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Iron Man 2(2010)
With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts, and James "Rhodey" Rhodes at his side, must forge new alliances -- and confront powerful enemies.
For more about Iron Man 2 and the Iron Man 2 Blu-ray release, see Iron Man 2 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Clark Gregg
Directors: Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh
» See full cast & crew
Iron Man 2 Blu-ray Review
Suit up for one the year's finest Blu-ray releases.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 22, 2010
The suit and I are one.
Iron Man is a whole lot of movie to live up to. It might be the best Superhero movie of the past twenty or so years not featuring Gotham's favorite caped crusader in a leading role, and outside of 1978's Superman, maybe the best of the rest. Iron Man showed the world just how much energy, rhythm, humor, sincerity, and quality filmmaking and storytelling could be crammed into a Superhero movie that managed to satisfy both longtime series fans and newcomers in search not of the perfect comic book adaptation but merely a well-crafted Summer blockbuster that delivered the goods without sacrificing story. Enter the inevitable sequel hot on the heels of and only two years removed from the original; retaining the same director and many of the same primary cast members, the succinctly-titled Iron Man 2 is nearly the match of its predecessor in terms of tempo, special effects, and fun factor. It's even built around a good-old-fashioned revenge story that's supported by all the bells and whistles that define modern day, big-budget Action moviemaking. Best of all, it continues to build the legacy of its characters and further shape what's to come in the altered reality in which they exist. All said, Iron Man 2 is pretty much the perfect Summer movie. Big, noisy, and entertaining but with a strong story, exceptional direction, great acting, and seamless special effects that support rather than define the movie -- even during its most daring and heart-racing action scenes -- Director Jon Favreau's lastest is nothing short of a spectacle; it's both a feast for the senses and a surprisingly tasty treat for the brain.
With Tony Stark's (Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder) announcement to the world that he is Iron Man -- a worldwide sensation and the bringer of "privatized world peace" -- comes greater exposure, more stress, and a villain with a score to settle and the technical know-how to best Stark's mechanized saint. Tony's celebrity and bank account know no bounds, but even his immeasurable fame and vast fortune can't stop the rising toxicity levels in his body. He's dying, and only by unearthing a decades-old secret can he stabilize his personal reactor and save his life. As if that weren't enough, Iron Man is called to duty when a new nemesis appears on the scene. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler) has developed a weapon that's up to the challenge of squaring off against Iron Man, and Stark barely survives their first encounter. Meanwhile, the government is pushing hard to obtain Stark's technology, but the billionaire playboy isn't going to hand over his secrets so easily. Enter Stark's competition, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, Galaxy Quest), who's more than happy to build the weapons the military needs, and he even secures the talents of one very angry Russian to help him achieve the success of which he's always dreamed. With so much going on in Tony's life -- including a scuffling friendship with his old buddy Rhodes (Don Cheadle, Brooklyn's Finest), new twists in his relationship with personal secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en), and the sudden appearance of the ultra-sexy Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson, The Other Boleyn Girl) -- the superhero playboy may have finally bitten off more than he can chew considering his physical ailments, a deadly new foe, and his ever-shifting and incessantly-stressful personal and professional lives.
Iron Man 2 might best be described as a picture built around consequences: the consequences of great fame and fortune, the consequences of powerful technology falling into the wrong hands, and the consequences of a man bent on avenging past wrongs. While Tony Stark is reveling in the further fame he's captured in the wake of delivering world peace through the superior firepower and advanced capabilities of his Iron Man suit, a villain secretly plots against Stark in the name of avenging his late father and for reasons that extend well beyond Tony's tenure as the head of Stark Industries, further reinforcing the notion that actions and consequences can and do exceed their original scope and, in that regard, these consequences come to define almost the whole of this picture's plot. That the picture is so concerned with consequences seems its greatest thematic strength. Here's a movie -- and a series, for that matter -- that takes its elements seriously enough to construct a working, orderly world around the action and mayhem where the destruction has repercussions, where celebrity is both a blessing and a curse, where governments seem as power-hungry and manipulative as ever, where rivalries turn into deadly clashes, and where wayward ambition trumps common sense. In other words, the world of Iron Man paralleles the world in which it exists as merely a movie, meaning that it plays within the rules set forth in the real world and only alters its landscape enough to tell its story of superheroes, villains, and radically-advanced technologies. Neither Iron Man nor its sequel pretend that they exist in a world free of the constraints of nosy government panels, personal posturing, strained friendships, and imperfect heroes. That the Iron Man movies aren't as cut-and-dry as the more generic and thoughtless of Superhero movies and that they both embrace and revel in real-world consequences are two of several primary reasons why Iron Man and its sequel work so incredibly well.
It doesn't hurt, either, that beyond the picture's insistence on staying true to real-world scenarios lies a movie that's packed with the latest and greatest in special effects that help craft a series of what is nothing less than several breathtaking action scenes. Iron Man 2 smoothly integrates its action into the story and, again, makes sure it's built within the construct of its plot and not simply slapped into the movie for no real reason. The action is wholly dependent on plot structure, but the icing on the cake is certainly the prodigious, exciting, and practically seamless special effects. Iron Man 2 might not feature the most eye-catching visuals ever committed to film -- they're not as complex as something like what was seen in Star Trek -- but they're nevertheless so finely-integrated into the film and made such a part of the environment both visually and structurally that it's often hard to tell where the practical ends and the CGI begins. It really is that seamless, and it's that practically-vanished line between "real" and "imaginary" that makes Iron Man 2 such a fantastic Action movie and special effects bonanza. It was said of Superman's effects that "you'll believe a man can fly!" Iron Man 2 -- with, granted, about 30 years worth of technological advancements powering Stark's suit and all the other cool stuff on display -- will have viewers believing the same, but in conjunction with countless numbers of additional actions and a seamlessness never quite before realized to this level of excellence.
Looking at Iron Man 2 from a structural perspective, it's easy to see the labor of love, sincerity in filmmaking, high regard for the source material, and desire to craft a movie that's not just fast and loud but thematically sound and driven by plot rather than sheer visual and aural excess, all of which differentiate quality Summer blockbusters like Iron Man 2 from lesser movies only concerned with sight and sound and groan-inducing humor (see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). Iron Man 2 is a textbook example of a picture that succeeds where others fail, managing to be serious, cute, funny, and action-packed all at once, with none of the supportive elements overwhelming the story but instead propping it up. It doesn't hurt that Robert Downey, Jr. -- through his portrayal of Tony Stark -- finds an outlet from whence he takes full advantage of the opportunity to spruce up and exaggerate his performance as he revels in his character's narcism and love of excess, all the while balancing things out with a serious and smart foundation that allows him to show that, yes, even brainiacs can be the life of the party, save the day, get the girl, and end the day with a swim in a vault that would put Scrooge McDuck's to shame. For all the fantastic direction, awesome special effects, and great stories, Iron Man 2 is really Downey's picture; he's the perfect Tony Stark, able to pull off both a wide array of emotional undercurrents while going with the character's flow that sees Stark as a drunken party animal one minute, an impossibly brilliant scientist the next, and later a superhero fighting to save the world.
Speaking of Downey, Iron Man 2 is home to another actor who has seen his career suddenly revitalized and thrust back into the spotlight as he appears in several praiseworthy and high-gross pictures: Mickey Rourke. Rourke is excellent in Iron Man 2; his character is nowhere near as flamboyant as Downey's, and it might seem that Rourke isn't asked to do much with the stoic and scarred Ivan Vanko other than look menacing, but Rourke gives the character just the right depth behind the muscles to make him a villain that's challenging beyond the hulking fašade. Also of interest to Iron Man fans was the transition from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle in the crucial role of Stark's friend, Rhodes. Cheadle makes the transition a smooth one and seems to fit the bill better than Howard -- particularly considering the character's arc that's heavier on the action in Iron Man 2 -- while also delivering the film's best line when he's introduced for the first time, saying "It's me, I'm here, deal with it." A double entendre to be sure, Cheadle delivers the line with an obvious wink-and-a-nod that both eases him into the part and ingratiates himself with doubting fans all in one swift stroke. Sam Rockwell is also brilliant as geeky bad guy Justin Hammer. Rockwell -- as his character demands of him -- tries to channel Tony Stark's exuberance but comes off as goofy rather than eccentric and cool. The Moon actor shows off another side of his repertoire in Iron Man 2 that's sure to solidify him as a major player in the next decade. Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson both grace the screen with fine performances and good looks, while Samuel L. Jackson proves he's the perfect Nick Fury. Oh, yeah. Iron Man 2 is good, but by the looks of things, the franchise -- with its integration into the greater Marvel universe -- is only going to get better.
The story, special effects, and cast are all uniformly excellent, and it would seem that Director Jon Favreau is left with little to do but yell out "action!" and make sure his camera is rolling. Of course, he brings a steady influence and other intangibles to the picture that turn it into a cohesive final product that's a rival to, but not the match of, the original. That's fine; sequels aren't usually known as the cream of the crop, but Iron Man 2 -- by following the same formula that made the first so successful -- captures a similar spirit and tone as its predecessor while matching and, in several ways, surpassing it in terms of technical proficiency and scope. Whereas the first laid the foundation for the characters, they're allowed to further flourish in the sequel, again chased by the consequences of their actions with Tony in search of an answer to his physical ailments and defending both his technologies and his own character to a demanding and intrusive government. Favreau allows his talented cast and special effects wizards to carry the movie, but he, Cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Editors Dan Lebental and Richard Pearson, and Composer John Debney all contribute to the picture's finished veeneer that cements it as an unmistakably well-crafted product that's a blast -- sometimes literally considering its explosive visuals and prodigious soundtrack -- from start to "more! more!" finish.
Iron Man 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Iron Man 2's 1080p transfer is excellent from beginning to end. Other than a few ever-so-slightly soft shots and a hint of banding visible over a few backgrounds, Paramount's Blu-ray splendidly delivers that fresh-from-theaters filmic texture. This image sports meticulous detailing that renders most every object in the film with nearly infinite clarity and precision. The picture begins inside a run-down Moscow apartment where viewers see everything but the cockroaches hiding in the shadows; the chipping paint, stains, battered walls, and other signs of general untidiness and excessive wear-and-tear are readily visible. The image only improves when it has more light to play with. While textured walls, faces, clothes, and other ordinary elements all sparkle in high definition, the real treats come in the form of the intricate detailing seen on the armored suits, particularly those of the battle-damaged variety. Iron Man's heavily-battered suit that's taken a beating form his first encounter with Ivan Vanko's deadly whips is seen in all its intricate glory on this Blu-ray release; not one scratch, scuff, tear, jagged edge, or exposed internal is left wanting for any more clarity that what Paramount's transfer affords. It's nothing short of breathtaking, and the film is packed with similarly striking details. Colors are a match for the high level of detail, with the picture's assorted and vibrant palette pleasantly and accurately displayed, from the brightest hues to the darkest and most ordinarily-colored robots seen near film's end. This transfer features superb black levels that never waver and flesh tones that might look just a bit rosy but otherwise generally appear as accurate. A handsome layer of film grain is retained over the image, and the print is meticulously clean and free of any distracting hairs, scratches, or pops. Additionally, there is no evidence of unwanted digital manipulation such as edge enhancement or noise reduction. It may lose half a point for a couple of nit-picky observations, but make no mistake about it: Iron Man 2's Blu-ray transfer means business, and it faithfully reproduces that sought-after cinematic texture about as well as any other transfer out there.
Iron Man 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Iron Man 2 blasts the senses with an exhilarating DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The audio immediately does its best to shred the soundstage and send all but the most stalwart of listeners begging for mercy; this is one tough soundtrack that's unafraid of loud explosions, precision sound effects, and a bonanza of surround sound information, all stimulating the aural senses while retaining a clarity and ease of delivery that's practically impossible to top. Whether a scene featuring Stark delivering a speech to an enthusiastic crowd where his words and the audiences' applause both perfectly reverberate through the soundstage and effectively place the listener in the room or the roar of Iron Man's engines that deliver a thunderous low end as he zips about the listening area, the track features no shortage of interesting, powerful, and seamless elements that bring the movie to life. There are many highlights throughout the movie that demonstrate the track's incredible accuracy, clean but potent low end, perfect dialogue reproduction, and active surround channels. Parmaount's DTS track captures even the most subtle of background nuances during a Senate hearing where camera shutters and the "oohs" and "aahs" of the gathered press and observers seem to spill from every speaker. Chapter six features a racetrack action sequence that not only springs to life through the seamless presentation of roaring engines and squealing tires, but through the following action scenes that all but devastate the listening area as cars explode and are sliced in half, all the while the general chaos of a burning raceway, frightened fans, and blasting energy weapons do nothing less than shower listeners with an incredible array of pitch-perfect sound. The track is at its best when it features weapons fire and explosions; the final action sequence has "demo" written all over it as automatic weapons spit out bullets with deadly sonic precision and explosions rock the soundstage without mercy. This is one of the most active, clear, and entertaining tracks to come along this year; supported by seamless dialogue reproduction, it's perfection in every way from the heaviest of explosions to the slightest of ambient nuances. This is the definition of Action movie audio on Blu-ray.
Iron Man 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Iron Man 2 spreads its extras out over three discs, two of which are of the Blu-ray variety and one serving double duty as home to DVD and digital copies of the film. Disc one begins with an audio commentary track with Director Jon Favreau. He delivers an enthusiastic commentary that fans should enjoy. The director begins with by sharing the details of an ultimately unrealized opening scene and continues on to discuss the picture's structure, the basic elements of the story, the actors' contributions to the picture, shooting locales, the picture's balance, its humor, and much more. He occasionally does little more than discuss the on-screen action, but he frames his recounting of the plot by setting a foundation for more pertinent information. S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault (1080p) allows viewers to "explore S.H.I.E.L.D.'s data on the people, weapons, and technology surrounding Tony Stark." Users may choose to view the information from one of two modes: Footage Scan Mode shows information in support of several scenes, appearing over the movie as it plays; The Vault displays the information separate from the movie. The Vault features that same material as Footage Scan Mode -- selectable from a scrolling menu of scenes -- and also contains a plethora of additional points-of-interest, such as Project: Iron Man, Project: New Mexico, Avengers Initiative, Super Soldier Initiative, and Missing: Bruce Banner. Each contains a wealth of clickable information that reveals character bios, secrets, field reports, and much more. In other words, it's a Marvel fan's hub for all things superhero. Disc one also features Previsualization and Animatics (1080p), a pop-up secondary video window that plays over the movie and shows storyboards, animatics, and live action test footage as they relate to key scenes.
Disc two begins with Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of 'Iron Man 2' (1080p), a four-part documentary that covers several film-critical elements in greater detail. First is Rebuilding the Suit (29:14), a piece that features cast and crew speaking on the rebirth of the series for this second installment. The piece follows the beginnings of the filmmaking process, the assemblage of the all-star cast, following up on the success of the first picture, designing new characters, the use of animated previsualization, prop and costume design, wardrobe selection, stunt work, and the actors' physical training. A Return to Action (17:22) is something of a piecemeal supplement that looks at Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance, Sam Rockwell's and Gary Shandling's contributions to the movie, the work of Director Jon Favreau, shooting the picture's dingy Moscow opening, filming at Edwards Air Force Base, the weapons seen in the film, and filming one of the picture's critical fight scenes. Expanding the Universe (18:56) further looks at prop and costume design, shooting in Monaco, filming the raceway action sequence, choreographing Scarlett Johansson's fight scenes, and the use of both practical and computer-generated effects in the movie. Finally, Building a Legacy (20:11) is perhaps the best segment of the four, examining the post-production processes of editing and scoring the picture and adding the finishing touches to make a complete movie.
Following the four-part documentary is a collection of six self-explanatory featurettes (1080p): Creating Stark Expo (6:44), Practical Meets Digital (8:37), Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury (6:07), Illustrated Origin: Black Widow (3:06), Illustrated Origin: War Machine (3:52), and Working with DJ AM (2:02). Next up is a series of 11 Concept Art Galleries: Hammer Drones, Feebles, Russia, Mark IV, Sets, Stark Expo 2010, Stark Mansion, Mark V, War Machine, Whiplash Exo-Skeleton, and Whiplash Mark II. Also included on disc two is a collection of eight deleted scenes -- including the alternate opening Favreau discusses in his commentary -- with optional Jon Favreau commentary (1080p, 16:50). The disc concludes with a trio of Iron Man 2 trailers (1080p, 2:33, 2:34, & 1:14), a trailer for Sega's Iron Man 2 video game (1080p, 1:47), the Iron Man 2 video game prologue (1080p, 2:45), a trailer for Avengers Animated (1080p, 1:51), and the music video Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC (1080p, 5:37). Finally, disc three houses both DVD and digital copies of the film. The latter, sampled on an iPhone 4, features audio that plays as somewhat crunchy and severely lacking in clarity and definition, the shortcomings readily evident even through the two-channel headphone presentation. On the flip side, the video appears stable and accurate, with strong colors and adequate details, all without much in the way of excessively intrusive compression artifacts.
Iron Man 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Iron Man 2 delivers pretty much everything anyone could want out of both a sequel and a Summer blockbuster. It's loud, fast-paced, exciting, and crammed with seamless special effects, but it's also structurally sound and backed by a fairly generic but nevertheless workable plot that manages to exist within the confines of the real world, accentuated only by those elements that make the movie a fantastical escape from the daily grind. As any good sequel accomplishes, Iron Man 2 further develops its characters, delivers action scenes that are the equal of or superior to anything seen in the original, and works towards the construction of additional installments. Director Jon Favreau has both Iron Man and the Superhero genre down pat; outside of Christopher Nolan, he's probably the best the genre currently has to offer behind the camera. Paramount's three-disc Iron Man 2 Blu-ray delivers a pristine 1080p transfer, a faultless lossless soundtrack, and hours of extra content. Here's another disc that's in the running to be remembered as one of 2010's best. Very highly recommended.
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Iron Man 2 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, Sep.27-Oct.3: Iron Man 2 Is Number 1 - October 7, 2010
Iron Man 2 was hands down the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ended October 3, outselling runner-up Get Him to the Greek by 14 to 1. According to Nielsen VideoScan, a record 52% of the total disc sales of Iron Man 2 came from the Blu-ray editions (not ...
• Deal Alert: Iron Man 2 Blu-ray Combo $19.99 - October 1, 2010
Amazon has slashed the price of the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack of Iron Man 2 to $19.99 (50% off MSRP), probably as a preemptive action before a similar price goes live at Best Buy this weekend as advertised on the retailer's weekly ad. There is no information ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - September 28 - October 4 - September 28, 2010
After all these years, it is still difficult to visualize funny-man Jon Favreau as being a successful action film director, but that is exactly what he has been able to accomplish with Iron Man, and its sequel, Iron Man 2 - which is out today on Blu-ray. If he ...
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