thor_hammer
And the audience went…
giphy
And then they thought about it and said “Thor? Really? How the hell are they gonna make that work?”
Infinity Gem Count: 0
Still nothing. Although, if you want to get really nerdy (as if we would!), we do get a glimpse of a drawing of the Tesseract in Howard Stark’s notes.
Wait a minute, was that Stan Lee?!
Continuing the Iron Man tradition of Stan Lee playing other celebrities, The Man appears here as Larry King as Tony is leaving the Stark Expo.
Any names of comic book characters clunkily worked into dialogue that no one would ever say in real life?
“You want to be the war machine? Take the shot!”
Hey, what’s Thanos doing?
Thanos is sitting on his chair.

Thanos is sitting on his chair.

FINAL SCORE: 58%
NEXT UPDATE: 18 February 2016
NEXT TIME: Well…it hurth.

Thor_poster

Neil Sharpson aka the Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger based in Dublin. The blog updates with a new review every second Thursday. Original artwork for this blog was commissioned from the oh-so talented Julie Android, whose artwork is now available for purchase on T-Shirts, mugs, hoodies and more at the Unshaved Mouse online store. Check it out!

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55 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. And now, with that out of the way:

    “Oleaginous.” I had never heard of this word before. Never never never. Three things:
    1. You win, obviously. Your control of English doth exceed my own.
    2. Where on earth had you ever heard that word before? It seems a bit…specialized.
    3. There always has to be three points, even when there is actually only two.

    Setting this aside, on the subject of whether Iron Man is “the greatest hope” or “the greatest threat,” it absolutely can be both. In very much the same way that an emperor’s greatest fear is a successful general; sure, they’re conquering stuff in your name, but you can never be quite sure that they aren’t about to turn on you. Ya know?

    Thanks again.

  2. Wow, that is some serious hatred for Sam Rockwell. I mean, I’m also a huge Hitchhiker’s Guide fan, and I absolutely looooooooooaaaaaaathe that movie, but I love Sam Rockwell (not as Zaphod, that was terrible, but in general). He just always seems like he’s having the best goofy time in his movies

      1. Personally, I find Sam Rockwell an utter joy to watch in general. He always seems like he’s having fun with whatever role he’s playing, and that fun is usually something I can easily share as I watch.

        And, while I admit he was more Space-Bush/Clinton than Zaphod Beeblebrox, I still found his performance pretty fun. And that’s speaking as someone who not only listens to the original H2G2 Radio series on a regular basis, but also as someone who fell in love with the book at only nine years old.

      1. 2003. Between the fear and power of the Shredder, shockingly pitiful yet still intimidating Baxter Stockman, internal conflict of Karai, back story of Rat King/Slayer, Evil conspiracy of Bishop, Mystery (and satisfying conclusion of it) of the Foot Mystics, nice hats of the Elite Guard, social commentary of the Triceraton and Federation leaders, and almost every one or two episode villains working I consider their rogues gallery to be the best.

  3. “If you were to make a chart of superheroes by the quality of their rogues’ gallery it would be Batman at the top, closely followed by Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, then respectable mid-carders like Captain America and Superman and then waaaaaaaaaaaay way down at the bottom Iron Man and Wonder Woman are hanging out and getting sloshed on Ouzo.”

    I’d rank the Fantastic Four’s Rogues Gallery under Superman’s. The Four have Doom and Galactus, but after those two… they have no truly oustanding foes, whether because of impresiveness or quirkiness or pure charm. I mean, Mad Thinker? The Wizard? Mole Man? Red Ghost? Puppet Master and Super Skrull have their moments, I guess, but not enough. While Superman, after Luthor, has the Cyborg, Bizarro, Mxyzptlk, Mongul, Brainiac, and even second stringers like Livewire and Parasite are at least interesting as characters.

    The X-Men have an actually very respectable roster of villains. I’d actually place those third after Batman and Spider-Man’s.

    1. X-men I’ll certainly grant you. I’d still put the FF over Superman. Even aside from THE GREATNESS OF DOOM they also have Annihilus, the Skrulls, the Kree and Ronan the Accuser.

      1. I’ve always associated the Skrulls more with the X-Men, but I don’t know a ton about the comic book continuities and stuff so that may just be because I’m much more familiar with the X-Men than I am with the F4

      2. Ronans a FF villain?

        I’m guessing he’s shared with guardians cos otherwise how did marvel get him for guardians?

        Tbh never read a FF comic so can’t really talk about them…but the films suck so hard :/

  4. This is the only MCU movie I would never watch again. I tried to give it one more chance a few years back, but it just wasn’t that great. But I wouldn’t call it a terrible movie. At least it was trying to be good.

  5. I think The Flash deserves an honorable mention when it comes to Rogues Galleries. I mean, they actually call themselves the Rogues Gallery. And at one point they had health benefits.

    Yeah, the joke at Christie Everheart’s expense bugs me, and really shows the double standard in effect. Notice how the one night stand they had doesn’t reflect poorly on Tony? Even though he’s been established as a serious slut who went 12/12 (technically) on last years Maxim cover models? Ah, but he’s a dude, and being a slut when you’re a dude just makes you awesome.

    I’m kinder to this movie than most, but the parts that stink really stink. Great action, overall great cast (I also hate Rockwell’s Zaphod, but Galaxy Quest causes him to break even for me), better Rhodey, more Coulson and Fury, some Black Widow, and Vanko is pretty intimidating and funny.

    But yeah, the script needed a once over. Or a thrice over. The “Iron Man is the defender of the world!” thing is half baked, his relationship with Pepper isn’t nearly as entertaining as it was before, Hammer is about 1/12th as cool as Stane was, and the whole thing felt a little rushed. Like they clearly hurried up a sequel when the first was a hit, to establish stuff for Avengers because they weren’t sure people would go see Thor and Cap.

  6. Sigh… and so I remain seemingly the only guy in the world who loves Iron Man 2. To me, the plot works just fine, the PG version of the alcoholism plotline works fine, the villains are both interesting parallels of Tony himself, and the action is intense. The script has witty lines, great banter between Tony and… everyone, and never made me feel like I didn’t know why anyone was doing what they did. Black Widow was weak, but this was her first movie and they were still trying to get a handle on her. I read other people’s reviews and never quite understand them. I mean, you make a lot of points here that feel emotional rather than rational, which is probably why I like this movie and others don’t emotionally it clicks for me, and for other people it doesn’t.

    It’s starting to make me feel like there is something wrong with me – I like Iron Man 2 and 3 a lot, I like Thor 2, I think Age of Ultron is the best Marvel movie so far, and everyone just gives me this look like I said that Mussolini had some great ideas.

  7. “It would be Batman at the top”
    Eh. There’s almost no variety in his rogues gallery, they’re all crazy guys with a gimmick (also obsessed with Batman). A huge chunk of Spider-Man’s villains are based on animals, but there’s more variety to be found in animals than there is in crazy people

    “…and it’s this or Patreon”
    …People have a problem with Patreon? Maybe it’s just me and my uncivilized south american brain, but I think most people would prefer paying a few dollars a month than buying merch.

    “But Vanko had nothing to do with War Machine. He didn’t work on it, and it’s not designed to be controlled remotely”
    I always assumed Vanko was the one who put the weapons and the new paint job on the mark 2 armor. It can’t be very hard to put a little control chip there or whatever.

    I like Iron Man 2 just fine…but I feel like it could’ve been better if they gave Jon Favreau a little more freedom. Apparently Marvel (probably Perlmutter) tried to use this movie as a setup to Avengers… … …I don’t really see where that setup is. Cap’s fake shield? Fury appearing? Natasha doing…a thing? Why did they even bother?
    Speaking of Natasha, I can’t wait for you to get to Avengers to explain why you like her so much…man…first AoU and now BW…I SWEAR I’m not hating on things just because you love them.

      1. I got the Simpsons reference! Also, Batman’s villains are the most interesting because, aside from being the funniest, the scariest, and the most iconic, they serve a greater purpose of being sideshow mirrors of Batman himself, and he was the first hero who really had that sort of thing going. Now, everyone’s into it.

    1. Kind of stands to reason a superhero with an animal theme would have animal-themed enemies, I’d think. Though maybe that’s just me. Plus, I think Spiderman’s animal theme is a big plus for me, personally.

  8. Interesting thought on Iron Man’s enemies, really. He’s one of the most prolific Avengers, but has so few memorable enemies. I guess that might say something about his publicity power, having no real rivals to speak of, but having a face hard to forget makes up for it (perhaps especially in this case, as the face is a literal one).

    I have a feeling comic connoisseurs might not be too fond of me. I remember thinking that Joker’s rocket-propelled grenade he attacked Mr. Dent with in the Dark Knight was an explosive version of Penguin’s trademark umbrella. Though I guess I can be forgiven due to this coming from my not being super into comics. I’d have less excuse if I was given the authority to make a movie out of them (I bet anyone who does make such a mistake might wish they’d decided to adapt something like the Jungle Book, where the person who worked on it was literally instructed not to read the source material. Speaking of Jungle Book, what do you think of the reboot that’s coming out?)

    Commercials, huh? I won’t be the one to blame the mouse for doing what he can to get his cheese, but I do hope this isn’t a decision that’ll lead down the road ending with an evil corporate clone of yourself that takes the form of a wise-cracking bird. Anywhos, great, I’m now imagining Marvel giving a reveal that Tony Stark is in fact related to Thor and Loki. And heck, make Vanko turn out to be one too, and explain his omniscience that allowed him to know Tony would be in that racecar. I’m not sure if that’s crazy enough to work or too crazy to work. Also, that deporting Iwerks to Russia line cracked me up. Typical.

  9. Something tells me casting directors ought to be careful if The Hangman’s Daughter is ever cinematized, as I take it the decision of casting Sam Rockwell as Mabus would be about equal to that of launching one nuclear bomb per continent. That sounds like a position of power that could be deadly in the wrong hands.

    “Irony Man”. I like it. Also, isn’t it actually speculated that oxygen has similar effects to Iron Man’s palladium? Like, it’s keeping everyone alive, but is actually slowly burning everyone to death at the same time? So, technically, everyone is being slowly oxidized to death, not just the Man of easy-to-rust Iron. Huh. Subtle, Marvel, subtle. And hey, c’mon, of course 53% is fine for blood toxicity. It can go all the way up to 99% and he’d still be possible to revitalize by miracle pill, has Billy Crystal taught you nothing, sir?!

    And wait, Tesseract? How did this suddenly turn into a crossover with a Madeleine L’Engle book?!? I’m mixed up now! Though the Avengers having to fight a giant, disembodied brain sounds kind of badass though.

  10. I seem to be in the minority opinion on this movie. I don’t think it was great but it was an entertaining enough way to spend an evening. It certainly wasn’t terrible as far as I’m concerned. I am excited for Thor. It is my favorite my the phase one movies and was my favorite Marvel movie until Winter Soldier.

      1. You have to see it all, Mouse. Might ruin David Tennant for you, and you might start having nightmares, but you know, but you have to. BECAUSE IT’S MARVEL. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHetc.

  11. Yeah, I largely mirror your opinions on this movie, save for Justin Hammer (to be honest I thought he was the sole saving grace).

    While you’re probably right about how even Hollywood wouldn’t be able to get away with creating “the Penker”, I feel the need to mention that Burton’s take on the Penguin had heavy shades of Killer Croc, and Schumacher’s Riddler contained quite a few parallels with the Mad Hatter. Simply being a Batman villain can’t protect you from C-list status.

    And don’t knock Wonder Woman’s rogues. They’re freaking awesome… as long as they’re being written by someone whose name starts with G. George Perez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone…

    (There’s probably a dirty joke in here somewhere, but I’m too lazy to go find it.)

    And speaking of shameless self-promotion: HEY EVERYONE I FINALLY UPDATED MY OWN REVIEW BLOG. GO CHECK IT OUT IF WANT SOMETHING TO TIDE YOU OVER UNTIL MOUSE’S NEXT REVIEW.

    1. By 1992, when Batman Returns was made, Croc wasn’t fully established as a sewer dweller yet. If we’re being very generous, we might allow his first Post Crisis 1991 full appearance as the start of that trend for the character, later solidified by Croc’s appearances in Knightfall and Prodigal Son around ’92… but with movie production times being what they are, I doubt any of those could influence the script for Batman Returns.

      The Croc a scriptwriter for Returns might have known (and I doubt the guys who did that script even knew about Croc, who at the time was fairly obscure for general audiences pre-BTAS) would be the Pre-Crisis clever brute gangster, who has very little in common with any depiction of the Penguin.

      1. Yeah, you’re pretty much right, though I would argue pre-Crisis Croc was fairly similar to Golden Age Penguin in a number of respects.*

        *Note: when I say “Golden Age Penguin” I pretty much mean “Detective Comics #58 Penguin”, who was as vicious as any Dick Tracy baddie of the era. I understand that he was immediately made cuddlier in his next appearance.

  12. Back when I was young, I enjoyed Iron man 2 when it first came out but I remember being slightly bored in the theater and feeling like the action scenes were too short and anticlimactic and the movie just kind of had a “It’s really nothing special or even really good, but I still kind of enjoy it” effect on me over time the more I watched it. In comparison though, Iron Man 3 was a better sequel, in my opinion.

    Looking forward to Thor, and here’s my short little opinion:

    Thor>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Thor: The Dark World.

  13. I absolutely hate this film. There’s so many things wrong with it. The story is nonexistent because barely anything happens in this movie, there are several things that aren’t explained, characters like Nick Fury and Black Widow are introduced horribly and the film is nothing more than one big advert for The Avengers. Definitely one of the worst superhero films I’ve ever seen.

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