The next film in my “Road to Infinity War” series is Iron-Man 2, from 2010. These posts aren’t a review. Instead, they serve as “cliff notes” to make sure you’re up to speed on what’s happened over the last 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe before Avengers: Infinity War in May.
Be sure to also check out my full viewing guide for the MCU which lays out the complete viewing order for the MCU but also which ones are essential to the upcoming Infinity War, and which ones you can skip.
The links to the previous entries in this series are listed at the bottom of this post.
Alright, let’s get started!
We get to see more of Tony’s dad in the form of old video reels Howard made for his Stark Expo back in the 70’s. Howard was not only one of the founding members of SHIELD, but just as much a workaholic as his son.
Ivan is the son of Anton Vanko, whom we learn worked on several projects with Howard Stark until he defected to the Soviet Union. Ivan blames the Stark family for his misfortunes and is out for revenge.
Colonel James Rhodes “Rhodey” aka War Machine
Rhodey returns, this time played by Don Cheadle, who has played the character ever since. After a spat with a drunken Tony, Rhodey steals the Mark II armor and turns it into his own suit, called War Machine.
Hammer is the CEO of Hammer Industries, and has been a long time weapons manufacturing competitor of Tony. Stark’s tech is far superior, however after he decided to stop making weapons in the last film, the government gave all of their contracts to Hammer. Justin will do anything to humiliate Stark and prove he’s the best, including partnering with Vanko to design his own version of the Iron-Man suit.
Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow
Romanoff shows up to Stark Industries as the notary after Tony decides to make Pepper Potts CEO of Stark Industries. Tony, still not completely over his weakness for a pretty face, hires Romanoff as his new personal assistant even after Pepper says no. Turns out Romanoff is actually a SHIELD agent in disguise, sent by Fury to keep tabs on Tony. Romanoff has a dark past, as before defecting to the US, she was a spy/assassin for the Soviet Union.
Director Nick Fury, SHIELD
Nick Fury is still working Tony to get him onboard with the Avengers Initiative. He also knows that Stark’s body is being poisoned by the palladium in Tony’s chest piece, and that Howard had found an alternative before he died.
Agent Coulson, SHIELD
Coulson is put in charge, later in the film, of making sure Tony doesn’t leave his house until he discovers a replacement element to use in the engineering of a new chest piece. The picture above is a reference to Captain America’s shield. Coulson pulls it out of the crate of Howard’s belongings, implying that at some point in the past Howard Stark worked with Captain America.
Tony puts on a great show, but is hiding a deadly secret.
- Tony decides to bring back his dad’s Stark Expo which focuses on the development of new technology for the betterment of the future. Of course he makes a grand entrance in his Iron-Man armor.
- In true Tony showmanship, he works the crowd into a frenzy proclaiming that he’s the reason the world is enjoying a more peaceful existence and that there is no one who can go toe-to-toe with him.
- However, backstage it’s a different story. It’s revealed that Tony is actually slowly dying. Ironically, the chest piece’s Palladium core, designed to keep him alive is also poisoning him. He has so far been unable to find a solution, and is keeping this a secret from everyone.
- Stark decides to appoint Pepper as the new CEO of Stark Industries.
- When the notary, Natasha Romanoff arrives to make the transition official, Tony decides to hire her as his new personal assistant (He was impressed by her resume).
A new challenger appears to hold the Stark family accountable.
- With Tony inching closer to death, he starts making extremely foolish decisions, such as personally driving the Stark sponsored formula one car at the Monaco Grand Prix.
- Ivan Vanko makes his way onto the track during the race, wearing a suit he built himself, similar to the Iron-Man armor. However, his version is much more simplistic; all except for the long, electrified whips extending from either hand (He’s called Whiplash in the comics).
- Ivan slices Tony’s car in half, sending him crashing upside down.
- Before Vanko can finish him off, Happy Hogan and Pepper drive onto the course and pin Vanko against the track gate long enough for Happy to throw Tony a portable Iron-Man suit that looks like a red suitcase.
- As Iron-Man, Stark easily defeats Vanko in his minimal suit.
- Stark visits Vanko in lock up and asks about the “cheap knock off.”
- Vanko cryptically tells him that the Stark family’s weapons empire has destroyed numerous people while posing as American patriots. The Vanko family is among the list of casualties.
- Vanko says the design is from his father and that he doesn’t need to kill Stark, he only needs to prove that he’s not untouchable. Once the world realizes this, Stark will be overwhelmed with foes until there is no way he can beat them all (this is an extreme paraphrasing of this scene).
The government tries to put Iron-Man in check.
- Reacting to the events in Monaco, the government calls for a senate hearing in an attempt to strong-arm Tony into giving up his tech to the government.
- Senator Stern brings one of Stark’s former rivals, Justin Hammer, along with Rhodey (against his wishes) to testify against Tony.
- Tony, through a big show, proves that the development of any tech that would rival his is still at least a decade off. Tony effectively angers the senator and then arrogantly leaves the hearing.
- Tony continues to make foolish choices by getting extremely drunk during his birthday celebration at his house. He puts on his suit and shows off to the guests by using household items for target practice.
- Pepper tries to talk him down, but he only gets worse.
- Rhodey shows up and decides that enough is enough. He puts on Stark’s Mark II armor and tells Tony to stand down or else. Of course, or else happens and the two have a very destructive fight throughout the house.
- Although the fight ends in a draw, Rhodey manages to fly off with the suit.
- He takes it back to the US Air Force base and calls Justin Hammer in to upgrade it with a ton of weapons, thus becoming the War Machine armor.
Nick Fury steps in to push Tony in the right direction.
- The next morning, Nick Fury finds Tony nursing a nasty hangover (still in the suit)and reveals several things:
- Romanoff is actually an agent of SHIELD, who was assigned to Stark.
- Howard Stark was a founding member of SHIELD.
- He was on the verge of a huge discovery, one that among other things could provide a solution to Tony’s illness.
- Contrary to what Tony thinks, his father loved him and thought of him as the future of his legacy.
- Vanko’ s father worked with Howard and helped to develop the famous “arc reactor” technology that would later power the Iron-Man suits. When Howard learned he was selling secrets to Russia, he had him deported.
- Fury places Tony on “house arrest,” with a crate of his father’s belongings, including some old journals and film reels. Fury promises that the solution to Stark’s illness is contained within this crate, Tony just has to figure it out.
- At first the journals and film footage seem ordinary: Howard recording clips for his Stark Expo back in the 70’s. Multiple takes are on the film and show:
- A young Tony wanders onto the set, and an angry Howard yells at his wife to take him away…seemingly confirming his dad’s cold nature.
- Howard drinking during filming, and becoming increasingly intoxicated with each take…confirming that, like his son, Howard also enjoyed some destructive habits.
- Eventually, near the end of the film, Tony discovers a secret message his father left for him:
Tony, you’re too young to understand this right now, so I thought I would put it on film for you. I built this for you [meaning the model table of the Stark Expo]. And some day you’ll realize that it represents a whole lot more than people’s inventions, it represents my life’s work. This is the key to the future. I’m limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world. What is, and always will be, my greatest creation… is ‘you’
Tony gets a new heart.
- Tony realizes then that the model behind his dad is the key. He sneaks out of the house and drives to Stark Industries to take the same table back to his house to study.
- He also attempts to apologize to Pepper and explain the reason for all his shenanigans lately. However, he mistakenly brings her strawberries…which she’s allergic to…which he should know considering how close they are. This mistake obviously kills the apology attempt.
- Back at his house, with the help of JARVIS, Stark uses a digital scan of the table to discover the arrangement of the buildings are actually the cellular structure of a new element his father discovered. Howard was unable to synthesize the element with the technology of his time, so he created the model as a blueprint for when technology advances to the point of being able to do so.
- As it turns out, this new element will serve as the perfect replacement for the palladium core in his chest piece.
- After a period of time and some demo work to make room for the necessary equipment, Tony successfully synthesizes the element and engineers the updated chest piece.
A final showdown with “Whiplash” and Hammer.
- Stark flies to the Stark Expo where Justin Hammer is demonstrating his Hammer Drones and War Machine.
- Earlier, Hammer had broken Vanko out of prison and enlisted him to help build copies of the Iron-Man suit. Hammer wants to debut the suits at the Stark Expo to humiliate Stark.
- Vanko builds drones instead, which he plans to use to kill Stark and his legacy.
- When Tony arrives at the expo to warn Rhodey about Vanko working with Hammer, Vanko activates the drones remotely to kill Tony.
- Rhodey is in the new War Machine armor and under Vanko’ s control as well.
- Tony leads the drones away from the expo and hacks into the War Machine suit, giving full control back to Rhodey.
- While the drones chase Tony and Rhodey, Pepper realizes what Hammer has been up to and easily subdues him by twisting his arm behind his back until the police can arrive to arrest him.
- Tony and Rhodey land in a secluded area and take out all the drones in a fierce battle.
- The victory is short-lived as Vanko shows up soon after in more advanced version of the whiplash suit.
- The 2 are able to take him down, however Vanko activates a self destruct option on his suit and all the drones as a last-ditch effort.
- Both escape the blast, and Tony, having realised that Pepper is in the blast zone, narrowly saves her.
- Tony and Pepper share their first kiss as a couple.
- A few days later, Tony meets with Nick Fury to discuss the Avengers Initiative.
- Fury tells Stark he’s not sure he’s a good candidate. He reads a personality assessment agent Romanoff completed during time with Tony. The findings were that Tony’s personality traits: arrogance, self obsessed, not a team player, resulted in her not recommending Tony for the Avengers.
- Fury tells Stark that for now, SHIELD only wants Tony as a consultant to essentially help recruit candidates for the Avengers.
- Tony agrees under one condition: that Nick arrange for Senator Stern from the senate committee earlier, to be the one to present medals to both Tony and Rhodey at an upcoming ceremony.
- Fury agreed much to Stern’s dismay:
After credits scene.
- Agent Coulson arrives at a desert area in New Mexico. There’s a large crater with several vehicles swarming around it.
- Coulson makes a call, presumably to Fury saying “Sir, we’ve found it.”
- The last shot is a look at what made the crater: Thor’s hammer.
This is a small teaser for the next movie in the MCU, and the next summary in my Road to Infinity War series: