Iron Man 2 Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
One drunken dust-off too many
Iron Man's follow-up was marred by a compromised director's vision, offering glimpses of excellence in an otherwise bloated, studio-driven sequel.With returning director Jon Favreau having his eyes set on a trilogy that incorporated elements of the tremendous Devil in a Bottle story arc from the comic books, and with writer/director Shane Black on hand to help, making Iron Man 2 should have been a walk in the park. The first one was a massive critical and commercial success, and surely Downey Jr.'s reckless rockstar Tony Stark could make any sequel work? Unfortunately, despite committed supporting performances from the likes of Mickey Rourke (coming off the back of his critical success in The Wrestler) and Sam Rockwell, as well as the introduction of Don Cheadle's War Machine (notoriously replacing Terrence Howard's Colonel Rhodes) and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, behind the scenes, there were clearly too many chefs in the kitchenReportedly, Favreau was put under considerable pressure to turn in a specific end product, leaving some of the nuances and character details on the cutting room floor (Rourke's well-researched Russian antagonist was little more than a pantomime villain come the final act, and Stark's Demon in a Bottle was little more than a pathetic, drunken dust-off between Iron Man and War Machine in the middle of a party). There are still some great setpieces - like the Monaco sequence - but the war profiteering / drone army themes are underdeveloped, Rockwell's Justin Hammer is utterly superfluous, and even Black Widow appears wasted. In amidst all of this are nice touches, and, once again, a great Stark/Iron Man from Downey Jr, but you can't help but think that it could and should have been considerably better.
Picture QualityIron Man 2 sneaks onto German 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a solid but flawed HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Like the first it was shot on 35mm but limited by a 2K DI, however there are improvements right from the outset. Far more consistent, the image quality provides detail and clarity at least on par with the Blu-ray release. Softness isn't the same kind of issue, and the pastel effect of the first movie's Ultra HD Blu-ray treatment is, at the very least, far less prevalent.
This should satisfy fans wanting an interim 4K release
The implementation of High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), which on the first Iron Man release were applied in a far from consistent fashion, are much more effectively implemented here, leaving some spectacular sequences - like the standout Monaco scene - looking far more impressive than they did on Blu-ray. Skin tones still run a little hot, but not painfully so, with Whiplash's whips, Tony's suit and core, and the explosions lighting up the screen superbly. There are some genuine highlights here, and it really does improve on the Blu-ray. Black levels are a little less consistent, with far too many greys and misty tones than there really should be, but contrast is nowhere near as all-over-the-place as with the first movie. Even if it isn't as impressive as it should be (and, arguably, could be if given a proper new master and finely tuned HDR/WCG grade), the disappointment of the first release's treatment leave this a distinct step up; one which should satisfy fans wanting an interim 4K release while they wait for Disney to commit to the new format.
Sound QualityWhat looks to be the exact same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track from the original Blu-ray release adorns this 4K disc and, whilst again there's no sign of an immersive Atmos/DTS:X upgrade, there's no denying that this is still a demo aural accompaniment.
Bombastic from start to finish, this boisterous track attacks your surrounds with a barrage of both ambient sounds to enhance the atmospherics, and in-your-face thunder which brings all of the myriad action sequences to life. Dialogue still retains absolute clarity throughout; confined to the frontal array, but never overshadowed by either the powerful effects or the rocktastic score. Hear the thud as Whiplash lands in his Mark II suit, the clank as Iron Man’s helmet slaps into place, the thud of metal against metal during the conflicts, the electric crackle of the powered whip, and that trademark sound of Tony whirring up his repulsor rays to fire from his arm gauntlets. Seriously, the surrounds are having an absolute (and quite literal) blast.
The soundtrack delivers demo quality material here
The AC/DC-led rock-track also features plenty of other noisy contributors bolstering out the already punchy main theme score which carries through all of the key segments, and gives the array yet more to deliver for your aural pleasure. And the LFE channel? It’s like it’s had a shot of adrenaline. It won’t stop. Seriously, this baby picks up on every little hint of material that it can use to shake your ass. Again, demo quality material here folks, and a fun ride whilst watching the movie.
Whilst subtitles (or the lack thereof) weren't much of an issue on the first film, this one does include a few not insignificant dialogue exchanges where you will have to brush up on your German. Nevertheless, it's only really at the start, and it doesn't really affect the experience too much.
ExtrasConcorde have once again, commendably, ported over all of the extras onto the actual Ultra HD Blu-ray disc itself. Unlike the first movie, we get a full Audio Commentary here, delivered by Favreau who talks in depth about the production, the original story, and the characters and cast.
Concorde have once again ported over all the extras from the Blu-ray release
There's a comprehensive 4-part Making-of Documentary, accompanied by 6 smaller Featurettes and a quarter hour of additional footage (including an arguably better opening scene). The disc is rounded off by a Gallery, Music Video and some Trailers, and whilst we lose the trivia tracks from the Blu-ray, that's no great loss (did we really need to monitor Tony's increasing Palladium levels throughout the movie?).
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictIron Man 2 could and should have been a considerably better film
While we wait patiently for the Disney/Marvel monolith to get on board the Ultra HD Blu-ray bandwagon, German manufacturing studio Concorde jump the gun to deliver their own 4K takes on the trilogy. The results are flawed at best, with the first movie, in particular, standing out like a sore thumb, but this second movie upps the game somewhat to deliver a presentation that is at least on par with the Blu-ray in terms of detail, and has the benefit of far more consistent HDR/WCG-implementation. It's a decent stop-gap until Disney get their 4K act together.
You can buy Iron Man 2 on Ultra HD Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £33.99
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