PictureOn the video front things are far more clear-cut – as with the release of Iron Man, Iron Man 2 boasts benchmark quality video that really shows you what your home cinema equipment is truly capable of. Presented in 1080p High Definition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1 I found it totally impossible to flaw. Detail is spectacular, from the close-ups on the faces, seen through the ‘tec displays, to the longer shots that showcase crowds of people – or drone – with impeccable, freeze-frame picture quality. And it doesn’t stop, not even for a fraction of a second – with absolutely no softness, no digital defects or edge enhancement and nothing that could possibly interfere with your utter (visual) enjoyment of the movie. There’s a fine sheen of grain giving the movie that true filmic quality which works perfectly with the material, but we’re not talking Paul Greengrass here – this is the polar opposite: a shiny, slick and stylish production through and through. It feels as though every single frame has been lovingly polished up so that you can see your face in it.
The colour scheme is as broad as you would expect from any standard superhero movie (the bleak counterpoint of the Batman movies notwithstanding), but the colours are brought to life as vivid components of the scenes – the reds and golds on Tony’s Iron Man unit deeper and shinier than before; the electric blue of Whiplash’s powered bull-whips throbbing like lightsabers only wish they could; and the massive explosions throughout the runtime igniting the screen with piercing flame tones. Black levels are simply perfect, deep and endless, yet retaining detail on any necessary content within the image. Overall it is not only one of the best video presentations that I have seen this year, but arguably one of the best presentations I have come across thus far for any Blu-ray release. Outstanding demo material.
SoundThings are just as spectacular with the audio, which comes in one solid flavour: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Wow you are going to have a lot of fun waking the neighbours with this one. 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 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.
ExtrasIron Man 2 was released as both a single-disc edition (with just the movie and a few limited extras) and the reviewed 3-disc edition, complete with a second Blu-ray devoted to Special Features and a third disc which houses both a Digital Copy and an SD-DVD version of the movie. The first discs still has a few extras – an Audio Commentary, a Trivia Track and a Picture-in-Picture storyboard/animatic feature – but the majority of the Special Features are to be found on the second disc.
Director Jon Favreau, who also offered up a Commentary for his first Iron Man movie, returns here for another great effort. He kicks off by talking about the Alternate Opening, and the reasons for why they started this movie the way they did; going on to talk about the development of the villain, the multiple storylines that they brought into play in this effort; the bigger cast involved and what all of the various actors brought to the project. He is clearly in love with the project, and it shows through in this offering, but he also gives us lots of humorous anecdotes to lighten the stodgy technical information, discussing how Mickey Rourke was obsessed with the pet parrot he bought to accompany his character in the movie, noting Sam Rockwell’s purposefully ridiculous almost-orange spray-tan and how the US military were much more helpful this time around. It’s a nice mix of effects discussion, story revelation, character and cast dissection and anecdotal trivia, and well worth checking out.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault – Explore S.H.I.E.L.D.’s data on the people, weapons and technology surrounding Tony Stark: 2 modes – Footage Scan Mode (S.H.I.E.L.D. data will pop-up over the movie) and The Vault (dig deeper into the vault for case files, dossiers, weapons and more).
Footage Scan Mode is very glossy and pretty-looking, but it is basically just a pop-up track with some very basic technical information in it. It doesn’t even pop up very often, and since it is not available in conjunction with any other options (for example, you can’t watch it with the Commentary on in the background), I doubt anyone will really want to sit through the entire movie just to pick up the scant few titbits. I mean, do you really want to know Stark’s increasing Palladium toxicity levels across the movie?
The Vault is marginally more informative, allowing you out-of-movie access to further information, and fleshing out the characters, the weapons and the other Stark technology.
Previsualisation and Animatics – View Storyboards and Animatics of Key Scenes Presented as Picture-in-Picture Over the Movie.
This option is much more interesting than the Pop-up track, allowing you to get a bottom left-hand Picture-in-Picture look at the various stages of effects peppered throughout the movie, with direct comparison to the final product. Better still, it can be viewed with the Commentary playing across in the background, so it’s well worth switching the option on (especially since it is only really relevant during the – admittedly fairly frequent – effects sequences).
Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 is a comprehensive Behind the Scenes Documentary charting the creation of this sequel, split into four segments: Rebuilding the Suit, A Return to Action, Expanding the Universe and Building a Legacy. Playing together, it reaches a massive, feature-length near-hour-and-a-half runtime, and covers all of the bases in the production: from concept to filming to post-production, scoring and release. The Director, Writers, Producers and all of the main Cast members (including even the often-reclusive Mickey Rourke) contribute in interview, to discuss the ending of the last movie, where they wanted to go from there, what elements they wanted to keep, the new characters that they sought to introduce, the added dimensions to the lead hero, the bigger action sequences they brought to the screen and where they want to go from here. Favreau spends much of his time talking about what it was like to work with such an ensemble cast (catering for Rourke’s stranger requests to tweak his character), the producers discuss the developments made to Stark’s backstory, the writers and designers explain how they eventually came up with the finalised Whiplash villain as an amalgamation of previous comic book character, and they chat about how Iron Man fits into the greater Marvel Avengers universe. There’s a great deal of behind the scenes footage included here, both of Favreau running through ideas with his crew, and of actors on set, and the scenes actually being filmed (complete with motion-capture and pre-vis shots of the effects work). And amidst the highlights are Sam Rockwell’s pitch-perfect impression of Christopher Walken (about 58 minutes into the Documentary) and Favreau’s honesty about the difficulties of piecing everything together on such a mammoth production. The only criticism for this behemoth offering? Why didn’t they just adapt it to run alongside the movie in Maximum Movie Mode? I guess there wasn’t enough room once they’d added the pop-up Trivia Track and the PiP storyboard/animatic offering, but this would have been a much better extra. A slight missed opportunity for what is otherwise a solid, all-encompassing Making-Of offering.
Accompanying the main Documentary, there are 6 smaller Featurettes taking a closer look at specific aspects of the production. Creating Stark Expo looks at the Oppenheimer/World Fair-based Expo; Practical Meets Digital further details how they tried to merge real effects with CG stuff (most notably during the Grand Prix sequence), and Working with DJ AM pays a tribute to the late Adam Goldstein – aka DJ AM – who threw Tony’s birthday party (Yes, that scene). There are also three separate Illustrated Origin segments on Nick Fury, Black Widow and War Machine.
We get 5 Deleted Scenes, as well as 2 Extended Sequences and an Alternate Opening. Totalling 16 minutes of Extra footage, there’s nothing here of any great value. The Deleted Scenes mostly centre on Tony’s birthday party (which should have been cut in its entirety in the first place), and the Extended segments at little more of any worth. Only the Alternate Opening is of mild curiosity – I actually preferred it, setting the tone for a darker affair yet providing a more natural Robert Downey Jr. (as well as more Gwyneth), and yet I can totally see why they didn’t want to start the movie with Tony’s head in the toilet, throwing up. The scenes all come with optional Commentary from the Director, explaining why they were (wisely) excised.
Photo and Trailer Archive
Rounding out the disc we get a Concept Art Galleries section (split into Hammer Drones, Feebles, Russia, Mark IV, Sets, Stark Expo 2010, Stark Mansion, Mark V, War Machine, Whiplash Exo-Skeleton, and Whiplash Mark II); as well as several Theatrical Trailers for the main feature; Trailers for the terrible videogame adaptation (if any film was crying out for a 2-player game adaptation, it was surely this one!); and the Animated version of the Ultimates graphic novel, as well as a Music Video for the Shoot to Thrill track by AC/DC (who have a couple of songs in the movie).
Finally we also have a SD-DVD copy of the film as well as a Digital Copy for your IPod/IPhone, included together on a third disc.
VerdictIron Man set some pretty high standards, almost rated as the Marvel equivalent to DC’s Batman Begins. And with a larger ensemble cast, a bigger budget and all of the key players retained from the first movie, you’d expect Iron Man 2 to deliver more of the same – only bigger, noisier and better. Well it succeeds on two counts, but unfortunately fails to capture the streamlined story-arc structure of the first movie, and makes the (fairly common in superhero movies) mistake of doubling up on everything, and assuming that will naturally make it a better film. Unfortunately we end up with too many unnecessary characters, too much superfluous sub-plotting, a couple of truly silly – out of place – moments and a bloated third act; all combining together to smother the great potential that was somewhere within. For all the commendable efforts of Downey Jr. and, in particular, Mickey Rourke, this is a very disjointed end result which will surely please pure action fans, but does not come close to living up to the high standard set by the first movie.
Thankfully this triple-disc UK Region Free Blu-ray release is absolutely spectacular – demo material in every way – with exceptional video and audio, and a bucket-full of extras which are not only comprehensive, but also pretty damn fun to watch and enjoy. At least, in this respect, fans will not be disappointed, and should consider picking up this edition over the diet single-disc release. As far as I can tell, the US and UK discs are pretty-much identical, the question is just which edition you buy. Really, newcomers are going to have to go back and start with the outstanding first film (itself a tremendous release on the High Definition format) before picking this one up. It really is less of a Dark Knight kind of sequel, and more of a Batman Returns. Still, I’m sure few will be able to resist either the fun that is to be had in this movie, or the sheer perfection that is to be found on the disc.
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