I have only ever dedicated reviews to movies that I love so far in this blog. To do a review, however short, on a movie that I don’t like is unprecedented. But, that’s the sacrifice one must make if one is to rank the MCU from bottom to top. But, the point of this countdown is to get people to read my blog, not just know that it exists. So, I’ll try to keep it short and to the point.
This is by far the weakest of the MCU feature films. Its biggest strength is that it is longer than 14 minutes long. Otherwise, I would have been very tempted to put three or four of the Marvel One-Shot short films above it. One advantage that the One-Shots have is that if the movie is only between four and fourteen minutes, there is less time for things to get screwed up. Time, unfortunately, was not on the side of Iron Man 2.
About half an hour of that time was spent doing exactly what the MCU has been most criticized for: sacrificing important story elements for Easter Eggs designed to market future projects. It’s the most shaming form of product placement. Not only are they advertising products mid-film, but they are advertising their own products. This product placement crippled what might have been the most compelling story arc in the MCU.
We follow Tony Stark as he grapples not only with the demons he’s created (his only two nemeses to this point have utilized technologies he invented), but also with failing health as the very thing which is keeping him alive—the arc reactor in his chest—is also the very thing that is killing him. Along the way, certain Easter Eggs are thrown in (innocently enough) to give the audience a jolt of excitement: mentions of an “incident” in New Mexico and our first look at Captain America’s shield. Even the introduction of Black Widow was perfectly fine. But, for some reason, the studio didn’t think those innocent and legitimately fun tidbits were enough, so they chose to interrupt the ever-important middle part of the story arc to plug the Avengers Initiative, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Nick Fury with all their glory.
And, while that story arc could have been compelling—and was compelling, for about twenty minutes—it was poorly managed on the script side of things as it gave us a far less enjoyable version of Tony Stark himself. Being faced with these demons is important, but Tony had always been a master of his domain, even in those scenes in the cave in the first Iron Man movie. Seeing him be more of a victim took that important comedic element away from a performance that, two years before, was in the running for an Academy Award nomination.
And, lastly, in my gripes about this mostly weak film, I’ll bring up the bad guy. The biggest weakness of the first movie was that the bad guy, at the end of the day, didn’t live up to all the cool stuff leading up to him. Jeff Bridges is a great actor, but not necessarily a compelling super-villainous robot. You’d think that the writing staff would have learned from the one mistake they made in the first movie, but they didn’t. Instead, they made Whiplash, an even worse adversary for Stark, one with less power, and a far less interesting story.
So, in the end, I’ve got to give Iron Man 2 the lowest score of all the feature-length films. On the bright side though, I still put it ahead of all the short films, and I have my reason. Surely it’s not because it somehow automatically qualifies just because short films are inferior. If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that I am far more enlightened a critic of fine cinema than that. Some of the finest pieces of cinema ever made, like Chris Marker’s La Jetée, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr., and Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon, are exemplary short films. No, I choose to give Iron Man 2 the benefit of the doubt because, besides all its weaknesses, it still has an attempt at a compelling story. And, at times, that story really pays off. I can’t say the same about the next movie on this list.
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Next: #14: Thor: The Dark World (2013)