During all of the press surrounding Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson criticised the film in which she made her first MCU appearance. Johansson spoke out about the “hypersexualisation” of her character during the film. Of course, she didn’t have an awful lot to say about Joss Whedon’s decision to focus on her arse as much as possible during Avengers but never mind. It’s not like you can disagree with her. Everything about Nat’s first appearance in this franchise problematic when you look back. First and foremost, the way she looks. It’s her worst look by far and speaks to the male gaze that comes from the comic books. That awful red wig doesn’t really work and makes Johansson look much less beautiful than she really is. Yes, she’s still one of the best looking people on the planet so it’s all relative. Now with all of this talk of Iron Man 2, I decided it was time to go back and rewatch it.
I’ve been pretty decisive that the Iron Man sequel is the worst movie in the MCU. It’s been a while since I last ranked all of the movies and there have been plenty of new one since. However, I was adamant that Iron Man 2 would always hold the top spot. However, I like to be informed about these things, so I knew that I would have to rewatch it first. After all, it’s possible that I might have changed my mind. Or that the years have been very good to it. It was doubtful but I had to try. I don’t think I’ve watched this since the first time. It was one of those where once was more than enough. I’d vowed never to watch it again.
So what came of the second viewing? Has my opinion changed? Not much. I admit that it’s probably not as bad as I’d built up in my head but I can’t say that it was worth a rewatch. Iron Man hasn’t exactly aged well as the MCU got bigger but it does, at least, have a sense of fun about it. The sequel just doesn’t have that. Don’t get me wrong, Tony Stark is just as much fun as he always is but the rest of the film can’t ever catch up. Just remember what things were like in 2010. Iron Man had been dismissed by everyone before its release but then it blew everyone away. It kickstarted a new wave of comic book movies and made Robert Downey Jr. a huge star. The anticipation for the sequel was high.
It’s not as if Iron Man 2 doesn’t try to be fun. Director Jon Favreau clearly favours the humorous approach and tries to get as much comedy out of it as possible. It just doesn’t quite work with all of the darkness within this film. It makes everything seem so ridiculous and unthreatening. We’re so busy focusing on sexy cheerleaders or leering over Scarlett Johannsson that the villain never gets a look in. This is just another day at the office for Tony Stark and there is never a moment when you doubt that he will win. It all just kind of happens.
Then there’s the fact that it all feels so familiar. This is way before Marvel got stuck on the whole sky fight and huge aircraft crashing to Earth ending. However, you can still see the repetitive attitude at play. Iron Man ended with two huge metal men fighting each other. Iron Man 2 ends with 2 metal men fighting each other. It’s a shame that it doesn’t try and do anything braver. It just goes for the easy option. And it gets too bogged down in setting up Avengers. We just get a constant stream of references and in-jokes that will set up the ensemble piece that was to be released 2 years after this one. Things really never change.
It’s not as if this film didn’t have potential. With the cast gathered here, it could have been amazing. Sam Rockwell was wasted in his role as a rival weapons manufacturer. He never feels like a developed character and just tries to be Tony Stark 2.0. Evil Tony. It just doesn’t work. Then there’s the real villain of the piece played by Mickey Rourke. Again, he has potential but he never gets a chance. The sequence at the Monaco Gran Prix is impressive but that’s all he really does. The rest of the time, he’s sitting around inventing or manning drones. It’s disappointing. And that’s before we even start to unpack how they treat Black Widow. I lost count of the times that we unnecessarily saw her in her underwear. There’s also a weird scene where Nick Fury puts his arm round her when they’re briefing Tony. It’s just a weird choice and it really sticks out. It’s good to see that Nat was at least given a bit more respect after this.
So, have I changed my mind about this film? Not really. Is it definitely the worst film in the MCU. Maybe. I have to admit, rewatching Thor The Dark World definitely made me think. I gave that film way too much of a pass because of my love for Tom Hiddleston. It’s one to think about before I post my updated ranking. There are so many films to consider. I’ll have to take a week of and just watch them all in chronological order.