Marvel by Numbers: Iron Man 2

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Welcome back to part three! Today we’ve got our first sequel, and it’s a divisive one. It’s got some good and some not good, and audiences don’t often have a high opinion of it. But let’s see what the numbers say!

Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Overview: As Tony Stark struggles to find an alternative for the power source that once saved his life, and is now slowly killing him, he must face the truth about his father’s not-so-perfect past when the son of a Russian physicist tries to kill Tony.

Writing: 7/10

The partly-improvised dialogue from the first film is used here to good effect in a few scenes, but overall this one lacks the quotability of the first one. It feels like it’s trying too hard to be flippant, and it just doesn’t have the same effect.

The plot isn’t as tight or as well-paced, and the characters aren’t written with a lot of depth. It feels aimless, and I know Tony himself is somewhat aimless in this movie, but you don’t want your script to be without direction.

Style: 7/10

This one doesn’t have a lot of those heroic iconic shots that stick in your head. In terms of its look, it just sort of is. I feel like the filmmakers got too cocky with Iron Man and didn’t feel like they needed to put the same effort into this one. I do like the upgrades to the Iron Man design that we see (because we know Tony would never be happy with a finished product) but we don’t ever get to really get used to any one design because it’s quickly replaced.

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The music has a few cool moments, but for the most part, it blends into the background.

Overall, it doesn’t have the same visual charisma as the first one. It tries, but it just doesn’t gel.

The Villain: 8/10

We get two villains here, and I feel like they would have worked better if they had been reworked into a single memorable villain. Justin Hammer is a great foil for Tony Stark. He’s got the money and the ambition, but none of the charisma and intelligence, so he’s an entertaining character, but he’s not a threat by any means. Ergo, he’s ultimately a minor villain, but he gets all the characterization of a major villain.

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Then we’ve got Ivan Vanko, who has the great backstory tying his father to Tony’s father. He could be a great major villain, but again he’s set up as a blunt instrument that Justin hurls at Tony (and who ends up hurting both of them when he does his own thing). He gets the cool tech and he’s Tony’s equal in terms of intelligence and mechanical ingenuity, but he never really gets to be developed as a character.

If Tony had just faced Vanko, with Justin Hammer being a side character, it might have worked (or vice versa), but the two villains just aren’t able to occupy the same space and remain equally compelling.

Explosions: 5/10

Count: 38 (this is not at all accurate since everything explodes at the end)

The explosions in this one are just…not interesting. I mean, we get a whole bunch when the drones go crazy, but there’s no real cool moment of boom that stands out.

Favorite explosion: I guess when Tony blows up that big globe thingy.

The Hero’s Journey: 6/10

In terms of developing Tony as a character, literally nothing happens. He has such a great arc in the first movie, but in this one, his whole arc is getting back to where he was after his arc reactor poisons him almost to death. I like him discovering the new element and perfecting his suit, but that’s solving a technical problem, not growing as a character. He slips into a self-destructive spiral and then comes out of it, but he’s not changed by it much.

This movie does get points for introducing Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) who’s awesome. She STILL hasn’t gotten her own movie (sigh) so we have to appreciate her awesomeness when we can. She’s fully committed to her cover and when she needs to take out bad guys, she does it with crazy amounts of style. She’s immediately likable, and the audience really wants to know her story. She’s wonderful, even though she’s the minor-est of minor characters in this one.

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Score and Rank

1. Iron Man (43/50)

2. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)

3. Iron Man 2 (33/50) (ouch, last place…)


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