“The Avengers” is already set to be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters and it’s easy to understand why. Superhero films already do well at the box office and this one has an outstanding cast with more Academy Award winners than any other film of its genre. It’s also helmed by a worshiped (though polarizing for some) director. Most importantly, this is a film that we’ve basically been watching two hour-long trailers for since 2008. Yet as excited as many are, “The Avengers” is a bit of an overwhelming prospect for some average moviegoers. So you haven’t seen all the other Marvel movies leading up to this film and you haven’t read the comics. Will you still enjoy this film? The answer is yes, but it might help to do a little brushing up on these heroes before hitting the theater. That’s why we’ve put together this handy article to help you learn about the characters and movies leading up to this film and their end scene teasers. Here’s a guide to how Iron Man fits in.
Iron Man & Iron Man 2
In “Iron Man,” we meet Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr), a billionaire playboy who is a bit full of himself, but his heart is in the right place. Stark’s company, Stark Enterprises, has long been in the weapons business, but after being taken a prisoner of war during a business trip to Afghanistan, Stark has a change of heart and announces he’ll take his company in a new direction (much to the disappointment of his shareholders and U.S. military). Additionally, Stark’s imprisonment nearly costs him his life when a piece of shrapnel lodges itself close to his heart. An electromagnet keeps the shrapnel piece from penetrating Stark’s heart, but this is something he’ll have to live with for life. Being the genius mechanic that he is, Stark turns this weakness to a strength and builds himself his Iron Man suit, which is powered by the same electro device that is keeping the shrapnel at bay. Iron Man is born, but meanwhile, his business partner sees the Iron suit project as just another weapon and a way to make more money (this guy was already doing some other shady things throughout the movie). Tony has to take out his lunatic partner in the climax of the first “Iron Man.” A government agent, Phil Coulson (Coulson returns in “The Avengers”), tries to help Tony keep his Iron Man identity a secret, but Tony openly admits it to the press by the end of the film – he’s one of the few superheroes to openly admit who he is, while the rest try to stay under the radar. At the end, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up to talk to Tony about the Avengers project. Honestly, the real reason to see this movie is Robert Downey, Jr. He is hilarious as Iron Man – playing the character with just the right amount of dry wit.
“Iron Man 2″ seemed more like a stepping stone to “The Avengers” than any of these other precursor movies. It picks up where the first “Iron Man” left off, with the world discovering Tony Stark is Iron Man. We then see how Tony is using his suit for good and to bring about world peace – he even reinstates his father’s Stark’s Expo, a convention for ideas and technological advancements. Of course, we get a big bad who sees how to turn Stark’s Iron suit into a weapon (deja vu, anyone?). Of course, things get a bit more complicated for Tony because his life-saving core (the one that’s keeping the shrapnel from entering his heart) is also poisoning him. As he searches for a new power source, he puts his lady friend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), in charge of his company and promotes another lady, Natalie/Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), to be his personal assistant. This lady turns out to be a government spy that we’ll come to know better as Black Widow in “The Avengers.” She and Iron Man don’t exactly get along (and this will be alluded to in “The Avengers.” Long story short, Iron Man and friends save the day, but at the end of this film, Nick Fury shows up again, but this time he tells Tony that while “Iron Man” would be a great addition for his super-powered team, our arrogant and brash Tony would not.
Uniform: A powerful red and yellow suit, powered by Tony Stark’s life-saving energy core. Though he can take the suit off, this core must stay powered and in his chest or else he’ll die.
Key Powers: Though it’s debatable if these are ‘powers,’ Tony Stark’s smarts and his vast fortune are definitely to his advantage. His ability to fly, emit energy beams and be super strong all come from his special suit.
Weaknesses: Stark is arrogant and lacks respect for authority, but his main weakness is that without his suit, he’s just a mere man. Not only is he a mere man, but he’s a man that’s always on his death bed as his special power core for his suit is also the only thing keeping a piece of shrapnel from penetrating his heart.
The Avengers Tie-ins (this is not definitive, but shares some key notes): As one of the first Avengers-related films to be released in theaters, “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2″ really set the stage for “The Avengers” film. A lot of its characters return for this new movie crossover. Iron Man’s lady friend, Pepper Potts returns briefly and the government S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) figures pretty heavily into the plot of “The Avengers.” “Iron Man 2″ also introduces us to the spy, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who is part of the Avengers though she doesn’t have her own movie (yet). Throughout the other films, there are little mentions or allusions to Tony Stark’s company, Stark Enterprises. Often, it’s just a logo or the company name stamped on an object. Tony makes a cameo in “The Incredible Hulk” to speak about the Avengers project. In “Iron Man 2,” we also see a bit of the Hulk’s rampage on the background in a newser. In “Thor,” when the big bad robot-like villain thing shows up, one of the government officers asks if it’s one of Tony’s (referring to Tony Stark’s alternative Iron Man-like inventions). In “Captain America,” we meet Tony Stark’s father, which is a cool comparison because Howard Stark was practically besties with Captain America, but Tony and the Captain will clash in the Avengers. It’s also cool to meet Tony’s father like this because “Iron Man 2″ gives us the return of the Stark Expo, which was first seen in “Captain America.” Speaking of “Captain America,” you know that tesseract cube thing that figures so heavily into the “Captain America” film? It’s seen briefly on one of Tony’s screens as a blue print from one of his father’s past projects. We also get a glimpse of the Captain’s shield in the Iron Man movies – it’s being worked on in Tony’s workshop (we’ll see this newly built shield in the Avengers movie). Like in many of the other Avengers-related movies, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes an appearance during the end credits scenes to discuss the Avengers projects with Tony. Finally, the end of Iron Man 2 overlaps with “Thor,” showing Agent Coulson discovering Thor’s hammer in the desert.
Stan Lee Appearance: This is a little Easter Egg in many of the Marvel movies. Stan Lee, a primary creator of many of these characters in the Marvel-verse, likes to make little cameos in the films. In “Iron Man,” Tony Stark mistakes him for Hugh Hefner at a party. In “Iron Man 2,” he is mistaken for Larry King.
Sequel Alert: “Iron Man 3″ is expected in May 2013.
Watch the Trailer:
Iron Man 2
Watch the Hidden Credits Scene/Avengers Teaser:
Iron Man 2:
*Black Widow and Hawkeye, while a part of the Avengers team, do not currently have their own movies.