After 'Iron Man' and 'The Incredible Hulk' were ultimately successful, it was time to drive the point home that the Avengers was most definitely happening. Before we knew it, we had a few upcoming titles to look forward to, including 'Thor' (however the hell they were gonna pull that off) and 'Captain America: The First Avenger' to be released in 2011. However, 'Iron Man 2' would provide a decent "bookmark" for it all, almost two years after it's predecessor. As one might expect, however, 'Iron Man 2's main purpose seemed to be pretty much just that - the first grand-scale advertisement for 'The Avengers'. This comes as a side story to the film's central plot that brings in Nick Fury, Agent Coulson and introduces Black Widow, all working for S.H.I.E.L.D.
But really, if you're looking for this movie's REAL story, it takes place about six months after Stark has announced to the world that he is, in fact, Iron Man. Wallowing in his own newfound glory and pride, he successfully uses the Iron Man suit to continue fighting for peace, and refuses to sell his designs to the government. However, Stark's dark secret shows the palladium core that powers the Iron Man suit is slowly poisoning his heart, and much of the film has to do with him trying to find a suitable substitute.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) creates an arc reactor very similar to Stark's. Discovering this information, rival weapons manufacturer, Hammer Tech, lead by Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), hires Vanko to create weaponry for him. However, Vanko has his own plans for revenge against Stark, and means to bring down the Iron Man. The motivation behind this involves Vanko's father once working with Howard Stark (Tony's father) on the original arc reactor. He tried to sell the plans, got caught in the act, got deported, became an alcoholic, and eventually getting arrested for selling nuclear secrets to Pakistan. All the while, the Stark family has been to blame for the Vanko's disgrace. Of course, ultimately, this leads to the villain Whiplash.
'Iron Man 2' makes for a decent stepping stone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it doesn't come across as a hell of a lot more. In truth, this isn't as much of an Iron Man movie as it is a Tony Stark movie. That said, the climactic sequence taking place over the last half hour or so of the movie is well executed, and a lot of fun to watch as an action-packed scene. This is mostly due to the introduction of War Machine into the mix, and it completely contrasts the first hour and a half of the film which otherwise does drag a bit.
This movie finds itself on the lower area of my list when it comes to the MCU. It's such a setup for the Avengers, and it even tries to tease us by telling us Stark might not be able to make it when we all know he will. It's a little bit pointless by the time 'Avengers' comes along, but I guess it's supposed to show us that his character needs to develop into someone more responsible. I dunno, it is what it is.
What really started to make us think wasn't where Stark was gonna end up, though, at this point. News had come out for the upcoming 'Thor' and 'Captain America' movies. Speaking for myself, my biggest thought was how in the hell they were gonna execute 'Thor'. By the end of this movie, we knew it was coming, and it was bound to be pretty terrible... or was it?
POST-CREDIT SCENE: Coulson gets called to a job in New Mexico in the middle of the film. This scene shows us what he was called in for. A crater has been discovered in the middle of the desert with Thor's hammer in the middle of it.