In the superhero film genre, there seems to be the constant that every hero must spend part of the second or third film of a series questioning who they have become and the purpose of their powers. This idea extends back at least to the original run of Spider-Man comics, with the famed "Spidey No More" issue. While the idea makes sense from a structural perspective, it almost invariably leads to a boring, predictable sequence in which all the hero has built crumbles and his opponent builds his own power in the hero's place. In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark succumbs to one of the longest, most inexplicable, and most pointless of these periods yet scene in the past decade's resurgence of the superhero genre. The filmmakers briefly create a substance abuse problem, reminiscent of the great issues of the Iron Man comic series in which Tony Stark deals with alcohol abuse, without giving Stark much in the way of a
reason for his descent besides a vague sense of displeasure with his father. Unfortunately, this decision weighs down the whole film. The first Iron Man film succeeded due to the charisma of Robert Downey, Jr., the fun toys of Stark Industries, and the banter between Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts. When Downey is allowed to shine, his charisma is in full force, but since he spends so much of the film mired in self pity, the film loses its greatest asset.
In general, Iron Man 2 suffers from too much going on. We have Pepper Potts taking over Stark Industries, Don Cheadle's James Rhodes turning into War Machine, Mickey Rourke doing what he does as the big bad Whiplash, Samuel L. Jackson popping in and out as Nick Fury, Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson appearing with little justification, and Scarlett Johansson laying low until the final scenes when she can turn into Black Widow. Lost in all of this is Tony Stark himself. The keepers of the Marvel Universe are focusing so much on laying the necessary groundwork for the upcoming Avengers films that Iron Man 2 seems to be little more than a prequel, instead of a sequel to a very fun and highly successful film.
What Iron Man 2 had most in common with the original Iron Man is a lack of an inspired action climax. The film's first set action set piece at the Monaco Grand Prix is impressive and exciting, but the finale is dull and boring, much like the original film's finale. Perhaps it is because the audience cannot see the faces of the characters during the big fight, or perhaps it is because two men fighting in perceivably invincible suits does not make for great drama, but the staging of the scene is also at fault. Jon Favreau doesn't create any sense of motion or drama in the final battle scene, causing the film to fizzle out until the post-credits denouement.
Iron Man 2 received a single Academy Award nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, and Daniel Sudick). The film boasts outstanding visual effects, exactly what one would expect from the films of the Marvel Universe. The film was beaten by the effects of Inception, and though Iron Man 2 might have won in another year, the massive creativity behind the concept and execution of Inception allowed the visual effects team far more leeway to create truly awe-inspiring effects than did the team behind Iron Man 2.
Remaining: 3172 films, 882 Oscars, 5459 nominations