Welcome to VOCIFERY, my attempt to re-watch every piece of media in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – every movie, every television series, every one-shot, every web series, and every tie-in comic book, using the Wikipedia entry on the MCU as a guide, before the release of Avengers 4 in May 2019. Join me as I write my thoughts about what I’m seeing, as I see it!
Also, spoilers follow – if you’re worried about that kind of thing, view before reading.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The sequel to the smash-hit, universe-launching Iron Man is often thought of as one of the weaker films in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s critic and audience scores are both among the lowest in the franchise, the story doesn’t quite resonate the same way – bogged down in history, such as it is – and Downey Jr’s Stark seems more cartoon than man.
But, with the exception of the Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man 2 is arguably the most interconnected of all the films in the MCU, bringing a number of elements to the screen that continue into the rest of the series.
Here are ten ways that Iron Man 2 sets up everything that comes after:
Early in the film, Stark appoints Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) the CEO of Stark Industries, with a notary arriving to handle the legal requirements – except the notary is actually Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson), operating undercover with the name Natalie Rushman. While she doesn’t use the moniker Black Widow in this film, Nat does get an exciting scene in the third act that hints at how effective she proves to be in The Avengers and beyond.
Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, and S.H.I.E.L.D.
“I told you, I don’t want to join your super-secret boy band,” Stark says after Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) shows up outside the donut shop where Stark has gone into hiding. The ensuing scenes breakdown – via an expository scene full of somewhat clunky dialogue – just how involved S.H.I.E.L.D. has been, how Fury knows Stark’s father, and assigns Coulson to Stark. We learn more about Fury (who becomes a major player in The Avengers), Stark and Coulson become reluctant friends (making a certain scene involving the latter much more emotionally resonant), and places S.H.I.E.L.D. as a major player in the films.
Don Cheadle takes over the role of Lt Col James Rhodes – aka Rhodey – for the sequel, and the character finally gets a chance to don the War Machine suit and take his place as Tony’s sidekick. Well, not really. But War Machine does become a key part of Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War, as well as making an appearance in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
The interference of government agencies plays a much bigger role in Captain America: Civil War with the introduction of the Sokovia Accords, but the seeds of bureaucratic meddling (spoiler: I’m very much Team Cap) are planted here with the senate hearing about Tony handing over the Iron Man technology. Plus, Garry Shandling makes an appearance as Senator Stern; he shows up again in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a HYDRA mole (making his reasons for trying to get a hold of the Iron Man suit here that much more nefarious).
Tony’s issues with his father a fairly well explored in other parts of the universe (including the comic books from yesterday), but this is the first on-screen appearance. John Slattery appears as the older Howard Stark, though two other actors also play the character: Gerard Sanders in a photograph in Iron Man, and Dominic Cooper as the younger Howard Stark. Howard also appears on-screen in Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Carter, Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War.
Late in the film, Coulson is re-assigned to New Mexico – in the post-credits sting, we see that he has gone to the landing site of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, setting up the events of the next film in the franchise, Thor.
Hammer Tech/Luke Cage
A much smaller connection: the Judas Bullet sold by Diamondback – aka the only bullet capable of piercing Luke Cage’s skin – is manufactured by Hammer Technologies, which is clearly still in business despite the fact we see Hammer in jail in …
All Hail The King
Hammer makes a very brief appearance in the one-shot All Hail The King, which was released on the Thor: The Dark World blu-ray and centres on Trevor Slattery/The Mandarin from Iron Man 3. Fun fact: the prison is Seagate, which is where Luke Cage was imprisoned during the flashbacks in his series.
Okay, the links are getting tenuous now. In June last year, Spider-Man star Tom Holland mentioned that Peter Parker appears in the final battle in Iron Man 2: once the droids (or Hammeroids, as Tony calls them) start terrifying the crowds, one sets a target on a kid wearing a toy Iron Man helmet. If Holland is to be believed, that kid was Peter Parker.
During one of the final scenes, Stark and Fury are talking and a world map appears behind them. The map has a number of locations circled, many of which match up to characters and events from the wider universe – and one such marker is in the middle of Africa. Wakanda, maybe?
Doctor Strange, maybe
Okay, this is the weakest connection, but if you recall the car crash scene in Doctor Strange, immediately before the accident Strange is reviewing potential cases, including one man who had his spine crushed in an “experimental armour”. If fan theories are to be believed, this patient is the man whose back is broken inside a prototype suit made by Hammer. The timelines match up: Strange’s accident kicked off years of medical treatment, followed by years of study under the Ancient One, which would place the events together. Sadly, it’s never been confirmed by anyone at Marvel Studios. Never denied either, though.
There are plenty more little easter eggs strewn throughout Iron Man 2 – Cap’s shield, anyone? – so next time you’re taking a look back at this one, remember that it might not be great, but it is vital to the universe as a whole.
Next: Iron Man 2: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: First Vengeance tie-in comic books!