Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4 stars
List Price
$39.99
Amazon
$38.89 (3%)
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$29.95
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
4 Stars
High-Def Extras
3 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Iron Man 2

Street Date:
September 28th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Drew Taylor
Review Date: 1
September 27th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2010
Studio:
Paramount
Length:
124 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

"I am Iron Man." With those four words, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) changed his life forever. No longer just a malcontent billionaire munitions-manufacturer , after a harrowing near-death experience that left a piece of dangerous shrapnel embedded in his chest, he has made it his life's mission to vanquish evil in all of its forms, all the while wearing a cool, handsome, gold-and-red robotish suit.

Just two years later (think about what a staggeringly huge production this is and how quickly it had to gear up and get done), we're now greeted with 'Iron Man 2.' And, sad to report, it's already feeling a bit same old-same old. Some of that has to do with the ever-increasing slate of superhero movies that have popped up in between the first and second movies, but most of it has to do with the interference of Marvel Entertainment, a corporate entity that seems more interested in setting up a future franchise than actually telling a workable, stand-alone story (more on this in a bit).

'Iron Man 2' opens in Russia, where an old man, a former collaborator with Tony Stark's father, dies in poverty. His son, Anton Vanko (Mickey Rourke), vows revenge against Stark, who has just unmasked himself on television. Vanko, a skilled technician, goes about building his own version of the Iron Man get-up, although this one is fairly low-rent and features electrified tentacles that he can bandy about like whips. We then zoom ahead six months. Iron Man, in full-suited armor, jets into an arena, part of a World's Fair-esque technology showcase that Tony has put on under the demurely heading of Stark Expo.

This Stark Expo, with its glittery EPCOT Center futurism, is just one of a handful of subplots that litter the story line. Sometimes they smash together and cause a kind of narrative pile-up, sometimes they bleed together nicely, and sometimes they just stick out like some kind of vestigial limb. Since there's no way to really describe the "plot" of 'Iron Man 2,' let's just rundown the sub-plots, shall we?

Well, Tony is being investigated by the justice department (led by a lugubrious senator played by Garry Shandling) because they want to use the technology for the government; Tony Stark's bro-mance with Rhodey (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard) has soured, and Rhodey has gotten his hands on an earlier Iron Man suit, which he formats to become new hero War Machine; Stark's megalomaniacal rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) teams up with Vanko to take down Iron Man; Tony is dying from the Iron Man doo-dad in his chest (which coincides nicely with his long dormant issues with his father, played by Roger Sterling himself John Slattery); and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) wants Tony to help him with his "Avengers Initiative," which includes double agent Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). I'm sure I’m missing something. Oh right, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is now running Tony's company, which includes overseeing the Expo.

Just reading that paragraph should tell you how much of a mess 'Iron Man 2' really, truly is. Some of it works, some of it doesn't, the whole thing seems a bit hurried and dashed-off and somewhat half-assed. But this is also betraying that there are some genuinely wild, genuinely weird moments in the movie (like Sam Rockwell's orange palms - more on that in a minute), and I would be lying if I didn't find it to be a mostly enjoyable diversion. Part of that enjoyment comes from the commitment of the cast, which was wonderfully chosen and just as game (particularly Rourke), part of it is the shaggy dog way that Jon Favreau puts scenes together, with dialogue that seems at least half-improvised and action sequences that, while well choreographed, are far from show-stopping.

If you liked the first one, you'll probably enjoy 'Iron Man 2.' There isn't a whole lot that's new, or even improved, in the sequel, but it is bigger, louder, noisier, more scattered, and less enjoyable than the first one, but I'm not sure if this is such a terrible thing. There seem to have been too many cooks in the kitchen for this one, and you can feel the oppressive hand of Marvel in almost every scene, but it's still a lot of fun. Just don't expect 'The Dark Knight,' mostly because there isn't much on 'Iron Man 2's' mind besides how cool robots look smashing into other robots.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Iron Man 2' comes in a handsome package - two 50GB Blu-ray discs (one for movie, one for special features) and one DVD (which includes digital copy). It is Region A locked, plays automatically but halts at the main menu, and, well, that's about it. Excelsior!

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (aspect ratio: 2.35:1) is absolutely incredible. As far as new movies heading straight to high definition goes, this is cream of the crop stuff.

In fact, this transfer is so good you wonder why every new, big budget movie can't get this kind of treatment on Blu-ray. Colors are vivid and pop with all the gusto you'd expect from a superhero movie; detail is rich and strong, particularly the various costumes and in the sharpness of the Stark Expo; black levels are deep and inky; and the visual effects, of which there are many, look gorgeous and fully realized and, unlike some Blu-ray transfers, the high definition transfer doesn't make the effects look any more phony.

While there isn't a single speck of grain, the transfer has a wonderfully lush, film-like appearance, thanks largely to the sleek and layered cinematography by Matthew Libatique. Atmospheric effects like dust, sparks, holographic schematics and flying debris look wonderful and add a lot to the overall feeling of the transfer.

To tell you the truth, there isn't a lot in the "minus" column. There aren't any glitchy technical snafus, either, to speak of. This is just a really strong, really wonderful done transfer that I can't say enough good things about. When people buy their Blu-ray player and buy 'Iron Man 2' along with it to test out their new hardware, they won't be disappointed. Not in the slightest. Demo all the way.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

But before I give too much love to the video side of this disc, let me toss some adoration in the direction of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound, the mightiness of which probably pissed off many of my neighbors with its sheer, bass-rattling awesomeness.

Action movie mixes don't get much better than this. I've watched the disc a couple of times since getting my review copy, and every time I watch it I'm taken aback by slightly different things: the little whoomp that the drones make when landing around our cornered heroes; the sonic blast that War Machine produces when he buzzes the Air Force tower a la 'Top Gun;' the way the cars collide into each other in the race track sequence; and the delicate way that the dialogue gymnastics between Robert Downey Jr. and anybody else he chooses to talk to.

And that's the beauty of this audio mix, and why I was so impressed with it: it's not just the big bang explosion stuff that will absolutely light up your surround sound unit, but the dialogue sequences as well. When Sam Rockwell rips into Mickey Rourke towards the end of the film, the dialogue is so well-prioritized and crisply rendered that it dazzled me just as much as Iron Man flying through a cloud of exploding fireworks.

Your surround channels will get a work out, the dialogue sounds wonderful, and everything is in its right place. Like the pristine transfer, there really isn't any reason that other big budget Hollywood movies can't sound this good when released on Blu-ray. It's just wonderful.

Additionally, there are French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options, as well as an "English Audio Description," which is basically someone verbally describing the action on screen, which is more than a little weird. The subtitles that are included on the disc are English, English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Paramount and Marvel have stacked the 'Iron Man 2' Blu-ray with a whole bunch of worthwhile special features (many of them in HD and just-as-many of them worth watching). Most of the special features presented here are also on the DVD 2-disc set, although there are a couple of Blu-ray specific joints as well. In the concerted effort to get through all of this stuff in a timely fashion, I've gone and made note of things that have several sections, where you have the option of watching the different segment separately, as one whole shebang. This is how I watched them, so this is how I'll review them. But I'll make note of what those features are, and that you don't have to swallow them down in one big gulp like I did.

  • Commentary with Jon Favreau Favreau seems like a stand-up dude, and elsewhere on the bonus disc you see him going in to record this commentary, shortly after he completed work on the film and before it actually opened to critical and commercial response that, both of which weren't exactly overwhelming. He talks about how the movie was reshaped as it went along, even through film, and discusses things that you will eventually see on the second disc. Although, you can hear from his discussion, that he was being fucked with by Marvel almost throughout the whole process (this is more inferred than outright stated), but from what I hear, let's just say there's a reason he's not directing 'The Avengers…' Further evidence of this is a scene Jon refers to wherein Mickey Rourke kills his pet parrot - he says, emphatically, that it'll be in the deleted scenes collection but when you visit that part of the second disc, no dice. I am not going to pretend that I didn't pour through the extras looking for a reference, any reference, to Sam Rockwell's radioactively orange palms, and it finally came up in the commentary! Apparently it was Rockwell's idea that his character should have a really bad spray tan, and he did that before he showed up to the set that day. I'm sure that Marvel saw that and put the kibosh on it, because he's never that orange again. Marvel also wasn't too keen on the scene with Rourke in his dirty underwear, after the big race sequence. This track is well worth a listen, even if you're not listening through it in an attempt to piece together Favreau and Marvel's strained relationship.
  • Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of 'Iron Man 2' (HD, 1 hour 27 minutes 8 seconds) This is a really wonderful, feature length documentary that you can also watch split into four separate sections, each detailing a phase of pre-production, production, post-production, etc. It combines on-set photography and interviews with separate interviews by all the creative principles and cast members. Favreau looks really frazzled, having to deal with an ever-mutating script and the demands of a big budget Hollywood movie, but does a good job maintaining a sense of cool throughout the on-set footage. You can tell he was trying really hard, and didn't quite make the movie he was going for. This is a documentary well worth watching.
  • Featurettes (HD, 30:31) These are broken down into "Creating Stark Expo," "Practical Meets Digital," "Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury," "Illustrated Origin: Black Widow," "Illustrated Origin: War Machine," and "Working With DJ AM." If you can't tell the content of these mini-docs from their titles, then there's something profoundly wrong with you. My favorite of these was the "Creating Star Expo" feature, because I love anything connected with World's Fairs (and EPCOT Center), although I was hoping we'd get some stuff with Genndy Tartakovsky, the talented creator of 'Samurai Jack,' who provided pre-production materials for the pavilions as well as the final, Iron Man-and-War Machine versus 100 robots that look just like Iron Man-and-War Machine fight. Oh well. Instead, we get an amazing little bit where one of the Sherman Brothers, who wrote the music for it's a small world, and Carousel of Progress (both Walt Disney pavilions at the 1964 World's Fair, which the Stark Expo was heavily influenced by) and for 'Iron Man 2' provided the Stark Expo with its theme song.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 16:50) These scenes can be watched with our without Jon Favreau commentary (I suggest watching them, even on an initial run-through, with the commentary). Among the scenes presented here are the alternate opening, which was featured in some of the trailers, with an introduction of Pepper on the plane (she kisses the Iron Man helmet before throwing it out of the plane); an elongated version of the senate hearing which explains where Pepper went and shows Sam Rockwell playing with an Iron Man figurine (not kidding); and just some alternate exposition stuff. The scene with Mickey Rourke killing the bird is sadly not here, and further evidence of Marvel's meddling.
  • Concept Art Galleries Proof that 'Iron Man 2' cost a whole bunch of money and a lot of that money didn't even make it to the big screen, these gorgeous galleries (11 in total) will make your eyes water with possibility. Really worth checking out.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD, 6:22) One teaser, two trailers, all in HD, you can skip these, especially if you've never seen the movie away, they give away fairly big plot points and action beats, but, hey, anything to get those butts in the seats.
  • Other Marvel Trailers (HD, 5:33) Two trailers for the middling SEGA tie-in videogame and one for an animated Avengers movie that looks god-awful. Skip please.
  • "Shoot to Thrill" AC/DC Music Video (HD, 5:37) I had totally forgotten about the bizarre, cross-promotional 'Iron Man 2' album that was really just a loose collection of AC/DC greatest hits. So weird. This "video" is archival footage of AC/DC doing their thing live, inter-cut with action from the movie and is just as pointless as hollow as the album it came from. Oh synergy. Skip.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are a couple of exclusive bits that 'Iron Man 2' has hidden in its utility belt. They aren't all that impressive but, hey, they're there, and that's got to count for something.

  • S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault This is an "enhanced viewing mode," if you want to go along with the jargon, and you can watch two different paths of information - there's 'Footage Scan Mode,' which, besides having a vaguely Orwellian name, is fun and gives background information on different sequences and pops up when those sequences play. Then there's 'The Vault,' in which you can access all the information and videos from 'Footage Scan Mode' all by itself, without having to watch the movie (and have the movie interrupted by this stuff). The Vault section also has a bunch of other stuff, mostly about the Avengers Initiative and the participants therein. If you're a nerd, then this is for you, baby! (Also, since this is a BD-Live equipped organism, the information can be updated, which they might want to do considering all the Hulk-related stuff currently features Edward Norton, who has already been replaced for 'The Avengers' with Mark Ruffalo.)
  • Previsuzalization and Animatics This is another enhanced viewing option, this time what pops up are the different "drafts" of the production, with storyboards, then pre-visualized animation, then rough footage before all the final effects were could be put in place (they used some kind of motion capture technology that was developed for 'Avatar' called "The Volume"). Again, these bits pop up to their corresponding sequence during the movie, but unlike the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff, you can't access it separately, although much of the material is covered on the second disc's voluminous special features.

Easter Eggs

  • Making the Little 'Thor' Ending Thingee (HD, 1:38) This brief making-of doc, about the hidden little post-credits bit (an Easter Egg in and of itself), features actor Clark Gregg, director Kenneth Branagh (who is also directing next summer's 'Thor' movie) and comic book writer J. Michael Stracynski. What's interesting about JMS' involvement in this doc (and the shooting of the scene) is that he had a very public falling out with Marvel, both after Marvel chief Joe Quesada monkeyed with the ending to a JMS-penned run on 'Spider-Man' and when Marvel decided that the next big Marvel "event" would involve the siege of Asgard, Thor's mythical realm. Since then, JMS has said bye-bye to the House of Ideas and made his way over to DC, where he is currently penning both Wonder Woman and Superman books. Anyway, what will you get out of this brief featurette? Not a whole lot, except that everybody's jazzed about the Thor movie. Have you heard anyone, comic book fan or casual reader alike who really loves Thor? Me neither. As an Avenger he's serviceable, but it seems to be the most problematic superhero adaptation, with its mix of faux high-brow mythology and superhero theatrics. Oh well. You certainly won't get any new info out of this puppy, but it is a pretty cute little Easter Egg. You access it by going down to the last part of the "Ultimate Iron Man" making-of feature, and hitting right on the control. Then a little box will light up. Press that, and you're good to go. Thanks to reader Shaun Davies for pointing this out.

  • Final Thoughts

    'Iron Man 2' is wonky kind of sequel: at times slavishly indebted to his predecessor and yet devianting wildly in some very weird ways. Overall, it's fun and entertaining and diverting enough, but it doesn't build in the ways you'd expect it to, besides laying the groundwork for future Marvel films. This disc is everything you could want (besides that deleted scene where Mickey Rourke kills the bird, and a definitive explanation for Sam Rockwell's orange palms), with absolutely brilliant audio and video and a whole host of extras. This release comes highly recommended, even if the movie is something less than super.

    Technical Specs

    • 3-Disc Set
    • BD/DVD/Digital Copy Combo

    Video Resolution/Codec

    • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

    Aspect Ratio(s)

    • 2.40:1

    Audio Formats

    • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
    • French Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

    Subtitles/Captions

    • English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

    Supplements

    • Commentary by Jon Favreau
    • Creating Stark Expo
    • Practical Meets Digital
    • Four deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Jon Favreau

    Exclusive HD Content

    • S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault
    • Previsualization and Animatics
    • Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2
    • Illustrated Origins: Black Widow, Nick Fury, War Machine
    • Working with DJ AM—Jon Favreau remembers working with Adam Goldstein
    • Four Blu-ray exclusive deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Jon Favreau
    • Concept art gallery
    • Theatrical trailers
    • Music Video: AC/DC "Shoot To Thrill"

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    List Price
    $39.99
    Amazon
    $38.89 (3%)
    3rd Party
    $29.95
    Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»