Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell
Have I Seen it Before: Sure.
Did I Like It: Yes… But at the same time, it is in fair competition for the worst MCU movie so far.
Just as the original Iron Man (2008) is a great example of the need for shared cinematic universes to start with a great movie first, and then build from here, its sequel is a pointed example of where Marvel has occasionally mis-stepped, and the Distinguished Competition has wallowed. Too much of the movie is devoted to setting up future films. Indeed, the strangely turgid scenes featuring Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) make them seem like their in a waiting room for their future appointments with Thor and Captain America. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) has the same problem. See Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016) and even the supposed culmination of all their efforts, Justice League (2017), or really any DC film that isn’t Wonder Woman (2017) or, maybe, Aquaman (2018) for other examples.
The film feels less vibrant than its predecessor in other ways as well. I feel a need to not speak ill of any appearance of Robert Downey Jr. as the character, as it turns out those appearances are a non-renewable resource, but he feels less funny, more shackled to a pedestrian script here. It’s the last time it will feel this way, and is only more apparent as he continued to inhabit the role. Gone, too, is the visceral creative quality. The sequence of Stark creating a new element (?) is both tacked on and not nearly as satisfying as Stark’s initial creation of the suits in the first film.
And yet there are watchable elements to the movie. The idea of Sam Rockwell as a pale shadow of the cool watchability of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark is the film’s most fully realized idea, and Rockwell swings for the fences. It’s unfortunate that Justin Hammer couldn’t appear in other films, but it quickly becomes clear that Tony Stark is moving on to bigger and badder things.
It sounds like from the above that I am down on the film. It’s still insanely watchable. It’s just not their best effort.