Leading up to the release of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, we’re taking a look back at every element of the MCU thus far. This film is the culmination of everything that began with the first Iron Man film in 2008, and so we want to prepare you for what may be the biggest film of all time. We’ll dive into all 18 films released thus far, each of the TV series that are considered part of the MCU, and a selection of other shorts and comics considered canon within the MCU. Today we continue with our Countdown with the first sequel in the MCU, Iron Man 2.
Ask any fan of the MCU what the worst Marvel film is and they’ll probably tell you Iron Man 2. After the box office explosion from Iron Man and the mediocre success of The Incredible Hulk, Marvel’s next film would be a sequel to Iron Man. Iron Man 2 worked to continue the story of Tony Stark, expand the Marvel Universe, and take some big steps towards the first Avengers film. The biggest problem the film seems to have is that it’s constantly trying to do too much. The film starts strong with a few plotlines that could result in a perfect sequel, but as it moves towards the climax, a lot of events happen and make the film feel cluttered.
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)
The second Iron Man film sees Tony facing three major threats. One, he’s being poisoned by the arc reactor in his chest. Two, Justin Hammer has taken his weapons contract for the military and wants to bring Tony down completely. Three, Ivan Vanko, the son of Howard Stark’s old partner, wants to kill Tony. He tries to face all of this on his own and loses control, drinking heavily, and becoming increasingly destructive. Tony’s drinking habits have always been an issue for the character. The famous storyline, “Demon in a Bottle,” faced these head on. This film is probably the best we’ll see of that storyline.
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)
Pepper mostly works to help handle the Hammer storyline. Tony signs the company over to her, making her CEO. He hides the poisoning from her, and as his behavior becomes more destructive he essentially pushes her further away. Meanwhile, she hires an assistant for Tony, “Natalie Rushman” aka Natasha Romanoff. And when it’s revealed that Justin Hammer and the US Government are trying to replicate the Iron Man armor, she works to fight them from a legal standpoint. At the end of the film, she helps take down Hammer and gives up the role as CEO of Stark Industries.
Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle)
Tony’s best friend returns, this time played by Don Cheadle (after contract negotiations went south with Terrance Howard). Rhodey tries to be a voice of reason for Tony, and defend him to the US government. Tony gets drunk at his birthday party and uses the Iron Man suit for party tricks, so Rhodey takes an older Mark (version) of the Iron Man suit, fights Tony, and leaves with the suit. He takes it to a military base, and Hammer upgrades the suit for battle with every weapon he’s got. He becomes War Machine. At the end of the film he teams up with Tony to take down Whiplash, and while Tony says he’ll give him better weapons Rhodey states that he’s keeping the suit.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
Introduced as an Assistant for Tony named Natalie Rushman, she’s really a SHIELD agent, the superhero Black Widow. Her job is to assess Tony’s potential part in the Avengers Initiative and report back to Fury. She plays along with everything Tony wants until her identity is revealed. At the end of the film she infiltrates Hammer Industries headquarters, and helps to take out the Hammer drones.
Justin Hammer (Same Rockwell)
A long time competitor of Tony’s. Justin always seems to come up short whenever he tries to one up Tony. But his constant failures drive him forward. And when Tony decides he’s no longer making weapons, Hammer slides in to get the new Government weapons contract. Trying to make Iron Man-like suits for the military. Hammer frees Ivan Vanko out of prison and has him secretly help to create the suits, as he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He also help Rhodey create the War Machine suit. In the end Hammer is fooled by Vanko, as he makes drones that only he can control. Hammer brings them to the Stark Expo, a celebration of science and technology, to present them as his next big thing. When they turn on him he tries to help Pepper stop them, and ends up getting arrested.
Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Mickey Rourke)
The son of Howard Stark’s old partner Anton, left with nothing but his father’s notes and blue prints, he vows vengeance on the Stark family for ruining his father’s life. He creates an Arc reactor of his own, and an exo-suit that he brings to the Monaco Grand Prix, where Tony decides to personally drive the Stark car in the race. He fights Tony on the track, is arrested and then escapes thanks to Hammer. He works with Hammer to create working drones, and a suit for himself, all of which he uses to attack the Stark Expo and Tony. Tony and Rhodey take him down, and he blows himself up within the Expo.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)
After Tony’s birthday party, Fury shows up to reel him in. He reveals that Natasha is a SHIELD agent, and gives him something to help the side effects of the poisoning. He also supplies Tony with whatever he needs to fix himself, and explains that Howard Stark isn’t who Tony thought. His hope is to get Tony into shape so he can potentially still be part of the Avengers Initiative.
Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg)
Coulson shows up to “babysit” Tony when he’s attempting to find a cure for the poison. But he ends up having to leave to head to New Mexico.
Howard Stark (John Slattery)
We find out that Howard wasn’t the terrible father Tony remembered him as. Through Fury’s comments, and the bloopers from the Stark Expo film reels, Howard reveals that he loved Tony. He was on the brink of discovering something new, something important, but knew he couldn’t do it yet. So he left everything for Tony to see, hoping he would do amazing things. Through the film reels and the work Howard leaves behind, Tony is able to create a new element that cures him from the poisoning. Howard is also revealed as one of the founders of SHIELD.
Senator Stern (Garry Shandling)
A senator leading the Senate Armed Forces Committee which is trying to take the Iron Man suit from Tony so that Hammer can create copies for the military. He works closely with Hammer throughout the film, and isn’t exactly a good guy. We learn in Captain America: Winter Soldier that he’s secretly working for Hydra.
JARVIS (Paul Bettany)
Tony’s personal AI system that helps him coordinate everything he creates. Jarvis is also the operating software inside of the Iron Man suit and reports to Tony on the suit’s status. Jarvis is the only “person,” at first, to know that Tony is being poisoned.
Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau)
Tony’s bodyguard and chauffer returns, once again used primarily for comic relief. He boxes with Black Widow, gets Pepper safely out of Tony’s birthday party, and “helps” Black Widow infiltrate Hammer Industries headquarters at the end of the film.
Anton Vanko (Evgeniy Lazarev)
Though we only see him in the opening scenes of the film, as he dies, he is mentioned repeatedly as the man who helped Howard Stark create the Arc reactor. Anton is also seen in the TV series Agent Carter, helping Peggy Carter on her mission in the first episode.
Peter Parker (Max Favreau)
During the battle with the Hammer Drones at the Stark Expo, a little boy wearing an Iron Man mask, stands in front of a drone, pretending he’s Iron Man. Iron Man flies up behind him and takes out the drone, then flies off. It’s been retconned that this kid could be/is a young Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, played by director Jon Javreau’s son.
Howard Stark’s SHIELD Box/Notebook
Fury gives Tony a box of his father’s things from SHIELD. It contains film reels, notebooks, a newspaper talking about Anton Vanko, Maps, Captain America comics, Blueprints for an Arc Reactor, and some photos. The notebook contains drawings of designs for Cap’s Shield and notes on the Tesseract, aka the Space Stone. With that, we see out first glimpse of the Infinity Stones at play in the MCU.
Roxxon Oil Corporation
Featured on some trucks in the first Iron Man film, Roxxon is one of the sponsors for a car at the Manaco race. In the comics Roxxon has always been an evil corporation and was partly behind Tony’s parents’ death. The company is featured in Agent Carter, Iron Man 3, and other elements of the MCU.
When Tony is unpacking materials from SHIELD to make his particle accelerator, for his new element, some of the crates say Project Pegasus. This is the code name for SHIELD’s work on the Tesseract.
Captain America’s Shield
When Tony is creating his new element, Coulson finds the Captain America shield prototype, and Tony uses it to help prop up the particle accelerator.
When Vanko gets a passport and other materials to head to Manaco, he’s given them by a member of the Ten Rings. The terrorist organization that kidnapped Tony in Iron Man 1.
At the end of the film Fury meets with Tony to discuss his status as a member of the Avengers. In the background there are monitors featuring news footage of the Hulk’s battle with General Ross at Culver University, and a map of locations of interest. One of the locations on the map is a spot in Africa, Wakanda, the home of Black Panther. There’s also a location on the map in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Some believed this could be the home of Namor the Submariner, but as of now it’s more likely the maximum security underwater prison, The Raft, seen at the end of Captain America: Civil War.
In the post credits scene we see Coulson arrive in New Mexico, at the site where Mjolnir lands after being thrown through the bifrost by Odin.
Iron Man 2 is a very full film. With a lot of characters, a lot of ties to other MCU elements, and a lot going on at all times. The film constantly feels messy because of it. But Favreau does his best to keep it together. It’s definitely one of the lesser films in the MCU. But it’s still a decent film, and better than a lot of other big budget films out there.
From here we head into a more cosmic end of the MCU. With the introduction of not only one of the other Avengers, but also one of the MCU’s best villains, Loki. Keep following Poor Man’s Spoiler for that and all of our Infinity War coverage leading up to the release of the film on April 27th!