The Marvel Cinematic Universe got off to a phenomenal start when Iron Man exploded into theaters in the summer of 2008, instantly turning the title hero into a household name and launching Robert Downey Jr. to the top of the Hollywood A-list, all while making a ton of money at the box office and winning rave reviews from critics and audiences.
However, the studio fumbled the ball a little with the sequel, which was all sizzle and no steak. To this day, it remains the most labored installment in the franchise’s history in terms of world-building, with all the groundwork being laid for Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor and The Avengers having a hugely detrimental effect on Iron Man 2 itself.
That’s perhaps the single biggest reason why it’s constantly named as one of the MCU’s weakest-ever efforts, but the creative team did at least take notice and seek to rectify those mistakes as soon as possible. As per CBR, new book The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe details how it would inform the entire future of the MCU.
“Iron Man 2‘s critical response did give the studio pause. Especially as the desire to fast-track Iron Man 2 had come from Marvel Entertainment in New York. The lesson Marvel Studios took from their first sequel experience was simple but vital: Above everything else, always make sure there is a good creative reason to make a sequel.”
It sounds obvious, but far too many properties fail to adhere to what should be the cardinal rule; don’t make a sequel unless you can justify its existence. Iron Man 2 wasn’t terrible, but it’s definitely on the bottom rung of the MCU, and the series largely hasn’t fallen into the same trap again.