Dir. Jon Favreau ($623.9 million)
Let’s face it, Marvel went for style over substance with Iron Man 2—one of the roughest productions on the list. The problem? Money. Despite a strong showing in 2008’s Iron Man, Oscar-nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle and Flow, Four Brothers) was fired from his role as Rhodey in favor of another Oscar-nominee, Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, “House of Lies”). Howard claimed star Robert Downey Jr.’s salary for Iron Man 2 ate up most of the budget for his expected salary. Instead of renegotiating with Howard, Marvel hired Cheadle to don the Iron Patriot mantle. After this snafu, Mickey Rourke prepared for his role as the film’s villain extensively by visiting Russian prisons, learning to speak Russian, and the right-looking prison tattoos needed. Rourke’s Russian dialogue (and most of his scenes) ended up omitted from the final product altogether as the actor who took a pay cut for the greater good of the film found his role reduced to a one-note, vengeful villain who boils to down to more or less the same antagonist from the original Iron Man as a bad guy in a metal suit fighting Tony for some reason related to the past. Rourke was a hot commodity after his comeback and subsequent Academy Award nomination for The Wrestler, but the negative reviews for IM2 seem to have killed that rise.
On top of all of these issues, director Jon Favreau didn’t have the remarkable experience as he had directing the first IM installment when studio pressure from Marvel forced to him minimize Rourke’s role and cram as many Avengers nods as possible to set up the later installment to be directed by Joss Whedon. The end result of Marvel’s only 2010 film turned out to be a two-hour spectacle with little plot. There’s a reason Favreau returned as an actor only for IM3. Black Widow and Nick Fury pop in and out of the film when their only “necessity” was to save Tony from the disease slowly killing him. This could’ve been accomplished in the first ten minutes. Sam Rockwell (The Way, Way Back, Moon) provided the only pop outside of Downey Jr.’s typical, however bankable, charming performance. As if S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, Black Widow, news clips of the Incredible Hulk, and Captain America’s shield prototype weren’t enough bashes over the head to understand the Avengers were teaming up, the post-credits scene featured Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer.