The Iron Man 2 Novelization: Whips, Widows and War Machines

April 7th, 2010 by | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We’re a month away from the release of the two-years-awaited Iron Man 2 and only a week or so ago, the novelization came out. Like with all the other Marvel movies, I picked this one up. Surprisingly, this one isn’t written by Peter David, but by Alexander Irvine. You might recognize the name if you’ve read Daredevil Noir.

So what’s going on in the story? It takes place six months after Iron Man – although Irvine flubs that by referring to it as two years at least once – and sometime before Incredible Hulk. Tony hasn’t done too much in terms of righting wrongs as Iron Man, but he does flaunt it when possible and gets in trouble with the government because of it. They insist he should hand over the tech to them, which he totally disagrees with and points out that the rest of the world is 20 years away from reaching that level anyway. Also, Tony has a couple events marked off on his calendar and every one of them is a backdrop for an action sequence. Really, every action sequence can be summed up with, “I can’t wait for _______! I hope nothing bad happens! Oh, crap! Explosions!”

Let’s go over the characters, starting with our hero.

Tony Stark is getting ready for the Stark Expo (hey, guess what that means?), but at the same time is secretly disturbed by the realization that his arc reactor isn’t so perfect after all and it’s slowly killing him. He and JARVIS have been working on a way to reinvent the arc reactor, but so far nothing’s doing and things look grim. In response, Tony has been acting even more reckless than usual and becomes a grade-A asshole.

It looks to me that every Iron Man movie is based on Tony overcoming being a dick. The first movie was about how he was using his mental potential to deal in weapons and death. This one is about how he alienates his friends with his own selfishness. Perhaps the third one will tackle his alcoholism?

All of Tony’s lines have the same punch as they did in the first movie and with Robert Downey Jr. improvising, that should be a grand old time.

Also, there’s some stuff early on about an invention of his called the Tech-Ball. I suppose I’ll have to wait until the movie to see exactly what the hell it really is, but from the descriptions, it’s some kind of shape-shifting nano ball thingy that moves into different shapes. Tony plays around with it for a couple early scenes with no true explanation about what it’s for. Then it’s brought back late into the story out of nowhere. Look, it’s that poorly-defined thing from an hour and a half ago! Surely that will put things right!

Pepper Potts is more annoyed with Tony than usual, as he’s more interested in his Tech-Ball and other inventions than he is in running Stark Industries. Stark solves this problem by promoting Pepper to CEO and giving her the company. She takes the job, but we don’t really see much about her being in charge. She yells at someone on the phone during one scene, but the rest of her tenure in the movie is being congratulated by everyone else for being in charge.

Jim Rhodes is probably the best part, which is good, since he was probably the worst part about the first movie. Well, to be fair, he was a good character up until they edited away most of his role to make the US Air Force happy. Basically, big chunks of Iron Man had to be rewritten and redone because the Air Force didn’t approve of Rhodey’s actions and they had to work around that.

Here’s hoping they don’t do that again. Rhodey thinks the Iron Man technology is the best thing since sliced bread, but that it really should be in the government’s hands. At first it becomes an agree-to-disagree relationship with Tony, but the more Tony becomes an irresponsible dick, the more Rhodey thinks he’s right and Tony’s wrong. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the two are in a Civil War argument with Rhodey as pro-registration and Tony, of all people, as anti-registration.

The way he becomes War Machine initially is very awkward and feels like an entire scene is missing to explain it. I’m hoping the movie can fix this.

Justin Hammer lacks any of the threat of Obadiah Stane, but feels like his lesser replacement. In fact, Justin Hammer’s character is that he’s the lesser replacement of Tony Stark. He’s the guy that the government goes to when Stark Industries stops producing weapons. He also tries to get with reporter Christine Everhart at one point. He and Tony absolutely hate each other, but Tony’s always able to verbally destroy him any time they cross paths. Unfortunately, Hammer’s motivation doesn’t go any further than wanting to embarrass Tony and getting money. Outside of his enthusiastic and crass demeanor, he isn’t much more than a plot device for Ivan Vanko.

Vanko starts out awesome and then just kind of peters off. He’s a former Russian convict who has been released in order to take care of his dying father. Upon his father’s death, he decides to go forth on his big revenge plan. You see, Ivan blames his father’s failures on Howard Stark, making Tony guilty by association. Apparently, Ivan’s father and Howard Stark worked together and came up with the initial concept of the arc reactor. There was a huge falling out and Vanko ended up as a bitter alcoholic in Siberia. Much like Tony Stark, Ivan Vanko is able to take his father’s open-ended knowledge and sculpt it into his own version of the arc reactor.

I’m sure some of you may have heard that Mickey Rourke insisted that Vanko has a pet cockatoo, but as weird as that is, it’s only for like one scene anyway.

Vanko is purely about revenge and killing Tony. The racetrack scene from the trailer is actually very early on. Maybe 20 minutes in. After this sequence (they never do really explain why nobody ever shoots him, even though Happy Hogan gets shot at during the same scene) and a really cool Silence of the Lambs conversation with Tony, Vanko more or less hangs out in the sidelines until the final act. He does indeed get a costume redesign, which is NOT Crimson Dynamo-related, but it doesn’t really make much of a difference either way. His final form battle sequence is ultimately pretty underwhelming.

I should also mention that in the beginning, Vanko deals with the Ten Rings, which is the terrorist sect from the first movie who initially captured Tony. He meets with a man named the Mongolian, but their meeting is rather uneventful and is never mentioned again. I can see this not making it into the movie, especially since the first movie cut Stane’s mentions of dealing with the Ten Rings’ all-important leader.

Happy Hogan gets a bigger role this time around. He appears in several action scenes and even tells Pepper about his feelings for her, though it’s mostly played for laughs and nothing ever comes from it. His role is mostly as a foil for Black Widow.

Speaking of, “Natalie Rushman” is a lawyer working for Stark Industries who first appears so Tony can sign the company over to Pepper. Tony figures that with Pepper’s new position, he needs someone to take over as his personal assistant and give that spot to “Natalie”. Of course, we know who she really is, especially when she’s making suspicious phone calls every other scene.

Black Widow is so unbelievably pointless in this story. Like, she does exist to make Pepper feel like less of a woman and Happy feel like less of a man, so there’s that, but she is so completely tacked on. The trailer shows her actually fighting people, which is good, since the book would just write her as standing over her enemies after having apparently just beat them up. Even then, her role in the third act is so unnecessary that I can’t believe they couldn’t come up with something more important for her to do.

Howard Stark appears for one scene, but I won’t spoil the how and why. All I’ll say is that it has the potential to get you misty-eyed depending on John Slattery’s performance and it asks us to swallow an awful lot of suspension of disbelief for the sake of plot device.

Nick Fury’s role is still minimal, but he does show up for two consecutive scenes. He’s mostly just there for dialogue, but has his moments of badass and hilarity. Man, his response to the whole War Machine situation is priceless…

Agent Coulson is back too, though he’s even more pointless than Black Widow. For instance, he appears in Tony’s home and tells him that he’s been given the task of making sure Tony doesn’t leave the house. He goes over all the different ways he can make that happen and comes off as a suave badass before leaving the room to give the idea that he’s like a secret agent ninja, ready to strike if Tony even thinks of making his way to the door. Not only is there zero follow-up to this, but a couple scenes later, guess what Tony does. HE LEAVES THE HOUSE! There’s no explanation about outsmarting Coulson or dealing with him in any way. He just drives off to Stark Industries in his pajamas because he desperately needs to talk to Pepper about something.

Coulson later joins up with Pepper during the climax, but then gets forgotten about without having done anything.

As for cameos, there’s a quick appearance of real-life entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk and what looks like another TV rant from stock analyst Jim Cramer. Olivia Munn is supposed to have some kind of role, but I can’t imagine what that is unless it’s been added in a later rewrite. The only other female roles are relegated to the woman who serves Tony a subpoena and some of the women he parties with. While I don’t notice any Marvel character cameos, there is a certain major Marvel-specific concept that plays a pretty important role.

With the action, there’s more of it than the first movie, but it still isn’t too much. There appear to be long stretches where nothing much happens, although the stuff that goes on in the third act might make up for it. Might. The final battle against Whiplash is so underwhelming and confusing that it’s hard for me to put into words without spoiling it. The worst of it is this term they keep throwing around to set up a “HOLY SHIT!” moment that doesn’t exactly fit into the context of what we’ve seen in the story. Maybe it comes off better when this term isn’t constantly being repeated in Irvine’s narration. Sorry if that’s too vague.

Similarly, when they set up for the briefcase armor from the racecar fight, it’s like Irvine is allergic to using the word “briefcase”. He keeps calling it “the football” with barely any mention of what it is. I now get that it’s a reference to the President’s briefcase that allows him to launch nuclear weapons (thanks Wiki!), but it would be nice to actually call it a goddamn briefcase every now and again! It’s like a shitty version of Madlibs. If I hadn’t seen the trailer, I would have been twice as lost.

I’m really hoping Irvine got a hold of an incomplete script when he was writing this because the ending is really bad and filled with so many loose ends. Or maybe he was on a deadline and had to rush the hell out of the last three chapters. So many important characters just vanish without any closure and the last scene is both forced and comes off like it would be conveyed with four panels on a comic’s final page because they ran out of space to finish telling the story. The one good thing about the ending is still Rhodey and how he concludes his story arc.

I’m not trying to totally damn the story, but the closest thing I can compare it to is Spider-Man 3, only without a Sandman counterpart. The main hero acts like a dick (albeit a likeable dick) to his friends, his best friend is also his enemy, he’s got a redhead yelling in his ear, there’s another female role shoved in there for no reason other than fan service, you have the douchy lesser version of the hero collaborating with a vengeful tentacle monster and there’s a character who shows up for a couple scenes to give the hero sage advice. Though this will come off better in this movie because he’s getting this advice from a badass with one eye and not a boring old lady. It just so happens that Spider-Man 3 ended better. When you get past how long it took for Venom to show up and team with the Sandman, plus remove all the ridiculous crying, you get a decent finale with an actual conclusion. Everyone other than Gwen Stacy comes together and everything gets wrapped up. Not here. The entire thing just falls apart.

And what bugs me the most is that there are plotholes and missed explanations that are never touched inside the book itself. Usually with these novelizations you can count on the writer to cover for any discrepancies with his own bullshit. Not so much here.

It’ll be a mostly enjoyable movie, more than likely, but I’m really hoping this isn’t the full view on what we have to look forward to. Usually the movies cut down from what we see in these novelizations, but this is the one time where it looks like they really need to add scenes instead.

One other thing did kind of bother me. There’s a scene where Jim Rhodes gets really, really mad at Tony. It makes enough sense in the context of the story, which I won’t flat-out spoil, but the fact that he’s getting angry over it happens to play into a certain racial stereotype. I’m not in any way saying it’s intentional, but they probably should have noticed this. As it is, I can’t help but feel that it’ll lead to lots of angry blogging and possibly an internet meme. We’ll see.

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13 comments to “The Iron Man 2 Novelization: Whips, Widows and War Machines”

  1. Hi! I love your description, even though I haven’t had the chance to read the book just yet. I’m wondering about the love triangle. What happens between Tony/Natasha/Pepper?

  2. […] And if you want spoilers based on the movie’s novelization, 4thletter has them. Similar Posts: Iron Man Promo Video § Marvel Comics I Liked: Twelve, Iron Man, Mary […]

  3. @RH: I’ll post the answer once I figure out how to block out spoilers.

  4. The armor / bots we see Tony and Rhodey fighting in the trailer… do they refer to them as Mandroids in the book? I gotta know!

  5. @Gavok: I think that writing spoiler in square brackets, and then /spoiler in square brackets, should work.

  6. “there is a certain major Marvel-specific concept that plays a pretty important role.”

    This is the only thing I’d like spoiled for me. What is this?

  7. @david brothers: Ah, thanks for the tip!

    @RH: It starts off with Tony and Pepper doing their usual flirting, until Natasha appears. Then Tony flirts with Natasha more, who seems to be better at most things than Pepper. There’s really no real hint that Pepper’s that into Tony, but Happy suggests that she should go to Tony’s birthday party and she takes him up on that. She gets there with a gift and Tony is completely drunk and macking on Natasha. Over the next few minutes, Pepper becomes completely alienated and wants nothing to do with Tony. The next day, Nick Fury reveals that Natasha is his spy and Tony and Natasha almost stop interacting completely. Either way, they never mention any romantic interest with each other ever again. Later in the story, something involving his father leads Tony to believe that he needs to not hold back his feelings. He goes to Pepper’s office to tell her how he feels, but she’s too busy to listen to him and Natasha appears to have him sent away. At the end, Tony saves Pepper from Whiplash and they start making out on the spot.

    So yeah, it could have been better.

    @Nick Marino: Not at all.

    @Matt Cruea: Vibranium.

  8. @Gavok: HOLY SPIT! Vibranium? Awesome!!! Any mention of the Black Panther, T’Challa, or Wakanda?

  9. Oh thank you so much for the details. 🙂 I really hope he doesn’t sleep with Natasha in the movie, because very often the movies don’t follow the novelization. 😐 And besides… what does he tell Pepper when he goes to her office to admit what he feels?.

  10. @Nick Marino: Nope.

    @RH: He gets cut off before he can say anything.

  11. “One other thing did kind of bother me. There’s a scene where Jim Rhodes gets really, really mad at Tony. It makes enough sense in the context of the story, which I won’t flat-out spoil, but the fact that he’s getting angry over it happens to play into a certain racial stereotype. I’m not in any way saying it’s intentional, but they probably should have noticed this. As it is, I can’t help but feel that it’ll lead to lots of angry blogging and possibly an internet meme. We’ll see.”

    Spoil me sweetcheeks 😉

  12. @Nathan: Okay, here it goes.

    They’re at Tony’s party and since he knows he’s dying, he’s even more of a drunken ass than usual. Pepper and Rhodey are exasperated at his behavior. Tony’s wearing his full armor and uses it in irresponsible ways, such as blasting champagne bottles that people throw in the air. One woman runs over with a watermelon and wants Tony to blow it up. Tony makes jokes about getting in touch with his inner-Gallagher.

    Rhodey yells at Tony to stop and then tells Pepper that they need to stop this. The woman throws the watermelon into the air and Tony blows it up. This is the last straw for Rhodey, who storms off and goes to steal the Mark II armor.

    Like I said, it isn’t intentional from the writers, but there’s a pretty big racist punchline in there that I can’t help but feel many will pick up on.

  13. I can certainly see how a certain image board is going to have fun with this…