Monday, April 13, 2015

Recap: "Iron Man 2" Intro

Today, it's time to look at the first sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Unless you count The Incredible Hulk, but that's kind of a resebootquelseboot. ...quel.) And this sequel had quite a legacy to live up to. Iron Man was one of the most popular movies of 2008. And considering that Iron Man had to duel with the nigh-cultural movement that was The Dark Knight, that's pretty darn impressive.

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.
Logically speaking, Iron Man 2 was the perfect film to start laying foundations for the MCU after Marvel decided to plow full steam ahead. I mean, what could have been better than bringing back a fan-favorite protagonist?
"What of telling a story that did not depend on the audience having seen an earlier film?"
That could have worked, I guess, but Marvel really needed the Iron Man name recognition to really sell this idea.

"Then why not the first Avenger? Everybody recognizes Captain America."
Yeah, well, the whole "Captain America" thing doesn't do too well internationally. Iron Man's been popular the world over ever since the first film.

"That's why they decided to suck up to China by shoving Fan Bingbing into that China-exclusive cut of Iron Man 3, right?"
Look, I'm trying to talk about Iron Man 2. Is that alright with you guys?

"Well, I still say..."
Out! Now!


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?"
Hey, you're jumping the gun on the Review.


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.
Long story short, the first one was about Iron Man going after Justin Hammer, who was bankrolling armor-wearing villains in exchange for a cut of the profit, and the second was about someone claiming that Tony’s Iron Man suit is based off of stolen ideas and it ends in a big armored battle, as you might expect.

"Give the people what they want, I always say."
You might notice that this Intro is speeding by quickly compared to the one for the first film, and you'd be absolutely right. Everything was pretty much straightforward; the casting (except for the whole Terrence Howard ordeal), the writing, the film making, et cetera. Everything was as smooth as butter.

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.
The sequel boasted more-than-decent numbers, but the reviews were considerably lacking when compared to the first film. Now, Iron Man 2 is an all but forgotten entry in the MCU. Not to the extent of The Incredible Hulk, though. Not by a long shot. So where did this film go wrong? Were people simply expecting it to be better than it was? Were the crowds unpleasable? Was this film simply a train wreck? Let’s find out.

Coming up in Part 1: Tony Stark. Larger than life or barely alive?

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