Iron Man and War Machine in promotional material for Iron Man 2

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are relatively divided over Iron Man 2, but most can agree on at least one thing: the action is pretty damn good. Fans of Samurai Jack were probably the first to notice similarities to the cult animated series in the choreography.

That is because the creator Samurai Jack and director of Star Wars: Clone Wars on Cartoon Network, Genndy Tartakovsky, was hand-picked by director Jon Favreau to help contribute to storyboarding action sequences for Iron Man 2. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? (Bonus points if you did already know.)

It turned out to be an epic team-up that led to some of the most beautifully crafted, albeit brief, action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How did this collaboration come to be?

Samurai Jack against the evil Aku

How Genndy Tartakovsky Contributed To Iron Man 2

In 2008, Samurai Jack and Star Wars: The Clone Wars had been off the air for years when Genndy Tartakovsky was looking for work at Marvel, offering to work on animated programming for the studio, when the conversation switched the Jon Favreau. He took their suggestion to call the Iron Man director, who happened to be a big fan of his work, and the two went to lunch.

In an interview with Ain’t It Cool News, Jon Favreau recalled offering the live action action project, Iron Man 2, to Genndy Tartakovsky to work as a storyboarder for the action sequences. Favreau also cited what attracted him to the animator’s work, stating:

I really dig his sense of humor and his sense of rhythm, and the way that he acknowledges the same cinematic masters that I really love the work of, like (Akira) Kurosawa and (Sergio) Leone. And he finds a way to pastiche it without ever undermining the stakes or the reality of the tension that’s created in his action sequences. Now clearly his stuff is a bit broad for a live action film but I love his rhythm and his attention to detail. It has a real comic booky feel but yet it feels cinematic and not gimmicky and even his cartoons feel… there’s an elegance to them.

Following his initial meeting with Jon Favreau, Genndy Tartakovsky and his team headed into the production of Iron Man 2. They collaborated on crafting action sequences in hopes of being a step up from the original film, most notably during the climactic moment featuring Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) against an army of robotic drones.

Iron Man 2 stills

The Genndy Tartakovsky Influence On Iron Man 2

The drones battle in Iron Man 2 is not only one of the most exhilarating moments of the film. It is a showcase of Genndy Tartakovsky’s greatest skills as an action choreographer and clearly pays homage to his most acclaimed work in animation. See for yourself in this clip:

Notice how the scene slowly builds up to the action as the drones circle around Iron Man and War Machine. The drones fly down one-by-one, while our heroes stand back-to-back in anticipation.

As soon as the brief music composition signals the escalating tension, the score is broken by the sound of Iron Man and War Machine’s face masks closing. From that moment on, the only sounds used to drive the rhythm of the scene are metal-on-metal combat and bullets flying.

The camera stays at a singular point of view, using Iron Man and War Machine as the central focal point for a good chunk of the sequence. Even when a cut is made, it is never unclear what is taking place as each new camera angle very careful follows the momentum of the action.

Each attack on the drones we see is unique to the last move our heroes make. Never does a single shot feel repeated throughout the sequence.

You put this all together and you have yourself a classic Genndy Tartakovsky action piece and the most memorable sequence from Iron Man 2. Now, if he could be convinced to get Iron Man and Samurai Jack to face off against each other...

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