Iron Man 2 Blu-ray ReviewSeptember 23, 2010
Based on Iron Man 2's boffo box office business, it's safe to assume the majority of Blu-ray purchasers will have already seen it theatrically before firing up an encore performance in the comforts of their home. I am part of this group who already knows what to expect and wonder if the Marvel sequel holds up to repeat viewings as well as its predecessor has over the past couple years.
In my Iron Man 2 theatrical review (recommended for those of you who passed on the film in theaters), I praised Robert Downey Jr. for once again stealing the show as a deeply flawed hero and suggested the pacing and action more resembled a comic book brought to life than the first Iron Man film. Remove either from the equation and Iron Man 2 loses its entertainment appeal, even if the underdeveloped array of plots and subplots are given more room to properly flesh out. That direction may have made for a stronger and more cohesive story, but it's hard to turn off Iron Man 2 "as is" which makes it equally appealing to Iron Man as a candidate to fire up for additional viewings. I've already watched it straight through on Blu-ray once and certain parts with Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell twice or more. Make no mistake that additional viewings are forthcoming.
The Iron Man 2 theatrical presentation is still relatively fresh in my mind and I'm happy to report that Paramount's AVC 1080p transfer does a fine job of recreating that experience without any annoying nicks or scuffs on the print. There is a definite natural film-like quality to the image that maintains consistency for the majority of the film and absence of artificial digital enhancement. An example of a softer scene would be during the introduction to Vanko's workshop in the film's opening credits. It is over so quickly that you'll soon forget it was there at all. Detail in the practical and computer generated effects are a sight to behold, especially when Tony is milling about in his workshop with Jarvis or wearing the Iron Man armor. This is a fine near-perfect transfer befitting a man of Tony Stark's technological accomplishments.
Expectations for perfect audio from the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix are strong and unsurprisingly they are met. Whether it's the booming AC/DC songs or War Machine lettings loose, there is seemingly no limit to how low the bass will reach or how enveloping surround use can be. Don't worry; there's crisp and clean dialogue and plenty of lighter effects as well, all in balance with the heavy stuff that audiophiles will want to replay several times over.
Beyond the Feature
Paramount's Iron Man 2 Blu-ray release is not an official special edition but it embodies what that label implies. In addition to a disc for the feature film and a handful extras there is a second disc dedicated exclusively to even more bonus features. This configuration has become rarer in this Blu-ray age so when you see it, you know the studio is pushing through a lot of content and aims to impress.
Disc one segues from the feature film to an Audio Commentary with the one and only director Jon Favreau. Solo commentaries are traps for mundane ramblings but John's passion for his project and naturally amusing way with words help keep this exploration into making the film relatively lively. A stock shot looks awful in IMAX? Jon isn't afraid to admit it. Even so, an additional partner on the commentary like Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige, star Robert Downey Jr. or anyone on the cast for that matter would have given Jon someone to bounce humor off of.
Also available to turn on during the film are self-explanatory Previsualization and Animatics as a picture-in-picture function, and Footage Scan Mode that pops up S.H.I.E.L.D. facts during the movie. The latter is part of the hyped S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault where rumors suggested the Comic-Con footage from the Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger panels would be publicly debut. If they are going to appear in the Vault then they have not arrived yet, but Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige recently insinuated they might be coming.
In fact, the Vault is rather sparse with new information save for cool schematics of Captain America's shield, instead offering empty "slots" for additional S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives, threats, organizations and locations. Some of the video clips duplicate across various data files and stumbling onto them is rather annoying. The Vault holds promise but until it is updated via BD-Live with trailers and other goodies from Thor and Captain America, most of its contents are of the "recap" variety.
I did spend quite some time clicking around looking for Easter Eggs in the Vault and did fine one relating to an old Stark Industries video file and Captain America. Those with even a basic knowledge of Captain America will understand its significance. You'll want to keep an eye out for Captain America references in the Vault to find it and do some exploring for additional Easter Eggs yourself.
Disc two kicks off with Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 (1:27:08), an exhaustive four-part documentary exemplifying an equally engaging, informative and entertaining look at making the movie. There are plenty of informal conversations with the cast and crew, fly-on-the-wall perspectives and peeling back the layers of practical versus computer generated effects. The nearly hour-and-a-half runtime flies by.
Ultimate Iron Man is comparable to the feature film given its length. Another comparison can be made in that both the feature film and this documentary include a Thor bit when the credits close. In the case of Ultimate Iron Man, there are roughly 90 seconds of footage from the New Mexico set where Thor's hammer lands. Rather than watch this scene from the perspective seen in Iron Man 2, these seconds go behind the camera where Kenneth Branagh directs Clark Gregg through the scene. No actual completed footage from Thor is shown, but this unadvertised treat is a welcome surprise.
The next section include six short Featurettes (30:31) with play all function that examine the creation of the Stark Expo, the use of practical and digital effects, illustrations for Nick Fury, Black Widow and War Machine, and a short tribute piece by John Favreau on working with now deceased DJ AM on his cameo scenes. Each of these is a natural extension of Ultimate Iron Man and should be watched immediately afterward.
A total of 8 Deleted Scenes (16:50) with optional Favreau commentary and "play all" function begin with the alternate opening as partially seen in the first theatrical trailer. You know this scene as when Pepper Potts kisses Tony's Iron Man helmet and tosses it out the back of a cargo plane. The full cut scene leads up to this moment with Tony hunched over a toilet and then arguing with Pepper about not wanting to make his appearance at the Stark Expo. I prefer the more streamlined and less dramatic version chosen for the theatrical cut.
Two more scenes worth taking note of include Natasha Romanoff playing with Iron Man tech at a party as seen in a promotional photo prior to the film's release, and the original Olivia Munn scene where she gets to play a ditzy party girl hovering above Stark at his party. Neither scene really works as the repulsors being used in the middle of a party should have had people freaking out, not going on about their business as if there was no threat to their safety.
Rounding out the disc two extras is an extensive Concept Art Gallery full of artwork for the various suit and tech seen in the film, a trio of Theatrical Trailers, additional trailers for the Iron Man 2 game and Avengers Animated Film, and the Shoo t to Thrill AC/DC Music Video.
Marvel has a good thing going with their Avengers universe live-action films and Iron Man 2 is no exception. It could be a tighter film, but it's a heck of a lot of fun and worth either a first or tenth viewing on Blu-ray Disc.
Not to be outdone is Paramount who continues to churn out proper special edition releases (Transformers, Star Trek, Iron Man and now Iron Man 2) even if they aren't always labeled as such. It's difficult to ascertain if Marvel or Paramount had more influence over the disc's configuration, but the final result are bonus features you can and will want to explore and a high definition feature presentation worthy of the investment into your home theater gear. If Marvel decides to debut the teaser trailers for Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger via BD-Live and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Vault, and my gut thinks they will, then that alone makes Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray a must-own release.
- Dan Bradley
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