Monday, September 16, 2013

Iron Man 2 (2010): Character Review

SPOILER WARNING: This film came out over three years ago, so if you're bothered by
spoilers than this this not the place for you. Seriously, turn around and don't look back if you don't want to read a VERY extensive review that spoilers every plot point in the film!!!

Tony Stark / Iron Man

Portrayed by Robert Downey Jr.
   When we last saw Tony Stark at the end of 'Iron Man', he announced to the whole world that he was in fact a superhero that was more than capable of handing himself and some of the problems in the world but as we soon find out this new power has come with a price. Tony is now suffering from the effects of putting the palladium-sourced arc reactor that he put into his chest nearly nine months ago (was in the cave for three months + six months since the end of 'Iron Man') but he is doing everything he can to hide it from not just his support structure of friends, but also from himself. Stark's character from 'Iron Man 2' is a continuation from his character that we saw during the first film: selfish, absorbed, self-centered... and every other synonymous description you can come up with, but he's even more selfish because while he overcame his demons of supplying weapons to whatever military could get their hands on, he is now fighting the demons of coming to terms with the possibility he may be dead soon and doesn't want to bring down anyone else with the fact of his condition. We get to see Tony really taken down a few notches, exposing the weaknesses of his over confidence by getting his butt kicked by Vanko and by the poison in his chest slowly killing him, exposing the cracks of his close relationships with Pepper and Rhodey, and exposing the emotional memories that growing up with Howard Stark had left.

As I mentioned, this film shows a great progression of Tony Stark from what we say in the first film. He started out as a man who wanted to redeem himself and his company for what they were doing when it came to supplying munitions, so he became a hero and single handily brought peace back to the world (or so he thought) and at the end of the first film it was a "Fuck yeah!" moment with him proclaiming he was a super-hero, but we see that with one thing that was supposed to keep him alive, his arc reactor, is also what is killing him. Tony does a pretty good job hiding this condition from everyone around him, especially with how adamant he is at the senate hearing over whether or not he should hand over his Iron Man armor to the US government, especially when he yet again shows off his technical prowess / cleverness in exposing how incompetent other nations are at copying Stark's armor and rightfully embarrassing Justin Hammer; he handles himself extremely well during the hearing and shows how much of a buffoon Senator Stern is.  I see a lot over the internet that people try to say we see a bit of the infamous "Demon in a Bottle" story-line in this film because he is drinking back-stage while at the Stark Expo, but I really don't see it. Yes, we see him get drunk in the film but it doesn't develop more into that.  Tony does get drunk at his birthday party but he figures this is his last one, so why not go off the deep end and do whatever he wants, right?? Well, after nearly getting his butt kicked by allowing Rhodey to take the Mark II armor -- one thing that pisses me off online... people try to say that it makes no sense for Tony to have his suit taken from him... but the film spells it out that Tony has strict security protocols to prevent this which just further cements the fact that he DID give it away, just like his art collection and his watch for a basket of strawberries--Tony continues to go on thinking that he doesn't need anyone else but after having a nice chat with Nick Fury (along with some medical treatment from Black Widow), SHIELD decides it's best to try to lock Tony down in his lab, muddle over his dad's possessions, and try to discover a replacement element to power his "new heart".  One thing that really made me feel more for Tony was when he was talking about his dad: how his dad never said he cared or loved his son, sent him off to boarding school... Tony really believed his own father didn't love him.. you could see sadness in Tony's eyes and really get a better picture as to why he feels like he has to be alone, because all his life, he actually believed this to be the truth. I truly felt sad for Tony during all of this because looking back, there was always this thing in the back of my mind that no matter how awesome I thought he was, you always got this sense of "jack-ass-ery" when he does something because it always came off as he didn't really care about the long term impact of his words or actions. You even get to see more of this as he goes over his dad's recordings of first chastising younger Tony and then first speaking directly to the camera and expressing his true feelings about his son. I don't know if this is poor writing or not, but I kinda don't believe that this would have been the only time for Howard Stark to express love or hope for his child... what purpose did ignoring his son all of these years really do? Was it to inspire him? Was it to punish him? This aspect of their relationship sadly is left unexplored beyond Tony creating the new element and "still being schooled" by his dad.

Character Final Summary: Tony's arrogance from the first film blows up in his face in 'Iron Man 2' as he thinks he can do everything by himself. We see real human emotion from fear of losing everything and everyone important to him, and it takes words and lessons from his deceased father to motivate him that he can overcome his selfishness. By the end of the film, we see Tony Stark rebuild his relationship with his previously mentioned dead dad, Pepper Potts, and Rhodes.

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Silver on Red just... looks better for some reason

   "Woah J, you're skipping the Mark IV... have you lost your mind?!".. No silly brains, I have not. Yes, there are some small design differences between the Mark III and Mark IV suits, but they are easily forgettable and unless you study them up close you're not really going to notice any differences and let's face it, the suit isn't really in the film enough to warrant a review. Sorry!  Anyways, the Mark V is much different than any other armor we've seen (at this point) yet. The personality of the Mark V is kinda in your face... it's light, compact, bold with it's color scheme... and for a suit that is supposed to be lightweight it sure knows how to take a beating. I actually find the Mark V more intimidating than any other suit... except for some of the suits we see in 'Iron Man 3'... to me it's a ready-to-kick-ass suit. Now, don't get me wrong... I also loved the Mark II in an almost similar way.. maybe it's the silver / chrome? It feels more tactical than the flaunting of the red/gold combination that seems to dominate most of these armors in all four appearances of Iron Man.

   The first appearance of a suit-case based armor debuted in Tales of Suspense, #40... and while that was the first time readers got a glimpse of the brief case, it turns out most of Tony Stark's armors were collapsible so it wasn't just exclusive to one armor. Now, obviously there are a lot of questions when it comes to this.. aren't the armors incredible heavy? Is there some sort of dimensional rift created that allows the carrier to walk around with this thing with little to no strain on their muscles? Does this mean the armor is weaker than non-folding armor? Can a you fit a car in there??


I don't think Wonder Woman would be happy with this pose... 

This suit is the strongest, the fastest, the best that Iron Man 2 has to offer, and takes advantage of the Mark III Arc Reactor and it's back to red and gold... blah blah blah...  I really don't find this suit to be all that much different than the Mark III and Mark IV armors, but the return to the classic color scheme makes it feel "classic". Obviously inspired by the Extremis suit from, the Mark VI does give Tony a nice morale boost that he was sorely lacking through out the entire movie, making the character represent Tony's liberation and come back from his near death. I mean think about it... at the beginning of the film Tony seemed like he could do anything, but we find out he is really a weak man from sickness and weak in the fact that he couldn't be big enough to work together because if he had let Pepper or Rhodey know maybe he could have had support and wouldn't have to do everything solo. This suit represents the opposite of that: he has a new suit to celebrate a new chance at life, he overcomes his lone wolf status by working together with Rhodey and really ends his arc, at least in the second movie, on a pretty good note.

   As I mentioned earlier, the Mark VI is not exactly the same as the Mark VI that was in the comics... no, in fact the design comes from the always awesome Adi Granov and his art for the 2005 to 2006 series written by Warren Ellis. I'm not usually the type of person who would say something like this... but this is one thing I wish they didn't really adapt from the comics. Don't get me wrong, I loved the Extremis story line and all, but I think for Iron Man 2 they shouldn't have put in this design... I'm not saying the design sucks or anything like that, but for his second outing do they really have to jump ahead to the triangle design? After watching 'Iron Man 3', I think it would have been more appropriate for that story since it's actually based on Extremis...

Character Final Summary: Mark V is a bad-ass ass-kicking suit that ultimately gets kicked in the balls too much during the first encounter with Whiplash while the Mark VI is totally the come back kid... and regardless of my opinion with the design choice for Mark VI being based on the Extremis Suit, it is powerful enough and cool enough to show yet another copy-cat on how a  high-tech prosthesis is really done.

Ivan Vanko / Whiplash

Portrayed by Mickey Rourke
   When we are first introduced to Ivan Vanko, we see his dying father Anton watching Tony Stark's press conference and admitting that he is in fact Iron Man... and at the same time we see the last glimmer of life force that is inside his soul just give up... then he calls to his son and somehow you feel a sense of regret in his that his Ivan wasn't the prodigal child that life had granted the offspring of Anton Vanko's former partner. During the opening credits, we see a man determined... paralleling Tony Stark's own determination we saw during the first Iron Man film and much like Tony Stark, Ivan Vanko is also trying to escape and redeem himself and the legacy left by his father, but we take that and flip it on it's head. He is out for revenge, to show the world that not only did his father help create the arc reactor and indirectly became responsible for the Mark I armor... but also that Vanko needs to rise up and take Stark down a few notches, "make God bleed". I really love Rourke's performance as the amalgam of Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo from the comics... you can tell he was really in the role other than the amazing tattoo work and method acting he did to prepare for this role: loving his dad, hating the child of the man that turned on his father, trying to reclaim his father's legacy... the man just gives us so much emotion in this role and then once the whole Monaco sequence happens, then the ploy for faking his death happens and suddenly it feels like this sob story just ends when he starts working behind the scenes with Justin Hammer. There was so much damn character development that was so brilliantly played and then they just practically drop it and it becomes nothing but cold, senseless revenge. Is it because Stark embarrassed him again? Did the ride over in that van from the prison to Hammer's hangar some how damage his brain and lose all emotion? I get that he wanted his bird, but the emotion just wasn't there for this character beyond that. Now there are a couple of things I did like, such as how he used Hammer, the US government and such for his own personal gain... the determination was still there but it felt like the motivation had changed.

   There is one burning question I have after watching this film time and time again... when Hammer called up Vanko and asked him how the suits were, he said they could do presentation but not demonstration and they could only salute... what purpose did this lie have? If he told Hammer that the suits could do a demonstration, how would it have effected the final battle? Hammer would have been happy and they would have expecting a demonstration but it would have had no difference on the end! Just because I have some issues with the character, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate what the film does to adapt this character.. .Anton Vanko obviously being the original Crimson Dynamo from the comics and weirdly being resurrected as a new version of Whiplash. I like the adaption of what he came in the film, up to a point. I wasn't a big fan of the weird electric-bondage thing going on during the first battle (I do however like how his disguise just burns off his body, that was pretty cool!)... but the Whiplash Mk II armor was pretty f'n cool... taking the Hammer Drone design, more powerful whips and blowing all sorts of shit up with his final trap of self destruct... even if that has been played out more times than I care to remember. 

Character Final Summary: This character was brilliant in the first act, reduced to almost laughable villain by the final act of the film which seems to be the same that that happened to Stane from the first film. I really felt attached to this character from the beginning of the film, very sad for the character and what he experienced in life and really could have had a better life if his father hadn't been such a dick when it came to national secrets... hell, I was rooting for him all the way until he got his bird back... but then he was classic comic book. I know, I know... this is a COMIC BOOK film, but it's also a FILM and I expect a level of character development when it comes to our villans.

Senator Stern

Portrayed by Garry Shandling
   We only get very little of Senator Stern in this movie, but the little we get is oh-so amazing. The easiest way to describe Stern is obviously he is a government man with government interests, so much that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to get what he wants within those government interests. In 'Iron Man 2: Public Identity', the prequel lead in to the film, we saw Stern talking to Rhodey about how he was worried that Stark was an un-predictable element to "national security" and how he was well aware of Justin Hammer's efforts to re-create the success of the Iron Man suit which gives us a better insight to his smugness. Senator Stern is like one of those really small dogs with a really loud bark... might sound fierce, gives the outward appearance that are tough and that they are a big dog but when a bigger dog comes showing their teeth the smaller of the two dogs backs down with its tail between its legs. Just watching him demanding for Stark's armor, feeling confidence when he calls Rhodey to the stand and going on and on about how it's dangerous for something so powerful to be out of government control... and then as Stark hacks into the system to show how other nations (and Justin Hammer) aren't really doing so well when it comes to developing their own tech... you can just see Stern getting flustered due to being caught off guard and in his own lie, I just love it. The next time we see the Senator is when he is in an interview with MSNBC after the Monaco attack and you can just tell he is loving that he believes he was right all along as if everyone else is as technically knowledgeable as Ivan Vanko and that every man or woman can build arc reactors all willy-nilly... let's face it, government officials usually are not experts in this area of technology.

   Some people might describe Senator Stern as a pompous, bureaucratic government jack-ass who just wants to grab anything or anyone he can for their self interests but as the film progresses and we see him at the end, sticking it to Tony Stark during their award ceremony you can kind of put yourself in his shoes as the events have played out through the whole film and realize that while he may have been wrong in the end, his concerns are valid... other guys in suits are a danger and there may be nay-sayers out there that think it's a bad idea for a hero in a suit who has typically fought other guys in suits is a bad idea on film, but that is what Iron Man has typically fought.

Character Final Summary: Senator Stern's motives may seem influenced likely by money that has traded hands under the table, but his concerns are valid: Stark's armor IS dangerous, and there are others out there that can replicate the weapon to a degree and while his role is representing the boogie man of "big government wanting more regulation", he may have only been in it for his personal gain as he did know about Hammer's attempt and contract to build suits. I'm glad we'll see him in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and if he turns out to be a HYDRA sleep cell, then his character points might make a little bit more sense.

Lt. Col James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine

Portrayed by Don Cheadle
This is the actor that James Rhodes really deserved... I wish we had him from the beginning of the Iron Man series, but alas we had the horrible Terrence Howard-performance. It hurts the films by having different actors as it requires the audience to keep up the suspension of beliefs more than we're already having to do... I'll go more into this with my next review, which will be 'The Incredible Hulk'.. OK, so Cheadle is here and we have to deal with it. Rhodey is more serious in this film, more composed and less complain-y than he was from the first film. You can tell immediately that this man takes his job very seriously and doesn't want Tony to ruin his life anymore than he already has. If I would say there was one thing that was significantly improved in this film over the original it is Rhodey... he actually feels like someone who is in the military, knows and loves his job but he also takes his friendship with Tony Stark very seriously, so much that he feels he has to kick his best friend's ass just to knock some sense into him... you didn't even get a hint of that from the first film...

   I know, I know... I complain a lot about how I felt that Terrence Howard's performance in 'Iron Man' was, in my opinion, just utter crap.  I didn't see Terrence Howard even come close to  the performance that Don Cheadle gave us in 'Iron Man 2'... I just felt his performance was bounds above better than his predecessor... and that isn't even counting his dialog! Heck, even how he looked him uniform LOOKED real and really helped better establish the character. This doesn't mean he was completely serious all the time because when appropriate, he can make jokes but can switch to full serious mode in a heartbeat if needed. Everything from his ability to keep up the pace with Tony's wit to countering Justin Hammer's jokes when arming the Mk II... all without saying a word until the end. If you compare the character of James Rhodes from Iron Man 2 with Iron Man... it's like watching a different person (which of course, it is!). Plus on top of that, we finally get to see how bad-ass War Machine is. I am really glad that they added all of that extra armor to the Mk II suit... the shoulders stick out a little bit taller, the pain job is much more subtle with the mixture of grey and silver... the glowing red eyes... just completely intimidating in every way you can imagine. If it was not for the interference of Vanko putting a backdoor program into this suit and hacking it to control it... I guarantee you that if this suit fought Tony's Mark VI, this suit will undoubtedly come out the victor as this suit has more than enough firepower to probably take out three or four Mark VI suits... hell, it probably could take out the Mark 42 from Iron Man 3 with all visual sensors being offline! You definitely don't want to run into War Machine on a bad day because you will be fucked.

Character Final Summary: Rhodey in Iron Man 2 will hopefully make you forget how bad his character was in the first film... this Rhodes is serious, dedicated to his friend, and really does good to what he feels is best without turning his back on his morals.  Once Rhodey is in full War Machine get-up, this is one piece of arsenal that is top of the line and could stand its ground with little effort... heck, during the final battle I swear I saw this suit take out more drones than Iron Man himself! My favorite suit in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe just based on its presence!

Justin Hammer

Portrayed by Sam Rockwell
   I really don't know where to begin with this character as there are so many things that could be said by Sam Rockwell's version of Justin Hammer. I guess the best way to start is to talk about how his character varies from the version we see in comics. Justin Hammer is still a business rival in the comics, but he is an old man who has the past literally stolen Stark technology via corporate espionage... either directly or indirectly. On film he is a much younger man, full of energy and hope... yet gets his hopes and dreams squashed every time he is about to get ahead.

   Justin Hammer reminds me of that guy who wants to be everyone's friend, even if they don't like them... he wants to be their friend just for the sake of appearing to get along with everyone, make everyone happy... be on the popular side of things... he's much like that preppy kid in high school who just wanted to fit in, even if it didn't match his own personal feelings as he really wanted to be, and probably thought it as well, better than everyone else. Just a quick rundown of some of the things he said or did to make him look good: praised Tony, praised Tony's dad, praised Iron Man, praise Vanko, praised War Machine... publicly he said nothing but good things ... but behind closed doors, he really envied Tony Stark, really disliked what he stood for... here is this guy that is just super smart, super successful, has a godly piece of weapons tech and for all your efforts, you can't even get close to what that other guy has so instead you do anything and everything to get ahead... you see some guy kick Tony Stark's ass and you want to beat him so bad you go ahead and fake someone's death and use their knowledge and the impression they left on you to your own personal gain... he's a sneaky snake who thinks they will finally get the chance to one-up your rival... but you're so into yourself and your plans that you can't even realize that the guy you snagged to help you is turning on you because you care too much about your pride, your money and your reputation... that is Justin Hammer. OH, and a big THANKS to the producers for NOT KILLING HIM OFF. Please, PLEASE give us more Justin Hammer in future films because Rockwell just chews it up in every scene he is... he was definitely one of the top three highlights of the film for me.. the only thing that really bugged me is that we got tons of screen time during the beginning and then it just kinda dwindled... not as bad as Rourke's performance as Whiplash... but it was definitely noticed by the time we got to the final reel of the film.

Character Final Summary: As I mentioned, Sam Rockwell just really nails this part perfectly... you're supposed to hate this guy but I think the audience just fell in love with him even when he is trying to weasel himself into the good graces of everyone he meets but in reality he only cares about his reputation. Justin Hammer doesn't die (thank goodness!) which means there is a pretty good chance we'll see him in an upcoming Marvel Studios film.

Happy Hogan

Portrayed by Jon Favreau
Thank you Favreau for putting yourself in this film more than you did the first one. Happy Hogan's role is expanded in the second than it was in the first and for that... I am very grateful. We really get to see Happy's role as chauffeur/security/best friend really shine in 'Iron Man 2', as I really felt his character at first was just there just to say to the audiences, "Hai guyz, remember this guy from the comics?!? There he is! Oh, there he is again!", and I felt that was just a bit of lazy writing from the studio but here in the sequel he feels more important in not just the daily life at Stark Industries, but a good companion. Let's go over a brief checklist on how Happy is different in this film: friendly, loving, cock, flirty, eager, engaging, and so on. From the very beginning he is super gung-ho for his boss at the Stark expo and he really has a real "wing-man" vibe, you know? I especially like his interactions after the Black Widow shows up in the film.. he's thinking that he can show this pretty dainty thing a couple of moves, impress her and probably make her swoon but no... that doesn't happen. I guess the best way to really describe Happy Hogan, which is really noticeable during the final acts of the picture, is he is the comedic relief of the film (and I have no problem with this)... now, that isn't to take away from the funny things that Stark and Hammer do in the film because what they do is unique, but Happy as the gung-ho/go-getter type of guy really feels like he can be amazing like Tony Stark is, sans suit of course. When Happy and Widow get to Justin Hammer's warehouse he is ready to kick some ass, and while he pulls some pretty cool moves, he really takes down just one guy.. admit you, you laughed, everyone laughed and I'm happy that they used this character as a way for audiences to just sit back and laugh their asses off.

   His role really seems to switch gears after Tony gives Pepper the role of CEO of Stark Industries, because he isn't really Tony's buddy after that... you know, the "lost both kids in the divorce" line he throws out when he is supposed to be under the watchful eye of SHIELD... you can just see in Happy's eyes and body language that he does feel bad, and even kinda awkward about the whole situation going on between Pepper and Tony... this is another reason why I can connect with the characters in the film so well because even though we are peering into a really small fraction of their lives you can really feel that there is chemistry with everyone, bad or good, and it makes that sense of realism or grounding that directors like to talk about so much seem genuine and that really makes the film better.

Character Final Summary: Thank you Jon Favreau for utilizing this character the best way you could within the limitations of the time you had to work with for this movie. Happy Hogan was just sorta there the first time, but the second go-around got to see how Happy is a dedicated employee, a good friend, a little bit perv, and a man who spends 10 minutes just to knock one guy out. Now as for Happy's role in 'Iron Man 3'...yeeeaah, we'll talk about that later.

Pepper Potts

Portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow 
   If there was one character in this film that could be described as grown up it is Pepper Potts. In 'Iron Man' she was still the scared, but motivated personal babysitter and by the end of the movie Pepper realized that she was most certainly going to be a part of something much bigger than she could ever imagine. Once we see Pepper come into the story of 'Iron Man 2' she is flustered and beyond exhaustion with the continuing self-destructive actions by Tony Stark and what it means for the whole company as it is apparent at this point that it is not Stark who is running day to day operations of Stark Industries (due to being preoccupied with dying a slow death) but it is Ms. Potts. I like how the roles are sort of reversed with Iron Man able to lift heavy things but even with all of Stark's genius, it is Pepper Potts who is doing all of the heavy lifting on the business side... dealing with charities, public appearances, handling finances and even still trying to babysit the man who is supposed to be her boss... you can just see it in her face that she is near a breaking point and really you can't blame her because from her perspective there is this insanely rich and even more insanely smart man who should be able to take care of many things in his own company and instead you feel like you're the only one who cares about anything anymore... I kinda wish Tony told her that he was dying, especially from the beginning, but that would have probably resolved most of the conflict between these two characters and most certainly would have gutted the character arcs these two go through.

   As if Pepper didn't have enough problems in the first act of the film, the moment Tony gives his thumb impression to sign over the CEO title and duties to Pepper, we are introduced to Natalie Rushman... the personal sent over from legal to handle secretarial duties for Pepper, and briefly for Tony, and we see how their relationship is handled with professionalism as Ms. Potts competently handles Stark Industries -- that may sound like that everything should be better for her, but as we see as things progress to Monaco and New York that things just get harder for her to run a company that is supposed to have their things together, you know except for the former CEO getting into more scuffles no matter where her goes... Monte Carlo, birthday parties, expo demonstrations... and by the end of it all, that breaking point from early has been crossed and she just wants for it all to end and the only way she believes it can do so is if she is no longer associated with Stark Industries. Of course, all of that has to do with her professional duties and stress inducers... but there is something else a little more subtle going on in the film: Pepper is getting more attached to Tony Stark. Think about it... in 'Iron Man' we started to see signs of this with Tony and Pepper dancing together, getting very close, and genuinely seeing attraction between these two... but if you ignore the deleted opening, you see at the beginning of 'Iron Man 2', you kinda forget that even happened because there doesn't appear to be much on-screen chemistry beyond the ceremonial toast of champagne as the company unofficial changes hands... but if you look deeper into all of the crazy things Tony does in the film, Pepper starts to feel more and more disappointed seeing the man self-destruct right in front of her, like how can a man that has everything be so careless and just give everything away? It's like when two married people get past that honeymoon stage of their marriage and one spouse ignores the other and creating a jaded feeling... example: Two people get married, they purchase a piece of land and create a beautiful garden as a token of their loves, but then in five years the husband decides to sell the land to a developer, the land gets developed on except when this happened he didn't tell his spouse what happened until waaaaaaaay after the sale was final and the new place was already fully constructed. How would that make you feel? Pretty damn pissed off, that's how. I do find the ending with Tony and Pepper on that rooftop a bit rushed, but ultimately I like how it ended where Tony apologized for being a jack-ass towards her for pretty much the entire movie with his selfishness and of course in later films this is later expanded upon.

Character Final Summary: Pepper Potts has a tough job and she tries to make the best out of a bad situation but there is only so much of Tony Stark's antics that she can put up with. She is very professional with Natalie / Natasha, Happy, and nearly everyone else with a name that doesn't being with the letter "T". In the end, she is extremely frustrated with how her life is going but forgives Tony for his reckless lifestyle as he came to terms with his own personal demons.

Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow

Portrayed by Scarlett Johansson
   I am a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see Emily Blunt in the role of Black Widow, but for what we got in the final film was far from a disappointment. We are first introduced to this character under the pseudonym Natalie Rushman, a talented individual with many skills such as modeling, linguistics with dead languages, understanding of legal issues, and the ability to take down Happy Hogan with little to no effort. At first, we are led to believe that she is a caring individual towards Stark, but in reality she is just a spy doing a job... I don't know if she is really compassionate but there is no indication whether this is genuine or not which leaves me a with a feeling that she was just thrown in to connect this film to the larger universe. Aside from being the cliche "pretty chick who looks pretty but is really tough" there isn't much she does other than a few bits of exposition here and there. She is: redheaded, has boobs, wears skin tight clothes, and kicks ass... that is all she is in this film. I was hoping she'd be more than that before it was revealed she was a spy, which of course was a surprise to no one at all.

Character Final Summary: A little bit more useful than Nick Fury during the stinger from 'Iron Man', but still doesn't really move the plot forward, is there mainly for eye candy and to set-up 'The Avengers'.

Nick Fury

Portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson
   The one-eyed direct or SHIELD Nick Fury made his first appearance in the post credits stinger from 'Iron Man' is back, but this time he actually has a role. Some people might say that he puts on the typical Sam Jackson role sans-swearing, but I disagree. At first, we see a frustrated Fury who has been receiving information from Black Widow of how "freely" Tony Stark has been living... questioning the fact that he thinks going solo is somehow beneficial to himself and those around him, including the fact that his best friend had recently taken the Mark II suit. I'm going to pause for just a second on this... I'm glad that it wasn't Tony or someone else close to him that did this bit of exposition on how Tony let Rhodey take the suit, which means all sorts of safeguards that would normally be turned were de-activated so James Rhodes can take the Mark II... is this because Tony was drunk or was this something he had set up earlier in the film or maybe this was done even before the events of 'Iron Man 2', who knows.... but the fact that Fury and Widow seem to be the only ones who know or realize this is pretty sad but I guess that is the whole point of being a spy network - knowing things that others either don't want to know or are not supposed to know.

   I also want to talk a little bit about Fury's history with SHIELD because at this point all we really know is that he's the director of said organization but through his conversations with Tony we get a little bit more of background on his history with Howard Stark... it's kind of sympathetic in the way he talks about both Howard and Tony, like he has more of a connection to Tony Stark than more than meets the eye and I like this, because he is also filling in the role of a father-figure of sorts with the giving of advice, moral support, and motivation that things aren't as hopeless as they may seem.

Character Final Summary: Nick Fury's role in 'Iron Man 2' is more than just as an extended cameo with giving further exposition on the history of Anton Vanko and Howard Stark and I really feel like his character is the catalyst to really get Tony Stark motivated to look at clues from the past to live on for the future.

Agent Coulson

Portrayed by Clark Gregg
   One person I am sad to see have a lesser role in this film is Agent Phil Coulson.. which doesn't mean he wasn't any less awesome as he was in 'Iron Man', and I think that his presence isn't felt so much in the sequel as the first probably because there was little bits of Coulson sprinkled all through out the first film and here it's all pretty much all around the same time. Coulson is still very serious and is still someone you seriously don't want to piss off because behind that "government agent" schtick is one hard cookie that you don't want to take a bite out of. It is apparent that when he mentions he has been reassigned to New Mexico and of course during the stinger that his cameo was more of just saying "Hi, but I gotta run!" than anything else.

Character Final Summary: Agent Coulson is just as awesome here as he is anywhere else, but just in a lesser role of sorts. I'm glad he dropped by in this film and lets the audience know that this guy is going to stick around for a really long time. He's cold, but smart, serious and loves his job (but maybe not as much as Supernanny).

Howard Stark

Portrayed by John Slattery

   Some people may skip over John Slattery's Walt Disney-inspired performance as Howard Stark in 'Iron Man 2', and while the character has been deceased for a while in Tony's life... he is fifty percent of the reason why Tony shaped up and finished one of his dad's final pieces of work... by creating a new element that powers the new arc reactor. The biggest contribution from Howard Stark in this film is that even after everything that Tony believed about how much he felt his dad was not proud of him or even disappointed, even after the supposed hard time growing up in his shadow, Howard Stark really loved and cared for his son. He wasn't a dad that had no love for his son, he was a dad that only wanted to motivate and inspire Tony Stark in creating something great... which I think really explains Tony's arc in the film: he felt he grew up alone and thought he had to die alone. This all means that Tony really had a good support network but didn't use it because he felt he was a burden among his closest friends and family.

Character Final Summary: The ghost of Howard Stark is still teaching his son a thing or two about science, even so much as laying down the entire groundwork for the new element and all Tony has to do is do the heavy lifting. He inspires, he motivates, and it turns out he was a pretty good dad... even though he may have not had shown it as young Tony was growing up.

The "Read The Whole Damn Thing!" Summary: Everyone shines in this film. Tony Stark starts off as an even more selfish asshole who thought that the world was going to be his complete undertaking but his demons of growing up alone and dying alone distanced himself from anyone who cares about him and his redemption during the entire run time is, for the most part, played out realistically and pacing was good. Both Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer started our brilliantly, but lazy writing and probably cramming too many characters into the second part of the film took away from how awesome Vanko and Hammer could have been, and thank the producers for not killing off Sam Rockwell's amazing character because every second he was on screen I just wanted to get more and more. The movie found a good Rhodey replacement with Don Cheadle, as he feels like a real military man and is a perfect fit for his role. If I'd sum up the film, I'd say it is the second weakest installment... with The Incredible Hulk beating it out for the most boring of the entire universe... I will be reviewing that next!

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