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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Iron Man 2 (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

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Iron Man 2

 

Studio: Paramount Pictures
Year:  2010
US Rating: PG-13 For Sequences of Intense Sci-Fi Action and Violence and Some Language

Film Length: 124 Minutes
Video: Color / 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 2.35:1
Audio:  English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Brazilian Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese

 

Release Date: September 28, 2010

Review Date: September 27, 2010

 

“If you could make God bleed, people will cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, and the sharks will come.”

 

Introduction

 

2008’s Iron Man stood out as an accomplished, refreshingly entertaining and mostly lighthearted superhero success; a superbly blended and accessible film of technical accomplishment, wit, wonder, and the enormously entertaining performance by Robert Downey, Jr. Paramount Pictures was enjoying enormous success in 2008, with Iron Man and its other tent pole release, the long-overdue sequel in the Indiana Jones franchise, both exceeding expectations. Iron Man’s immediate popularity quickly ignited talk of the sequel, and since director John Favreau had mostly been lauded for his handling of Marvel’s Iron Man property, fans were virtually unanimous in wishing for him to remain at the helm of any follow-up. Favreau initially resisted the demand to push a sequel into production so quickly fearing a lesser quality product (and perhaps seeking to explore other filmmaking opportunities). But once on board, the sequel moved ahead extremely quickly and the director and team set about devising a story that would meet the raised expectations of fans, drive the Iron Man universe and service the larger Marvel universe, while finding a suitable foe for Tony Stark to face – both internally and externally. For the most part, they succeeded.

 

 

The Film: 4 out of 5

 

At the moment Tony Stark matter-of-factly reveals that he is indeed Iron Man, across the globe in Russia, the coughs of a dying Russian national are heard over the sounds of the translated Tony Stark press conference being broadcast on Russian television. The dying man’s son attends his father in their dank socialist-era apartment. Within moments the man is dead, and his son, left with nothing but anger, sorrow, and the plans for the ARC reactor which his father had co-designed with Howard Stark (Tony Stark’s father) many years before. The man is Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who will spend the next six months building the coveted power source central to Stark’s suit (and life) in order to fuel his vengeance for the death and betrayal of his father. He will seek to exact his vengeance against the son of his father’s betrayer - Tony Stark.

 

In the United States, in the intervening six months following the gleeful and narcissist announcement that he was the Iron clad superhero, Tony Stark has been busy bringing peace to the world. In New York City, amongst a lavish display of celebratory excess, he delivers the keynote speech at his wildly expensive Stark Expo – a yearlong event designed to encourage and showcase technological innovation – before responding to a congressional subpoena where he must testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a decidedly unfriendly Senator Stern (Garry Shandling). Senator Stern attempts to dress down Stark, proclaiming national interests and the needs of the people as he seeks to have Stark turn over his proprietary ‘weapon’. Despite the hearing, and an attempt by corporate rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) – a friend of Senator Stern - to force his hand, Stark, using his penchant for dramatic, care-free, and somewhat adolescent retort, refuses with the proclamation that he has “Successfully privatized world peace!” But life is not quite so simple. The power source keeping Stark alive is also killing him slowly, the U.S. Army intends upon seizing his technology so that they may keep America safe, and unbeknownst to Stark, a mysterious Russian man is about to strike.

 

Iron Man 2is highly entertaining. It has strong star power, expertly rendered visual effects, spunky-wit aplenty, and a mad dash of foes for Tony Stark and Iron Man to tend to. The film’s plot isn’t taxing and plays relatively straightforward – with enough elements in the story to inch the development of the characters forward just enough to say there was some movement, and enough to create space for action sequences to take place, such as the Monaco racing sequence which introduces Whiplash to Tony Stark and an astonished world. This effect-laden set-piece is the perfect balance of excitement and plot purpose.

 

Some criticisms of Iron Man 2 include that which is levied frequently against sequels that are enamored with upping the ante – follow-ups who seek to do more and include more than the previous entry –that it divides its attention among too many character resources. Normally, these charges are merited, but within the parameters of Iron Man 2’s story, the complaints seem unfair. While there are many interests to be served by the story; the governmental threat to Stark’s sovereignty, the corporate competitor, the power source sickness, and the central villainous threat – and not to mention the responsibility the film has in sewing and nurturing seeds of other Marvel properties, Justin Theroux’s screenplay seems to handle them quite well.  The film remains brisk and not bloated (the running time is just around 2 hours), and if the film strove to exist beyond the bounds of ‘good guy is plagued by bad-guy until the showdown’, then this sequel’s efforts to spread it all around more has worked well.

 

Though I am loathed to contradict myself, it can be said that Iron Man 2 does fail in one respect. It does not delve deeply into any one challenge, threat, or nemesis facing our heroes. It does not call out any particular hurdle over the others. While it is okay to spread the issues among a number of sources, to have selected one to hold up as the clear central issue would have been welcomed – think of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. For example, Tony Stark may be facing his own mortality but we are provided merely glimpses of what this experience means (“Can I ask you something personal? If this was the last birthday party you were going to have, what would you do?”). The Whiplash threat is mostly held at bay, providing menace only at his introduction and the film’s climax. And the presence of Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), which is arguably the sincerest threat during the film (based on action and presence in the story), is angled mostly for laughs and exists more of a nuisance to the Stark empire than a genuine challenge to its superiority. To have more carefully threaded and called out any one of these challenges over the others would have undoubtedly improved the film.

 

Mickey Rourke is well cast as Whiplash. He has the build, menace, and occasional sympathy required for a meaningful danger and formidable foe for our Iron clad hero. A wobbly Russian accent (at times) aside, though he reportedly learned the language in preparation for the role as well as spent time in prison to learn the nature and purpose of prison tattoos, his bulk, demeanor, and understated bad guy serves the character well – we just needed a little more of him in the story. Taking over the role of Lt. Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes is Don Cheadle (who assumed the role from Terrence Howard). Cheadle is a fine actor though this role does not demand of him very much. But he’s likeable and even when he betrays his best friend Stark, we find ourselves to be understanding. Scarlett Johansson makes quite the splash as Natalie Rushman, hired as Pepper Pot’s assistant after Stark bestows upon her the title and responsibilities of CEO of Stark Industry (she was running the place anyway). Johansson shows off some nimble moves and perhaps some potential for a spin-off. Gwyneth Paltrow, a fine actress, is as wasted here as she was in the first film playing Pepper Pot. A likeable character weakened by the propensity to scream in panic when bad things happen. Perhaps a natural response many of us would have, but a tad frustrating when she’s the only one screaming. The issue is not Paltrow but how her character is written.

 

Sam Rockwell matches the lighter assiduousness of Starks persona, with fleeting moments of genuine instability (mainly through his frustrations with Vanko). He provides the laughs particularly during periods of the film when Stark is undergoing more somber reflections. While Rockwell’s character is entertaining and one of the film’s highlights, if Iron Man 2 had dared to dream more dramatically – weightier and darker – and avoided the inclusion of some of these lighter moments in favor of allowing the drama to simmer, more of the audience may have walked away satisfied.

 

 

 

 

The Video:  4.5 out of 5

 

Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Iron Man 2 succeeds in reproducing the theatrical experience, with the film grain structure intact, fine detail presented, and a rich palette of colors making good use of the HD format. Of particular note are the strength of the blacks, and the effectiveness of shadows, greys, and the clarity of the blend. There is no crushing or blooming, and DNR is of no concern here (in other words, it has been used sparingly and is entirely unnoticeable).

 

Iron Man’s burgundy and gold suit pops off the screen, and compared with the dirty steel-grey suit worn by War Machine, or the crackling pulses of Whiplashes unique weapon, it really stands out.  Paramount has done a splendid job of treating their biggest hit of the summer (and likely the year) extremely well, positioning this blu-ray to become one of the top selling discs of the year.

 

 

The Sound: 4.5 out of 5

 

My goodness. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track available on Iron Man 2 is an unrelenting bombastic powerhouse of sound. The surrounds are assaulted frequently, with the thumping sounds of John Debney’s score, the ripping sounds of Monaco Racing, and the carnage of explosive action sequences (I think director Jon Favreau wanted to break every piece of glass in this film). The bass is fully explored by the film’s audio, with ample use of the LFE, and sufficient rattle to remind you the volume is probably up too loud. The audio is free from any issues and delivers the action of Iron Man 2, and the wholly satisfying AC/DC riffs in glorious fashion. This is a terrific sound mix and great stuff for your home theater.

 

 

 

The Extras: 4 out of 5

 

Disc 1 (Blu-Ray)

Feature film with optional commentary by Jon Favreau:

 

S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault:Interact with select scenes from the film that include new layers of graphics and insider information. You can also view case files, dossiers, S.H.I.E.L.D. training films, and more.

 

Previsualization and Animatics: (HD):

 

Disc 2 (Blu-Ray)

Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2:

Rebuilding the Suit: (HD):A look at the early stages of bringing Iron Man 2 to the big screen.

 

A Return to Action: (HD):Jon Favreau hosts a look at returning to the Iron Man universe.

 

Expanding the Universe: (HD):A look at the expanding Marvel universe.

 

Building a Legacy: (HD):A look at filming, editing, scoring, and the creation of visual effects for Iron Man 2

 

Featurettes:

Creating Stark Expo: (HD):A look behind the creation of the Stark Expo and the blending of physical sets and computer-generated elements. Anyone who has attended the U.S. Open Tennis tournament in Flushing, NY will be able to quickly identify what has been added (and what has been removed) from the location where the Expo takes place.

 

Practical Meets Digital: (HD):A look at how the ‘practical’ effects help shape and direct the digital augmentation and creations we see on screen.

 

Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury, Black Widow, And War Machine: (HD):An interesting look at three characters from the Marvel Universe that feature prominently in Iron Man 2, with reflections on the comic book origins and their presence in the feature film.

 

Working with DJ AM: (HD):DJ AM, who passed away last year, is fondly remembered by director Jon Favreau

 

Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Jon Favreau: (HD):8 deleted and extended scenes with optional insight from director Jon Favreau. The scenes include: Alternate Opening, Coulson at the Senate, The Sub-Orbital Jet, Tony’s Workshop (extended), Natalie Wears the Gauntlet, Flying Party Girl, Mark II Security, Element Rediscovered (extended)

 

Concept Art Gallery:(HD)

 

Theatrical Trailers

 

Music Video:AC/DC “Shoot to Thrill”

 

Disc 3 (DVD)

Feature Film & Digital Copy

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Iron Man 2is good fun. It’s loud, brisk, effects-laden, and downright funny at times with all of the ingredients that made the first Iron Man such a welcome success. All the ingredients are there, but not in the same proportion. Origin stories are often infinitely more interesting than the sequels which continue to explore the world we have seen set up. The first Matrix and the first Spider-Man are good examples (despite the popularity Spider-Man 2, the original is still the best). The origin element of Iron Man is hard to beat in the sequel, but all involved have clearly worked hard to maintain the spirit of the universe they created, with a more grounded, lighter, accessible affair.  This blu-ray release is easy to recommend, particularly if you enjoyed the film in theaters.

 

 

Overall 4 out of 5

Neil Middlemiss

Kernersville, NC

 

Chuck Mayer

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Neil,

Star Trek was 2009, not 2008. It was called the "Iron Man of 2009" though.

 

And Spidey 2 is absolutely the best. Great review, will pick up during the sweet doorbuster deal.

 

Sincerely,

Chuck
 

Phil Carter

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Awesome review, Neil, even if it was kind of preaching to the choir for me (I am probably the biggest Iron Man fan around, at least in my neck of the woods, and so picking this one up is kind of a foregone conclusion).

 

Looking forward to grabbing this one!

 

cheers,

Phil
 

Neil Middlemiss

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I would have sworn up and down that Star Trek came out the same year as Iron Man, but I apparently was thinking of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Thanks - I have updated my intro accordingly.

 

No comment on Spidey 2 (the second best film in the franchise) [/url]

Neil,

Star Trek was 2009, not 2008. It was called the "Iron Man of 2009" though.

 

And Spidey 2 is absolutely the best. Great review, will pick up during the sweet doorbuster deal.

 

Sincerely,

Chuck

[/quote]
 

Cory S.

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I thought the special features on disc 2 were utterly disappointing. Absolutely nothing compelling was revealed. Revenge of the Fallen, arguably a worse film, had absolutely riveting special features on its second disc. To me, compared to the first Iron Man blu ray, this set feels completely rushed. There was a lot of love put into that Iron Man set from 2 years ago. This thing is barely by the numbers.
 

MattFini

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Originally Posted by Cory S.

I thought the special features on disc 2 were utterly disappointing. Absolutely nothing compelling was revealed. Revenge of the Fallen, arguably a worse film, had absolutely riveting special features on its second disc. To me, compared to the first Iron Man blu ray, this set feels completely rushed. There was a lot of love put into that Iron Man set from 2 years ago. This thing is barely by the numbers.

Sounds like the supplements are an accurate reflection of the film itself, then.
 

Cory S.

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Matt,


They are. They remind me very much of the Spider-Man 3 supplement material. Just standard stuff about the production...almost robotic like....


But, it is clear, through the commentary and a few snippets in the documentary, that Favreau was frustrated with Marvel and this timeline he had for this film.
 

JonZ

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Great looking PQ and the bass had my TV room shaking, but I didnt enjoy the film.
 

Ron-P

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Just watched it tonight, easily just as good as the first. Grade-A popcorn entertainment with an awesome presentation on blu.
 

DaveF

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Neil, how would you rate the first movie? (e.g. 4 of 5) I didn't care for the first Iron Man, so I'm wondering if #2 is more of the same or possibly better enough that it would be worth trying.
 

Ron Reda

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Picked this up yesterday and was way more blown away at home than when I saw it in the theater. The video is excellent and the audio? DEAR GOD, batten down the hatches cuz this is the loudest, most bombastic BRs I have ever heard. In fact, I'd say that it has the most LFE than any film I own and that's saying a lot. If your system is up to the challenge, crank it up and enjoy the ride!!!
 

JonZ

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Dave,

You might want to rent it first.


In my opinion (which means almost nothing) the first film, which I also thought was overrated, is alot better than this one. Most find Xmen The Last Stand to be disappointing, and IMHO its much better than IM2.


The end is pretty cool, but to tell the truth, I dont find this movie to be much better than Spiderman3.


Sorry to be such a downer. But the Bluray is pretty frickin excellent
 

Neil Middlemiss

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I enjoyed the first one and would probably rate it as 4 out of 5 as well. I would say that Iron Man 2 is very much like the fist one, except I tend to enjoy the origin story elements more. The first film is better, but I see the sequel as a fairly natural extension of what the first gave us.


Originally Posted by DaveF

Neil, how would you rate the first movie? (e.g. 4 of 5) I didn't care for the first Iron Man, so I'm wondering if #2 is more of the same or possibly better enough that it would be worth trying.
 

TravisR

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Originally Posted by Neil Middlemiss

The first film is better, but I see the sequel as a fairly natural extension of what the first gave us.



That's my take on it as well. I'll never understand how people that liked the first one hated the second movie. I didn't see much difference in terms of quality between the two movies.
 

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