Iron Man 2 is a film released in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Released on May 7, 2010, it is the second film in the Iron Man franchise, and 3rd film in Phase 1 of the MCU. It stars Robert Downey Jr. as the titular hero, and was once again directed by Jon Favreau. The film was not as critically acclaimed as its predecessor, but was still successful at the box office, grossing over $620 million worldwide.
Following the huge success of 2008's Iron Man, talk of a sequel was inevitable. The original idea for the sequel was to involve an adaptation of the "Demon in a Bottle" storyline which would explore Tony's darker side and his battle with alcoholism, and also feature The Mandarin as his main adversary. However, while Favreau felt that the storyline was sound, he wanted to keep the villain as a lesser known foe. Plus he felt that The Mandarin had to be introduced once more fantasy elements of the MCU had been established. Eventually the decision was made to include a team of villains, as many of Iron Man's rogues gallery were not considered strong enough to stand on their own. Screenwriter Justin Theroux also decided to add an element of capitalist critique in the film, making the villains ex-employees of Stark Industries who had been laid off, inspired by the 2008 financial crisis.
All major actors were retained in their roles, with Mickey Rourke the first person signed on in the new film following the success of 2008's The Wrestler. Rourke would be joined by Cuba Gooding Jr, Marco Scarlotti and former WWE superstar Trish Stratus. Scarlett Johansson's was also signed early on, but details of her character were kept secret until the release of the first trailer, confirming that she was playing Black Widow and would go on to star in the next Marvel film released in 2010. Sam Rockwell later signed on as industrialist Justin Hammer to fill out the cast. Filming began in May of 2009, and finished in August of that same year.
Just after Tony Stark declares that all weapons manufacturing has been shut down at Stark Industries, layoffs begin to occur. Four men, Ivan Vanko, Donald Gill, Jr., Anthony Davis and Marco Scarlotti are among the individuals laid off from the company. All four curse Stark's name, swearing revenge on the company. However, in an attempt to raise capital for their newfound criminal enterprise, a bank heist goes south and Davis is killed.
Seven months later, Tony Stark has declared to the world that he is Iron Man and reinstates the Stark Expo of his father, bringing the best and brightest minds of the world together. After introducing the Expo with a thrilling entry via the Iron Man suit, Tony slinks away to the back and checks his blood, revealing that palladium poisoning is starting to take its toll due to overuse of the suit. Tony tries to leave the Expo with Happy Hogan, but is intercepted by a US marshal who serves him with a subpeona.
At a Congressional hearing, Senator Phillip Stern makes the case for having the Iron Man weapon turned over to the United States Government. Stark refuses, seeing as how the suit is his personal property. Stern drags out Lt. Col James Rhodes to point out a possible national security threat if Stark cannot foresee all possible threats, and has the military's new top weapons contractor, Justin Hammer, give a presentation on some prototypes of replicating the technology, though Stark embarrasses Hammer at the hearing, leaving to applause, as he says no one could possess technology like him for another ten to fifteen years.
Watching the hearing are Vanko, Gill and Scarlotti, who lament that despite having money, they have no way of striking at Stark. They are then approached by Leila Davis, the widow of their former partner, who explains that she hacked into Stark Industries and have acquired some blueprints they might be interested in. The four get to work building suits for themselves.
With his condition beginning to worsen, Stark begins selling off his art collection and other personal items. During a fight with Pepper, who doesn't know of his condition, Stark gets the brilliant idea of hiring Pepper as the new CEO of Stark Industries. As a result, he is forced to hire her a new personal assistant, who winds up being a young woman named Natalie Rushman. On a whim, Tony and Pepper fly to Monaco to view the Grand Prix race there. Blowing off an interview, Tony decides to race in the Grand Prix himself, but on the track he is confronted by Vanko, Gill and Scarlotti. Vanko pilots a suit similar in design to the Iron Monger, but obviously cruder in its armament. Gill has a makeshift suit that is capable of generating blasts of cryo-energy that interferes with Tony's suit. Scarlotti's suit has electrical whips which cause massive amounts of damage. Through the combined efforts of Tony in the Iron Man suit and Hogan and Pepper through driving, they barely manage to defeat the three who are arrested, but Tony's condition is exacerbated by the fight.
With further calls for the government to seize the Iron Man suit, Tony agrees to build a suit for use by Rhodey only. However he drags his fight on the design, and the alcoholism that has been abating the symptoms of his palladium poisoning begins to take a toll on his personal relationships. At Tony's birthday party a drunken Stark insults Pepper and also Rhodey, while wearing the Iron Man suit. Rhodes decides enough is enough and takes the prototype of the original Mark II suit to Andrews Air Force Base for study.
Meanwhile, Justin Hammer has used underworld connections to free the three ex-Stark employees from prison, also bringing Leila Davis into the fold. He offers them money if they will build suits like the Iron Man armor, which they begin to do, though also while working on suits for themselves. When Rhodey brings the Mark II suit to Andrews Air Force Base, Hammer abandons the plan and plans to sell the four down the river. Sensing that they are being betrayed, again, they rewrite the base programming of the Hammer Drones, and the new War Machine armor, while also fabricating their own suits that improve on the designs of the originals, Davis adopting an Insect-themed suit due to her study of entomology.
Meanwhile Tony is confronted by SHIELD director Nick Fury, who reveals that Rushman is in fact a deep cover agent known as Black Widow who has been assigned to shadow Stark and get him to work fixing his ARC reactor. After giving Stark some materials from his father (and having a discussion concerning said father), Stark gets back to work and discovers that Howard had intentionally laid out the floor-plan of the 1974 Stark Expo to match the atomic structure of a new element. Tony synthesizes the element, which serves as a viable replacement for palladium. Upon receiving a phone call from Davis concerning their plans for the Expo, at which Hammer intends to showcase the War Machine device, Tony flies off to confront the team, calling themselves the Wrecking Crew.
At the Expo, Davis remotely takes control of the Hammer Drones and the War Machine, chasing after Tony throughout the park. Pepper learns of Hammer's involvement, and Widow breaks her cover to travel to Hammer Industries to fight the group. There, she encounters Gill and Scarlotti, managing to defeat them with martial arts skills and a variety of high tech gadgets. However, Vanko and Davis have fled the scene. She remotely reboots Rhodey's armor, which crashes into a tropical pavilion. Together Rhodey and Stark destroy the remaining Hammer drones, when they are approached by Davis and Vanko. After a long fight, they manage to defeat both of them, killing Vanko in the process.
In a postlude, Stark comes clean about his condition to Pepper, but says that he's better now. Stark is approached by both Fury and Coulson, who make it clear that, while they see a need for Iron Man in the Avengers if need be, they plan to use Stark primarily as a consultant, given his volatile nature. He agrees to the proposition, provided that they get Senator Stern to humiliate himself by awarding him a medal, the same one he had laid claim to at the Congressional hearing before.
[We open on Stark's garage, seeing Tony and Rhodey huddled around a wireframe display of the Iron Man suit as various components are added to it and taken away from it. Tony loses the large chaingun mounted on the shoulder, drawing protest from Rhodey.]
Rhodes: I told you Tony you're leaving that on.
Stark: You sure about that pal? Cause it really makes you look like you're compensating for something.
Rhodes: Compensating? This coming from the guy with like 18 different hot rods?
Stark: Hey... a hot rod is a thing of beauty. That thing is an eyesore. I really think it should go.
Rhodes: Taken under advisement, now put it back on.
Stark: As you wish Princess Buttercup.
[Tony reluctantly adds the gun back, before moving to a color scheme.]
Stark: What are you thinking, something like red and gold? Red White and Blue Mr. America?
Rhodes: No...too flashy. How about something simple like a gun metal gray.
Stark: Simple would imply no chaingun.
Rhodes: Tony...keep the chaingun.
Stark: Fine, It's your armor anyway Mr. War Machine.
[The camera pans out as they continue to work on the armor.]
/ = / = / = /
[Fade in on the vast expanse of the New Mexico desert. A lone car travels down a dusty highway, seemingly alone for miles and miles. It slowly pulls up next to the edge of a crater that's surrounded by several other civilian trucks and cars. Agent Coulson steps out, surveying the situation, before pulling out his cellphone.]
Coulson: Director, we found the object we detected. I'll secure the perimeter and begin scientific analysis of it as soon as we can. You were right, this thing is stranger than anyone thought.
[We cut away to a scene inside the crater to see a large metal hammer embedded into the rock. The screen hard cuts to black on a clap of thunder, ending the scene.]
Summary of Changes
- There is an additional opening scene that details the history of the 4 villains in the film, including a botched bank robbery that sees one of the 4 laid off workers killed and his wife taking it personally. Though Ivan Vanko is also a villain in this film, his backstory is radically different from the mainline MCU.
- John Larroquette replaces Garry Shandling as Senator Stern in this film. However, Shandling would go on to play the grandfather of this Senator Stern in The First Avenger.
- Rather than invent the technology all on their own, the three main villains are approached by Leila Davis, who hacked into Stark's mainframe and got schematics from several pieces of Stark technology to build crude versions of their suits.
- Tony's alcoholism is more directly addressed in this film, particularly in the times when his palladium poisoning is at its height.
- Tony agrees to build a War Machine suit for Rhodes, rather than Rhodes outright stealing the suit. Rhodes only steals the suit when he thinks Tony "isn't really serious" about the War Machine project.
- The 4 villians call themselves the Wrecking Crew, though that is just a nod to the comics. The real Wrecking Crew are not present in this film.Their grudge against Stark takes a backseat to their desire for money, until Hammer starts planning on betraying them.
- Rather than fighting guards, Black Widow takes out Blizzard and Whiplash, who were guarding Hammer Industries to insure no one could interfere with their plans. They are taken alive and return in The Avengers.
- There is no rush to save Pepper from exploding Hammer drones in this film. In the end fight scene, Vanko is still killed, but Davis (as The Beetle) is taken alive and arrested.
- There is a brand new post-credits scene that has Stark and Rhodey working together to redesign the War Machine suit, with Rhodey suggesting the gray and silver color scheme.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man- A self-described billionaire playboy and philanthropist who fights against International terrorists using armored weapon suits of his own design.
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts- The assistant/girlfriend of Tony Stark, later made CEO of Stark Industries.
- Don Cheadle as Lt. Col James Rhodes/War Machine- Military Liaison with Stark Industries, who later commandeers a prototype suit of Stark's own design to help him fight the Wrecking Crew.
- Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer- Owner of Hammer Technologies, and industrial rival to Tony Stark, who breaks the Wrecking Crew out of jail following their capture and upgrades their technology.
- Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff- Initially hired as Stark's new assistant, she is in fact a deep cover SHIELD agent known by her codename of Black Widow.
- Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko/Crimson Dynamo- A Russian physicist and weapons designer laid off from Stark Industries following their departure from weapons manufacturing. Vanko stole the Iron Monger suit design from Stark Industries hard drive and reconstructed it using his own modifications.
- Cuba Gooding Jr. as Donald Gill, Jr./Blizzard- A former chemist laid off from Stark Industries, Gill uses experimental cryo-technology from Stark Industries to develop a suit that is capable of generating extreme cold around him.
- Falk Hentschel as Marco Scarlotti/Whiplash- A former electrical engineer laid off from Stark Industries, who utilizes stolen ARC reactor technology to create electrical whips of extreme power
- Trish Stratus as Leila Davis/The Beetle- The daughter of a former line worker at Stark Industries who uses her computer hacking skills to steal the Stark Technology the Wrecking Crew uses and also co-opts a suit of her own design from Justin Hammer.
- Clark Gregg as SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson- A SHIELD agent assigned to oversee Stark, later reassigned to the "Southwest Region."
- John Larroquette as US Senator Stern- A US Senator looking to acquire the Iron Man Armor for US Defense Purposes.
- Paul Bettany as J.A.R.V.I.S.- The AI system that operates both Tony Stark's house as well as acts as a HUD interface for the Iron Man suits.
In addition, Samuel L. Jackson, John Slattery and Jon Favreau reprise their roles as Nick Fury, Howard Stark and Harold "Happy" Hogan respectively. Al Madrigal also plays Anthony Davis early on in the film. Stan Lee appears in a cameo near the start of the film, playing Larry King. Journalists Anderson Cooper and Bill O'Reilly also cameo as themselves.
The film received generally favorable reviews upon its release, though it did not receive the same critical acclaim as the first Iron Man. Review site aggregator Rotten Tomatoes scored the film at 73% with an average rating of 6.5/10 out of 280 reviews. The site's critical consensus read, "It isn't quite the breath of fresh air that Iron Man was, but this sequel comes close with solid performances and an action-packed plot." Critics once again praised the performance of Robert Downey Jr, adding praise for the additions of Rockwell and Johansson to the cast, but criticized the film for having too many villains to go around, though most pointed to Gooding's performance as a stand-out.
Iron Man 2 opened to a first weekend gross of $128 million, which at the time was the fifth highest opening weekend of all time (unadjusted for inflation). The film also set a record for the highest opening weekend for a 2-D IMAX film, totaling 9.8 million dollars. By the end of its run, Iron Man 2 had scored a domestic total of 312.4 million dollars, contributing to a worldwide gross of $623.9 million.