To make a long story short (because I already told the long version of the story), the first Iron Man movie did so well at the box-office that Marvel chose to keep pressing forward with their cinematic universe despite The Incredible Hulk's lukewarm reception that same year. Iron Man 2 is the most important movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for that reason.
I mean, Iron Man was a really good movie. In a normal superhero movie franchise, the plot threads would be picked up for the sequel, and everybody would hope the second outing didn't completely suck. But Iron Man 2 not only had to stand up to comparison with Iron Man, it was the prototype for every subsequent movie in the MCU. It had to follow up on previous plot points, introduce new ones, build up elements for later events, and tell a satisfactory story on top of all that.
Let's face it, that's a tall order. Keep in mind, the very idea of a "cinematic universe" didn't really exist in popular culture until the end of The Incredible Hulk. There are one or two exceptions to this (like Kevin Smith's View Askew-niverse), but you were mostly limited to movies with buttloads of sequels or spin-offs, one-film crossovers like Freddy vs. Jason, and the classic Universal Monsters universe. The idea of having one big movie universe films wasn't cemented in popular culture (by which I mean "copied all the freakin' time") until after the MCU gave us Iron Man 2, like how the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is responsible for that annoying trend of splitting film adaptations of books into multiple parts.
But I'm getting off topic.
And add to all that the fact that a lot of people saw Iron Man but missed The Incredible Hulk (partially because they simply didn't realize they took place in the same universe), then this little film was under pressure that burns a building down. Splits a family in two. Puts people on streets. But people gave their love for Iron Man that one more chance. Let’s see how that turned out.
|"Iron Man 2"? This must have been before they decided upon subtitles for MCU sequels.|
|"What of telling a story that did not depend on the audience having seen an earlier film?"|
|"Then why not the first Avenger? Everybody recognizes Captain America."|
|"That's why they decided to suck up to China by shoving Fan Bingbing into that China-exclusive cut of Iron Man 3, right?"|
|"Well, I still say..."|
I know you've got something to say, too, Black Widow. Spit it out.
|"Nope. I'm actually a-okay with this film."|
|"Hmm. I wonder why. Could it have something to do with you and Fury hijacking the plot?"|
Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow returned for the sequel with relatively little drama. Samuel L. Jackson almost didn’t until he signed a nine picture contract. Sam Rockwell signed on as soon as possible to work with the film’s writer, and Mickey Rourke came along after they offered him more money.
But that's the boring stuff. Blah blah blah, everybody came back, right? You want to hear about Terrence Howard’s fallout with the studio, right? Well, I’ve heard tons of stories. Howard wanted more money, or he hated the first film, or Jon Favreau hated him, or whatever. All that’s known for certain is that Don Cheadle signed on to replace him, eager for the chance to possibly be the first black superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As for a certain femme fatale, Emily Blunt left the role to be in the Jack Black Gulliver’s Travels "adaptation," a move you can bet she wouldn’t have made had she any sense of foresight. After names like Natalie Portman, Angelina Jolie, and Jessica Alba were tossed around, the part went to Scarlett Johansson, who had aggressively campaigned for the role. This included dying her hair, making her literally Scarlet Johansson. Eliza Dushku campaigned for the role, too. And we all know where she ended up. Moral of the story: if you want a role with Marvel, hold out for live-action. Don't settle.
Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. wrote the story, which was eventually scripted by Justin Theroux, who came recommended by RDJ after they has worked together on Tropic Thunder. Some advice from writer Shane Black led them to model Stark’s character development after J. Robert Oppenheimer, who dubbed himself “the destroyer of worlds” after working on the Manhattan Project. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Genndy Tartakovsky of Samurai Jack/Sym-Bionic Titan fame as the storyboarder.
Originally, the idea with the Iron Man franchise would be to have the magic-ring wielding Mandarin in the first movie before building up to three movies in total, with Obadiah Stane as the ultimate villain in the third part. After it was decided that Obadiah would be a better villain for the first movie, the franchise was free to move in different directions.
As was teased by pretty much everyone involved with the first movie, the sequel dealt with Tony’s alcoholism, though it didn’t adapt the famous story arc “Demon in a Bottle.” Instead, the plot was essentially a merging of “Armor Wars” and its sequel, the aptly-named “Armor Wars II.”
|They both involved armors. And wars.|
|"Give the people what they want, I always say."|
Well, except for a certain major bit of meddling on Marvel's part that may or may not have been alluded to already. If you don't already know what I'm referring to, see if you can spot it as we go through the film. I'll talk about it in detail in the Review portion.
At the end of the day, though, Iron Man 2 can be described as “Iron Man, but bigger and more so.” More heroes, more villains, more Samuel L. Jackson. But was this too much of a good thing?
|Well, that's one way to respond to the criticism that there wasn't enough Iron Man in the movie.|
Coming up in Part 1: Tony Stark. Larger than life or barely alive?