Back in 2008, Swingers director Jon Favreau released a superhero movie that was the freshest the genre had seen for sometime; being starkly different from the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men movies, or Superman, where the audience spends half of the film waiting for the heroes to don their costumes and fight off the bad guys, or Christopher Nolan’s fairly realistic, yet dark, and somewhat bleak, Batman movies; by releasing Iron Man; a movie where the hero’s everyday persona was as much fun to watch as his costumed alter-ego, where the powers of both him and his enemies were based solely on technology, and where there was an overall sense of sheer fun, that meant audiences were bound to lap up a sequel.
The sequel; imaginatively titled Iron Man 2; had its theatrical release earlier this year, and reunited Favreau with Robert Downey Jr. (Due Date); as Iron Man/Tony Stark; Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en); as Tony’s assistant, Pepper Potts; and Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction); as the enigmatic, superhero tamer, Nick Fury; and introduced a host of new allies and enemies into the mix; including Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation), War Machine (Don Cheadle, Ocean’s 11), Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, Moon), Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Expendables).
Several viewers complained that there was too much Tony Stark, and not enough Iron Man, in the film when it came out, despite the balance, and pacing, perfectly suiting the story; which was aided by the generally great performances, brilliant special effects, and having similarly huge set-pieces, crazy battles, and zany antics, as the film film; making Iron Man 2 just as much fun, and a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
And just like Tony Stark’s tech in the film. the 1080p transfer awarded to Iron Man 2 is top-notch, and features an exceptional amount of detail that really has to be seen to be believed; as literally every spec of dirt, dust, and detail can be seen in every background, foreground, and infinitely clear shot, that litters the picture; no matter what the lighting conditions; as the detail never slips, and the transfer’s black levels are inky, deep, and simply fantastic.
Colour and contrast levels also look amazing, and manage to keep the warm and vibrant palette looking natural, inviting, and thoroughly breathtaking; and while the fleshtones may look a touch warm (which is more of a style choice than an error), they never look unnatural, and fit within the style of the picture extremely well; perfectly complimenting the film’s numerous special effects; which all hold up well on Blu-ray, and look as good here as they did in the theatre.
But one of the best things about the transfer (aside from the superb level of detail, blacks, and colour reproduction), is not the extremely thin, and almost unnoticeable, layer of grain that helps provide it with an authentic film-like feel, but the fact that you’d have to be extremely vigilant, and have a set-up that’s beyond top-of-the-line, to spot a single scratch or error on the transfer; which also lacks all evidence of edge enhancement, noise reduction, or other digital manipulation; meaning that this is a transfer that’s not only stunning, but one that can easily be classified as demo quality.
Similarly impressive is the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix; which boasts excellent clarity, superb precision, and spot-on prioritization, that enhances every aspect of the soundfield, and combines with numerous ambient sounds to create an believable and enveloping mix, that’s difficult to beat.
The hum of the flying suits, and the rumble of the many missile explosions, is also handled well by the appropriately leveled bass, but it’s not just the large action scenes that stand out; as dialogue is just as well prioritized as all of the sound effects, and remains just as clear, well precise, and easy to understand.
Overall this is a great soundmix, and one that shouldn’t disappoint a single audiophile, as practically every nuance in the mix is well crafted, perfectly clear, well prioritized, and well placed, meaning that it thoroughly enhances the film (as any decent soundtrack should), and remains extremely difficult to beat (and although the mix isn’t entirely mind-blowing, the impressive end sequence can easily be classified as demo quality).
Iron Man 2 also comes to Blu-ray loaded with an extensive collection special features, that include an audio commentary with director Jon Favreau; which is an interesting listen (despite the fact he sometimes simply describes what’s happening onscreen), as he provides a good deal of information when discussing alternate scenes, locations, the actors, the story, and the film’s humour, as well as hinting that there was quite a bit of meddling from Marvel executives along the way; and a feature length Making of; which is split into four parts, and covers everything from pre-to-post production, including wardrobe decisions, stunt work, filming locations, and sequence breakdowns, and is well produced, and intercut with interviews from everyone involved, making it well worth a watch.
There are also two separate enhanced viewing modes; S.H.I.E.L.D. Date Vault, and Previsualization and Animatics; the first of which is very informative, somehwat interesting, and a real must for comic-book fans, as it provides pop-up information regarding the background of sequences that are playing (and can thankfully be accessed entirely from the menu; meaning you don’t have to sit through the entire film again to get all of the information) and includes a good deal of information about The Avengers, whilst the second can only be accessed while watching the film, and shows pop-ups of early versions of the sequences that are playing (from storyboards, to rough footage), and isn’t a terribly interesting experience.
Also included are eight deleted scenes (available with optional director’s commentary); which are worth taking a look at, and include an alternate opening sequence, and a longer Senate scene; six featurettes; covering effects work, the origins of certain characters (Nick Fury, Black Widow, and War Machine), and creating the Stark Expo; 11 concept art galleries, three Iron Man 2 trailers, a collection of trailers for other Marvel products, and a music video for AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill.
It’d be hard to deny that there isn’t at least a snippet of information, amongst such a hefty collection of bonus material, that would interest any viewer; as most of the features included are not only interesting, but informative; and while there’s also some pretty useless filler material included (the extra Marvel trailers are an unnecessary plug, the Iron Man 2 trailers are fairly useless as you have the film by that point, and while a nice inclusion for some, the AC/DC music video isn’t exactly a necessity), the commentary track, featurettes, deleted scenes, enhanced viewing mode (the first of which gets massive bonus points for being available to view outside the movie), and excellently produced making of, make this a pretty solid selection of special features that’s sure to please fans of the film.
The Bottom Line:
Iron Man 2 might not have ended up being exactly the film that Jon Favreau wanted to make, and might not have fared quite as well as the first (although what sequel can ever hope to top an opener that gave audiences zero expectations, yet delivered such a fantastically fun ride, and obviously upped the audiences expectations for any further outings?), nevertheless it manages to effectively continue the saga of Tony Stark; in a manner that perfectly conveys his egocentric attitude, and provides just as much humour, spectacle, and fun, as the first film did.
Both the picture and audio quality are excellent, and while the special features aren’t exactly flawless, they provide a wealth of information for anyone that wishes to explore the movie in more detail, and combine with the excellent sound and video to make for a demo quality Blu-ray release that would be a stand out piece of anyone’s collection.
Tony Stark’s world is neatly expanded in Iron Man 2; increasing the mythology of the character, and the wider Marvel world, with the addition of extras characters, and a bigger cast than the first movie, that serve as a great platform for Tony’s crazy antics, and heroic actions, that make for a a great film, and a brilliant Blu-ray transfer; meaning that Iron Man 2 makes for a great buy; whether you’ve seen the film at the cinema and are planning on re-watching it, or are buying blind, you won’t be disappointed; as it’s just as entertaining as the first, and is sure to satisfy anyone who enjoyed the Iron Man’s first outing.