"I am Iron Man." was the final words uttered of the first movie, and with that broke new ground in comic book films, and films in general. A daring line that told the world Tony Stark was indeed Iron Man. What if Clark Kent told the world he was Kal-El aka Superman? Bruce Wayne as Batman? It wouldn't work, but with how Tony Stark sells himself it fits perfectly. And with that declaration comes great admiration. Stark saves the world on a regular basis, is dating his assistant turned CEO Pepper Potts and even restarted Stark Expo to reinvigorate his father's legacy, all the while Tony is slowly dying. The very same arc reactor that is keeping him alive is also slowly killing him, with the power source being made of deadly palladium, a radioactive material. Struggling to find a powerful enough substitute, he grows more despondent of drinking, growing more reckless and self-destructive. In one bout of self-pity, he drives his own sponsored car in the Monaco Grand Prix, where Ivan Vanko (Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke) displays his own arc reactor powered armor and whips. He is defeated by Iron Man, though he is proving that Iron Man is not invincible and very much mortal. Stark's rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell in a great sniveling weasel-esque performance) hires Vanko to build an army of rival Iron Man suits to upstage his rival and make a fortune. Stark, knowing he is mortal, facing death, and also the long arm of the law trying to take his suits and designs away for military use, Stark falls into a deeper depression, leading to a drunken fight between Iron Man and his best friend, Lt. Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and successfully takes the suit for military use. S.H.I.E.L.D. approaches Stark, hoping to convert him to a member, reveals his new assistant is Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and gives him some of his father's possesion, also revealing he was a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. and co-created the arc reactor with Vanko's father, whose son wanted revenge for the death of his father. Stark finds a hidden message, finds a cure for his ailment and goes head to head with Hammer, and Vanko to a certain degree.
Okay, I was really hyped to see this movie back in 2010, loving the trailers with great looking CGI, Robert Downey, Jr. back as Tony Stark and seeing an awesome villain shot as Whiplash is cracking his whips, about to cause major damage, all while AC/DC play in the background! What's not to love?!?! Plenty ...unfortunately.
The cast is truly awesome, with RDJ returning with flying colors as Stark, bringing the same smarm while also adding a new layer or two with his impending doom and depression, Don Cheadle, replacing Terence Howard as Rhodey, is good as Iron Patriot, and Johansson is the perfect Black Widow, while not having much to do here, she subsequently shows us her real strength later on in the series. Sam Rockwell is terrific, Rourke is fun, if too eccentric, as Vanko but does a lot with such an underwritten villain with Hammer being a more rounded character than the man with the electric whips!
Jon Favreau returns to direct, adding his special touch and delicate balance of action, comedy and drama with a nice visual panache aided with terrific camera work by Matthew Libatique. CGI is wonderful as ever, as is pretty much everything else in this huge budgeted blockbuster. Which brings me to what doesn't work in the film.
Tropic Thunder writer, and future Mr. Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux was picked to write the film and does pretty well, but some of the story is just a bit undercooked. I enjoy his added humor, some more development with Stark, but when you have a potentially awesome villain with Whiplash and you delegate him to a lab feeding a bird some seeds while spewing some sporadic Russian, you tend to alienate your fan base a bit. The depression Stark suffers is suddenly lifted since he found a secret in his dad's Expo diorama, some 30 year previous than his son would need it to power a suit made of iron and save his life? Plot holes! And the real villain is a man in a suit, a well tailored suit, but a suit nonetheless. Same as the first movie, just a bit different since we don't see Sam Rockwell donning powered armor and trying to destroy his rival for corporate and person gains. Eh.... regardless this is still an action-packed film that is very fun for kids and adults, though there will be lingering questions laying dormant for years to come, failing to ever rest permanently. C'est la vie.
The BluRay on the other hand is simply fantastic, starting with the terrific presentation. The 1080p 2.35 image is truly to die for, offering us a heavily detailed, sharp, colorful and well-defined image that doesn't have one noticeable flaw, at least none that I could see. The audio raises the roof and shakes the foundation to its very core with the 5.1 DTS-HD getting down and dirty with every line of dialogue being fully fleshed out, every explosion being loud yet surrounding the viewer accurately and every AC/DC song coming through in stunning lossless audio. A true demo-worthy disc, even 6 years after the film left theatres and landed on home video.
The extras are the true meat and potatoes to this package, split over 3-disc filled with hours of extras and most, if not all, in HD. Disc one starts off with an audio commentary with director Jon Favreau. Thankfully included here (Since the only flaw of the first film's disc was the lack of a commentary), Favreau is a very enthusiastic delving into his involvement in the sequel, alternate opening details, story, acting, and more. A very likable commentary from a very likable guy, so much so I offered to buy him a beer, though he was just a recorded voice. Next up is a PiP mode called S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault, which can be viewed over the film in a mode called Footage Scan Mode or by itself in a mode called The Vault. Both contain the same footage, just different ways of viewing and contains data on Stark, weaponry, armor and more.Disc one concludes with PiP storyboard Pre-Viz and animatics that compare and contrast paper, to computer to silver screen.
Disc two is where the real fun begins, starting with Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 is a four-part documentary, lasting nearly 90 minutes, detailing everything from comic book influences, casting choices, story, costumes, sets and much, much more! A truly essential watch for everyone wanting to know all things Iron Man 2 (Note: all four can either be played separately or all together for one documentary). 6 featurettes follow and titled as follows:
- Creating Stark Expo - A 6-minute featurette about the creation of... you guessed it.. the Stark Expo
- Practical Meets Digital - An 8 minute feature about how they seamlessly combined practical, on set effects with digital effects, including some nice footage of Downey, Jr. mostly wearing a mocap suit since being in a full-on suit would be costly and impractical.
- Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury - A 6 minute talk about the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Illustrated Origin: Black Widow - A 3 minute talk about Black Widow
- Illustrated Origin: War Machine- Another 3 minutes learning about War Machine/Iron Patriot
... and last but not least...
- Working with DJ AM - A short, 2 minute talk about the late DJ,
Next up art 11 concept art galleries featuring set designs, costumes, armor drawing, unused concepts and more. 8 deleted scenes (w/ optional Favreau commentary) are next, lasting 17 minutes and offering the alternate opening talked about in the commentary (Not as good as the one from The Incredible Hulk), followed by 3 trailers for the film, the video game trailer and opening scene from the game and a trailer for the then upcoming Avengers Animated, and concluding disc 2 is the music video to Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC.
Moving on to disc 3 is the DVD which also houses the digital copy of the film. The DVD lacks the commentary from the standalone 1-disc version (A 2-disc version was also released, the last for a Marvel film, which had 2 featurettes, deleted scenes w/ commentary, music video and the digital copy and is totally not recommended unless you want a scant amount of extras without upgrading to HD, then by all means) but still plays very well as a DVD with great picture and sound in its own right, and even looks HD in certain parts upconverted on my HDTV.
The packaging does include a nice slipcover, though is just a recreation of the box art and doesn't stand out amongst the Iron Man set with the slip being the Iron Man suit and the box art containing Tony with a reflective arc reactor in the center, or The Increbile Hulks lenticular slipcover and Mountain Dew green BluRay case. All in all, a great set for your money with great specs and a bounty of extras to spend hours exploring every nook and cranny for input about Iron Man 2. Or if you don't care about extras, there is also a single disc release that just contains Disc 1 and the extras included on the disc. Even as a demo disc, this belongs in every library, its that amazing.
I will return for Thor!