Second Chance: Iron Man 2 (2010)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the only sequel to match its predecessor is The Godfather Part II.
Yet despite (or perhaps because) of this, expectations for follow-ups continue to remain sky-high. It’s a difficult balance between hope and presumption when a million elements shift between productions. In the same way one film in the Marvel universe has a knock-on effect for the rest, these changes ripple up the production line and make sure results never exactly duplicate. Sequels aren’t created in laboratory conditions, and it’s toughest of all when the first film is such a success. 2008’s Iron Man is the reason the MCU lives today, but it’s a level of success which breeds expectation and, in the hyper-critical world of superheroes, inevitable disappointment.
“It’s not as much fun,” they said. “It’s not as exciting,” they said. And perhaps that’s true. But sequels are not a static entity; they are a next step. A good sequel moves the action on, changes the pace, and ups the stakes, and Iron Man 2 does all these things with a far defter touch than it’s credited for.
Iron Man was designed as a starter pistol, as Marvel’s huge creative gamble, with the natural result that it could dive in head first and turn everything up to eleven. The film is big, bold, confident, soundtracked by blaring rock music that stands up and says, hey, here I am, this is me, deal with it. By contrast, Iron Man 2 dismantles that, providing a vital bridge between the Tony Stark of Iron Man and the Tony Stark of The Avengers and Iron Man 3. His battles on multiple fronts – against Vanko, against Hammer, against the US government, his past, and himself – are the first hurdle in what will become a long line. They’re relatively low-key – Vanko and Hammer are bit-players in comparison to Loki – but those first challenges are a critical step in the evolution of Tony Stark and the Iron Man franchise as a whole.
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