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Iron Man 2 Blu-ray Review

by Scott A. October 20, 2010
Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2

Studio Name: Paramount (Marvel Studios)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Disc/Transfer Information: Widescreen 2.39:1 1080p High Definition; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow

NOTE: This review is of the single-disc edition of IRON MAN 2.

Plot Analysis

While not the genre-setter that Spider-Man 2 or The Dark Knight which came after it was, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2 was an impressive comic-to-screen adaptation that truly expands upon the slightly-tweaked-from-the-comics origin story of the first film. There were a couple of problems, which I’ll address, mainly having to do with the “reinvention” and new take of Mickey Rourke’s “Whiplash”/Ivan Vanko villain character, as well as the switch from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle for the Rhodes character – but all in all, there are some wonderful, white knuckle, sweaty palm inducing hero/villain fight sequences, good performances outside of Paltrow’s utterly annoying rendition of “Pepper Potts” and a couple of ingenious hints in the middle of the film and at the conclusion of the credits regarding Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers project.

I’ll say it now, and get it out of the way – Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was the best comic-to-screen adaptation ever put to celluloid, and I don’t think many fans or casual film critics would disagree. Everything just came together, especially the outrageously exciting fight sequences between Spidey (Tobey Maguire) and Doctor Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus (Alfred Mollina).   I mean, Raimi just nailed it…the style of the fights, the impact both the hero and the villain had on each other physically during the attacks, the look of the sets…it was like those iconic battles between these two legendary comic figures jumped off the pages of Stan Lee’s book and onto the screen. Favreau did more than a fairly good job attempting to – not intentionally in any way that I am aware of – match the tension level of Raimi’s seminal sequel in his follow up to Iron Man, and although the initial fight scene between Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) was a bit brief, it was very exciting and comic-like in feel and execution. I’ll get to that.

Let’s set up the scene here for what transpires on the screen during Iron Man 2, beginning with Favreau’s effective use of connecting the two films together almost seamlessly.  As the Paramount logo fades into Marvel Studios’ logo intro, we hear a voiceover from Tony Stark’s press conference which ended the first film. With the world now aware that Stark is definitely the man behind the red and gold metal suit, the location shifts to Moscow, where a dying old man watches with last breaths Stark’s press conference; he calls out to his son Ivan, who is lingering in the shadows beyond, drinking from a vodka bottle. Now, many critics came down hard on Favreau’s casting team when they picked Mickey Rourke to be Tony Stark’s latest enemy – but I have to say that I think he simply worked. Sporting tattoos from head to toe and seething a nasty disposition in a thick Russian accent, Rourke was very cool as Ivan Vanko, the man out for blood from the Stark family. As his father dies in front of him, Vanko (Rourke) takes his anger out in a merciless shriek and begins working on a weaponized suit based on Stark’s “Iron Man” design. Here’s where some foggy “stuff” between the comic history and Favreau’s rendition of the story comes into play – supposedly, Ivan Vanko’s father was involved with Tony Stark’s father, Howard, and Vanko was done dirty in terms of a design he wasn’t given credit for…or something. This is later explained by Samuel L. Jackson’s “Nick Fury” character from SHIELD, but it still remains very hazy.   Now, teeming with vengeance in his heart, son Ivan is building a variation of Tony’s suit with massive, energized and electrified “whips” at the ends of the arm mechanisms (hence the “Whiplash” references). However, again, the invention of the Whiplash character is a bit hazy here.   According to my research, “Whiplash” wasn’t Russian in the comics, and it seems Favreau kind of created a “Frankenstein Monster” of a villain creation, incorporating bits of Whiplash and another villain I believe by the name of “The Russian Dynamo” or some such rhetoric. Rumor has it that Favreau wanted to do “The Mandarin” as a villain here, but bringing the character to the screen was going to prove too difficult.   Then, there’s the connection to the first film, in which the group that kidnapped Tony Stark in the desert was called “The 10 Rings” in reference to the “magic rings” manipulated by The Mandarin the comics…it’s just all over the place, and I think Favreau could have done a better job of keeping this more genuine. From what I understand, though, Favreau is considering The Mandarin for the third installment.

That said, with Ivan Vanko on his way to Monaco for a deadly rendezvous with Stark, Tony is enjoying his notoriety with Iron Man.  As it seems with every hero character, Stark is on a bit of an over-the-top ego trip, as he flies into his “Stark Expo” in Queens, New York, in his gold and red suit, gorgeous, sexy “Ironette” cheerleaders in skimpy Iron Man costumes all around him. As Stark addresses the cheering crowd, very happy with himself and the peace he has brought with his Iron Man creation, we learn of another bitter secret biting at him…supposedly, his blood is being poisoned with toxins from his chest piece, and as his computer Jarvis informs him, the device that keeps him alive is slowly killing him as well.

Alas, thinking he is not going to be alive much longer, Stark appoints his sexy secretary Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow returning in her ridiculously short skirts and deliciously long legs) CEO of Stark Industries, which becomes Stark Enterprises under her reign. But what ends up happening is that Iron Man 2 begins to suffer from the Spider-Man 3 syndrome and makes the mistakes Sam Raimi made in that entry.  So many things are happening at one time, it’s difficult to concentrate on one element. As Stark deals with giving his company over, there are complications with the government wanting to get their hands on his Iron Man suit as they feel it’s a threat to national security. With Stark refusing to hand over the suit or the weapons aboard it during a senate meeting (comically starring Gary Shandling as a wiseass board member), he receives more resistance from his friend James Rhodes of the Army (played here by Don Cheadle instead of Terrence Howard) in that his superiors are giving him pressure to take Stark’s suit away. Here, we meet a new character in the mix, Mr. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who owns a competitive weapons manufacturing company much like Stark Industries. Hammer’s goal is to make Stark look like yesterday’s news, with improved versions of Tony’s suit.   But he’s got a more sinister plan up his sleeve.

Before anything too thick in the plot happens though, we are treated to Iron Man 2’s first hero-villain fight sequence, which is what comic adaptations are all about. As Stark travels to a Grand Prix racing event in Monaco, Vanko manages to sneak his way into the group of pit crew workers, his Whiplash creation bulging from beneath his orange jumpsuit. In a last-minute eccentric decision to race his own car in the event, Stark shocks everyone and enters the match. As he enters the final turn, Grand Prix cars are flying in the air from Vanko’s attack on them in the middle of the racetrack, his whip weapon splitting cars in two as he waits for Stark’s car to arrive. Vanko manages to crack Stark’s car with the whip, sending him tumbling into the air and into a fiery crash. Unbelievably surviving the crash, Stark makes his way out of his demolished race car and faces this looming adversary with the electrified whips, helpless to really defend himself – that is, until “Happy Hogan” (played here again by director Jon Favreau) and Pepper Potts arrive on the track just in time to drive Stark’s sexy Bentley right into Vanko, smashing him up against a racetrack wall. Vanko eventually smashes his way out of his pinned up situation with his whips, and Happy slides Stark his portable Iron Man suit, cleverly disguised inside a gold and red briefcase. As Stark transforms into Iron Man right there on the track in front of roaring crowds, the tension thickens and Favreau shows a real love for the classic comic fight between hero and villain as director; Stark attempts to fire his hand-launched energy blasts at Vanko, but they’re deflected by the looming Russian’s lightning whips. Eventually, through twisting his electricity-riddled whips off of him, Stark manages to flip Vanko upside down on his back, ripping his power pack from his chest. Vanko is taken into custody by Monaco police, but Stark is shocked and taken aback by this attack.

Stark confronts Vanko in his holding cell, and the two of them exchange bitter words at one another, and this is where Stark learns of Ivan’s father’s relationship with Howard Stark and Stark Industries; however, we know that this isn’t the last we’re going to see of “Whiplash” (who is never referred to such in the film) and eventually, we witness a prison break by the bent-on-revenge enemy. There’s more than meets the eye here, though…it seems Justin Hammer arranged to break Vanko out of prison so he could come to work for him at his Queens, New York facility, with the intentions of creating Iron Man-like suits that will surpass Tony Stark’s (there are references to Vanko being a brilliant physicist here, but I am uncertain how true this holds to the comics). As Vanko makes Hammer think he’s willing to work for him, he goes to work assembling the iron suits but with plans of his own.

Meanwhile, across the country, Stark is dealing with handing his company over to Potts (who has now become extremely bossy, annoyingly so) while flirting with what he thinks is Pepper’s new assistant, a deliciously sexy looking Scarlett Johansson who turns out to be a SHIELD agent working for Nick Fury – an operative from the comics named “Black Widow.” If this wasn’t complicated enough, in comes Nick Fury himself (Samuel L. Jackson sporting the all-black getup and eye patch from the legendary character) who pays Stark a visit at an L.A. donut shop after an alcohol-fueled birthday bash at the Stark residence with the late DJ AM (and in which Cheadle flew off with the other prototype suit of Tony’s after he tried it on and went toe to toe with Stark as “War Machine”). Johansson’s real identity is exposed here, as she joins Fury and Stark at a booth in the donut place in a skin-tight black leather bodysuit that really shows off this chick’s assets, if you know what I mean. The film kind of takes an unnecessary detour here, as Fury tells Stark all about his father Howard and how he was the founding member of SHIELD, and explains the connection Vanko had to the Stark family. Fury orders Stark to be confined to his house (another silly notion) but Tony takes a road trip over to Stark Industries, where he stumbles upon something that he feels can cure his terminal chest piece problem.

Justin Hammer, in the meantime, is attempting to get Vanko to focus on creating the Iron Man suits for him, but Vanko instead creates an army of drones that are automatically controlled by computer. Not flying with Hammer, he has Vanko watched by security and confined to a room in his factory while he goes and attends the latest Stark Expo. In one of the more silly sequences of the film, Stark meanwhile manages to destroy his house in order to create an elaborate homemade elemental chamber in which he comes up with a brand new element that becomes his new triangular chest piece and ultimately saves his life. It is here that a tease is made regarding the connection with Captain America, as one of the SHIELD agents returning to scold Stark for breaking his quarantine stumbles upon what looks like Cap’s iconic shield in Tony’s workshop – but this is sketchy at best, and I am unsure what Favreau was hinting at here. As Hammer introduces the fleet of drone machines as replacements for various armed forces divisions onstage at the Stark Expo, and attempts to one-up Tony Stark with his outrageous presentation of these new weapons, we learn that Vanko has turned on Hammer, controlling the drones from Hammer’s factory via computer specifically to go after Stark and Iron Man. To make matters worse, Rhodey is introduced at Stark Expo as donning the ultimate version of Hammer’s “war machine” suit, as the military transformed Stark’s stolen suit into a weaponized destruction machine with Hammer’s arsenal onboard. As Stark flies into Stark Expo in Queens as Iron Man with his new energized chest piece, he informs Rhodey of how Hammer and Vanko are working together – or so he thinks. From a remote command, Vanko takes control of Rhodey’s suit, which begins attacking Stark. What ensues is the film’s most outrageous special effects display, as Vanko sends all the drones after Stark with the intention of killing him once and for all. As Rhodey, Stark and the drones play a cat-and-mouse flying game above the streets of Queens, Johansson manages to get into Hammer’s factory with Hogan, and she shows her martial arts skills as Black Widow, excitingly taking out all of Hammer’s guards one by one. Making her way to get to Vanko, she and Hogan discover he’s already left – and is flying to meet Rhodey and Stark for a final confrontation in a massive, overly powerful Whiplash suit. Managing to override Vanko’s compromised control of Rhodes’ suit, Johansson returns power of the suit to Rhodes as Iron Man and “War Machine” team up in a New York park to take on a dozen armed drones and eventually Whiplash himself.

This final fight sequence is as exciting as the first confrontation between Vanko and Stark, albeit a bit difficult to watch for those who cheer Iron Man on in these films. As Vanko’s super whip suit proves too powerful for Rhodes or Stark to handle on their own – Vanko manhandles both “heroes” in their suits, throwing them all over the park with each crack of his whips, until Rhodes and Stark work together by fusing their collective palm weapon power. With one last trick up his sleeve to kill the man he hates the most, Vanko, while defeated by the Iron Man/War Machine duo, manages to rig each drone to explode.

What I recommend is that you sit through all of the end credits of Iron Man 2 – or at least fast forward them – because as with The Incredible Hulk and the first Iron Man, there is a clip hinting at another comic adaptation film to be made, which also ties in with the eventual Avengers film. With all this talk of The Avengers, I simply can’t wait for the new Captain America to arrive, officially titled The First Avenger: Captain America, and let’s just hope they get this one right (remember the failed attempt at this decades ago?). Chris Evans from Fantastic 4 is scheduled to play the war hero turned superhero, but we have to see how all these characters are going to tie in with one another to finally culminate with an Avengers feature film. First, we must see if there’s going to be a Hulk sequel, and then how the other Avengers members are going to fall into place within their comic “worlds;” if not done right, this could be a disaster. Done correctly, and it will be what no other film had ever done before – assemble a group of live-action superheroes on the big screen which should be way cool – I have heard rumors that Warner Bros. is looking into a DC Comics project that would involve the League of Justice members, but so many things have to be worked out there first, such as what’s going on in Chris Nolan’s third Batman film, what the next Superman is going to be about now that Zack Snyder is directing, etc.

The next couple of years should prove to be mighty interesting in comic book-turned-motion picture world.

Video Quality Analysis: How Did the Disc Look?

While a solid transfer for most of the disc’s running time, there was something about Iron Man 2’s Blu-ray image that didn’t really leap off the screen; some sequences were marred with a softish look to them, perhaps for stylistic decisions, but I expected a bit more pop from a first-rate, big budget high def release. In fact, I found the video transfer of the first film on Blu-ray to look better. Darker scenes had the most of these “milky, soft” features but retained great shadow detail – the outdoor sets looked lovely in detail and richness, and Downey’s iron suit looked as colorful as ever, but there was still that last edge of “wow” that was missing from this transfer to rate it as truly stellar.

Audio Quality Analysis: How Did the Disc Sound?

The DTS-HD Master Audio track in an English 5.1 configuration (for the Region 1 releases) was another story altogether – wow…this has to be the defacto demo disc in terms of LFE assault for the Blu-ray format thus far. My sub bottomed out when it simply couldn’t take the turmoil of the hot LFE channel, and my walls were rattling almost nonstop during the audition of this track. In a curious switch from Dolby TrueHD as heard on the first film’s Blu-ray, Paramount equipped the sequel with a smashing Master Audio track that gets just about everything right (actually, it shouldn’t be so “curious” at all, as it seems every studio has abandoned Dolby’s TrueHD codec – I still don’t have the jury on that one).

But boy…from beginning to end, does this track pummel your theater room – notable standout moments included the first fight sequence between Mickey Rourke’s villain character and Downey Jr.'s Iron Man at the Monaco Grand Prix, when with each smash of his “lightning whips,” the LFE channel thundered with a relentless pounding. Likewise when Rourke split the cars in half with his whips – the audible assault was truly astonishing with wallops of bass and heft. Also noteworthy was the final confrontation between Iron Man, War Machine and Rourke’s drone robots and Rourke’s final Whiplash suit.   The audio soundscape came to such roaring life, it was a true example of what the lossless technology can do when done correctly. Throughout the feature, these aforementioned wallops of LFE were present almost constantly; there was a weight to the track that was very satisfying. Surround usage was aplenty, notably during the aforementioned Monaco race sequence when the cars were sensed speeding from one surround channel to another, and then from front to back – very impressive. Dialogue, while very very subtly quiet in some places, didn’t seem to be a problem.

There was another nice standout moment of surround usage when Stark is manipulating a holographic image of a bygone-era Stark Expo with the help of Jarvis, and the audio cues of the image spinning in the soundscape was realistically rendered. As the image spun, the surround channels supported each movement of the onscreen sequence, making you feel as though Tony Stark was spinning that hologram right in your living room – in front of you, behind you…everywhere. Impressive.

But watch the bass on this one – if your sub runs a bit hot, as mine was, you may need to do a tweak or two of recalibration while the feature is on pause… this DTS-HD Master Audio mix is devastating in the LFE department.

Extras

This being the stripped-down single-disc version, this didn’t include anything extra to speak of; some commentary by Favreau and some interactive features – I was hoping for a comic background analysis like the first film’s Disc One carried, but that wasn’t here.

Summary & Recommendations

Definitely a buy, and I can’t wait for part three!

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Recent Forum Posts:

PearlcorderS701 posts on January 27, 2011 03:08
caioiac, post: 786815
great movie!

Are you just getting around to seeing this now?
TheGovernment posts on January 26, 2011 21:37
Agree, great movie with great sound and great pq
caioiac posts on January 26, 2011 18:41
great movie!
PearlcorderS701 posts on December 27, 2010 17:50
LAB3, post: 776823
I have HDMI from the Blu-ray to the HD Onkyo “IN” amd Onkyo “OUT” HDMI to 55"

Then that's the correct setup – unless…is your TV 3D ready/capable?

Pop was 90 so he “Lived” a good life. Sorry about your wife ….. my wife has asked for me to turn it down as it hurts her ears. I said to her when Hurt Locker arrived (mail) I would be shakin the house she said she was going shopping. I have Drag Raced motorcycles for 40 years and I need the amp

Thank you for your father in law condolences to me; well, if your dad lived to 90, there's really nothing that can be complained about…at all!

I just lost an aunt last night.

Sorry for the tread jack. I will PM Pearlcorder next time.

No worries – no jacking accusations here!
LAB3 posts on December 27, 2010 05:45
PearlcorderS701, post: 776821
LOL…

Good seating distance – I'm further away from you with a 50 inch



I saw the film in theaters, and while I'm sure the soundtrack was ridiculously loud and aggressive, I don't think I could sit through it again. To me, this was one of Emmerich's weaker works.

I'm assuming the mix was in DTS-HD Master Audio?



Wow – you're wife actually left the house because of the LFE? My wife woulda just yelled down at me to turn it down…



I am sorry to hear about your dad – I lost my dad a few years back, and my wife's just passed of lung cancer weeks ago. Yeah, HDMI has been great through my system as well – one cable to carry audio and video from my Blu-ray player to my Onkyo receiver. Are you running it the way I do – that is, one cable from your source to the Onkyo, and then a second cable from the Onkyo's HDMI OUT to your 55" display for video transfer?

I have HDMI from the Blu-ray to the HD Onkyo “IN” amd Onkyo “OUT” HDMI to 55“

Pop was 90 so he ”Lived" a good life. Sorry about your wife ….. my wife has asked for me to turn it down as it hurts her ears. I said to her when Hurt Locker arrived (mail) I would be shakin the house she said she was going shopping. I have Drag Raced motorcycles for 40 years and I need the amp

Sorry for the tread jack. I will PM Pearlcorder next time.
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