After attending various comic conventions and asking the question “What is your favourite comic book film?” to many inside the comic book industry, the answer from all sides is usually a tie between The Dark Knight and Iron Man. With The Dark Knight hailed as a should-have-been Best Picture candidate, that shows just how much Iron Man got right the first time around; so the real question is, will they keep the momentum going with the sequel?
The short answer is yes, yes they do. Now to expand on that, I must say that I absolutely love what Marvel is doing with their film universe, which started out in the original Iron Man, but really comes to life in Iron Man 2. The sequel is filled with so much stuff that fans should be excited about, that it really can be judged as both a fun-filled sequel, as well as a branching point for each upcoming Marvel film that’s leading to The Avengers. With even more from S.H.I.E.L.D. this time around, the introduction of the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the inclusion of a small teaser with Thor’s hammer after the credits, things are really moving forward in the Marvel film universe, greatly in part due to the fantastic job done by all involved in Iron Man 2.
When we last left Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) he had just admitted to the world that he was indeed Iron Man. This puts him in a much different position than all the other superheroes we’ve seen on the big screen thus far, as he has no secret identity, and he lives every day in the public eye, both defending them, and defending his right to do so. This is where the U.S. Senate comes into play, particularly Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), who believe Stark’s inventions are dangerous, and belong in military hands. As if that wasn’t enough on his plate, Stark also has to deal with his chest plate, which is now poisoning him, and needs a suitable replacement or else it will kill him, as well as a Russian sociopath named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) who blames Stark technologies for wronging his father, and vows revenge using Stark’s works against him. It’s a complicated web, and it gets even more complicated when you throw in Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a man who wants nothing more than to take Stark Industries down, and claim the throne as the leader in technological advancements.
It seems like a lot being thrown at the audience at once, as we all know that sometimes less is more, and in terms of villains, this is almost always the case. The thing is, in Iron Man 2, all of the turmoil works. I haven’t even included the likes of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) showing up again to continue testing the waters to see if Iron Man is a worthy addition to his team, as well as Tony’s complicated relationships with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and best friend Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (aka: soon to be War Machine, played by Don Cheadle) and it still all works. It never gets too complicated, and it’s just so enjoyable that you can’t help but love the ride you’re on.
Are there problems? Sure, there are a few. It’s just so hard to capture the magic of the first film, simply because the origin has been told, and while we’re still learning about these characters on smaller levels, we’ve got to throw so much more out there (even if it works) just to keep up to expectations. Origin stories are a personal favourite of mine in the comic book film world, and Iron Man was just so perfectly done that it would be almost impossible to duplicate that same feeling, simply because this series needs a lot more action than say The Dark Knight may have needed in order to keep audiences happy, but that was almost expected, and in turn, forgivable in a sense; especially with all the groundwork the film has put down for future films.
Director Jon Favreau is just amazing. This guy has such a great eye for film-making, and has such a great job creating this fantastical world that Tony lives in, even though it’s our ‘reality’ that I can’t imagine anyone else gaining access to his chair as long as their making Iron Man films. His work here is gorgeous, as he really takes this film to blockbuster status right from the opening credits and never looks back. His piecing the film’s story together, which was written by Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder), has to be acknowledged, as with so much needing to be done in such a small amount of time, it could have easily turned into a complete train wreck instead of a entertaining roller-coaster ride. He also gives himself a solid role in the film, which you have to admit, you’d likely do too if you were in his position, although it helps that he can also act.
The acting continues to be top notch, as Downey Jr. simply owns the role of Tony Stark, and there’s not much more that needs to be said than that. Paltrow continues to be great in the role of Pepper Potts, and she’s really someone that you wouldn’t have imagined in a comic book film, but now I’d hate to see her replaced. Speaking of replaced, Cheadle (who replaced Terrence Howard from the first film) works extremely well as Rhodey, and at first I thought I was going to miss Howard, but Cheadle fills in the shoes perfectly, and made the role his own this time around. Johansson is perfect as Natalie Rushman aka Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow, and she really steps up here and makes you take notice of her character, leaving you wanting more when she isn’t around.
On the dark side, kudos has got to be given to Rockwell, who plays the weasel quite well in the form of Justin Hammer. He’s a guy you love to hate, or just flat out hate, but as long as the end result is hate, he’s done his job. Mickey Rourke really steals the show, and if you ask anyone, he’s someone they’d wish had more time in the film, as he truly steals the spotlight when his character steps onto the screen.
Rourke would also be included in one of my biggest problems with the film, and that’s that the final encounter between Iron Man and Whiplash just seems so anticlimactic, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Sometimes this happens, as the buildup is so good that the payoff can’t live up to it, but here, it seems that something just got rushed, and it all ended just a little too fast.
Really a small complaint that can be looked over with just how cool the rest of the movie is, and just how awesome it will fit into the Marvel film universe in a few years once The Avengers, Thor and Captain America have all come out, and we’re heading into Iron Man 3 with a whole new perspective on things.
Iron Man 2 looks and sounds absolutely fantastic. With a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, the sound comes through perfectly clear, and there’s never any struggle to hear dialogue, or constant fiddling with the remote to adjust volume settings between battles and quieter scenes. The picture is a beautiful 1080p, and really shines throughout. Everything looks great, and this is one of the better transfers I’ve seen this year.
The version being reviewed here is the 3-disc set, which includes the Blu-ray, as well as the DVD, and a Digital Copy of the film. The special features will be discussed at length below, but if you’re not into reading every little detail, let me just give it to you straight and say this is the best set of extras I’ve seen this year, hands down. It’s really got everything you could want, and more, and if you’re a fan of Iron Man, you owe it to yourself to just sit back and watch everything they have to offer here.
Commentary by Jon Favreau – This guy loves his job, and you can tell. He’s so passionate about Iron Man, and those involved, and you hear so much from him throughout all the special features that you really just want to hear more. Well, it’s here, with his thoughts on the entire film for you to listen to while you watch. Great stuff!
S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault – There are two things found inside the vault, one that takes place throughout the movie, and the other as a featurette, and both are in HD.
Footage Scan Mode – During this mode, S.H.I.E.L.D. Data will pop up throughout the film. It’s actually quite awesome to see this in action, and if you’ve seen the movie a couple of times, you’ll definitely want to switch this on for a viewing. It’s done so smoothly, and so well that it really just has to be seen in action. It gives tidbits of information about things happening on screen, and really is just put together so well that it’s highly recommended to be turned on for at least one of your viewings of this film.
The Vault – This is just damn cool. The S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault is just filled with so much cool stuff, that any fan will spend a good chunk of time just going through it all, feeling as though they’ve hacked into a S.H.I.E.L.D. computer and are attempting to search for inside information. There are “Personnel Dossiers,” which contain the files of pretty much everyone involved in both Iron Man films, as well as a dossier on Steve Rogers (although it’s empty and classified) and one for Bruce Banner as well (which, interestingly enough, uses a picture of Edward Norton as Banner. Of course, he was Hulk, and it’s not like they’re going to erase that film and start again…again…but it’s still interesting to note.)
In the Vault you will also find “Howard Stark’s Lock Box,” which contains the personal and work effects of Tony’s father. They’re all shown through freeze frames, as though they’re just here to be documented, but it’s still quite a cool little addition, and fans will eat it up. Add on the case files, which have everything from “Project Iron Man” to “Missing: Bruce Banner” and each file is filled with pictures of those involved with the case (which lead to their personnel dossier if clicked on) as well as side stories relating to various incidents the character was involved in. It’s all very cool, and fans will definitely have fun fooling around with this feature.
Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 – There are four making of featurettes found when you click this option, and you can choose to Play All, or just watch them each individually. After going through each individually, I highly recommend getting a bag of chips, sitting back, and just watching all four at once. It’s just a great special feature, and you just learn so much about everything that went on, it’s all very cool.
1) Rebuilding the Suit – This is a 29 minute featurette that starts with Jon Favreau talking about Mickey Rourke, and how he took it upon himself to go to Russia and go to prison there, which Favreau says showed dedication (it seems like he’s joking on some level, but I think he’s actually serious). They then go into how this time around they wanted to change things up with the suit, and delve more into how Tony is always moving forward, as well as how he’s got to keep up with relationships, being Iron Man, as well as the toll it’s taking on him, both mentally and physically. They also go into how Whiplash was created, and how they get the action scenes shot, and the addition of the suits when they’re CGI to the shots. It’s all really incredible, and there’s just so much information put in here in such an amazingly fun way that you really can’t miss it if you’re a fan of the film. And that’s just the first one out of four we’re talking about!
A Return To Action – This one comes in at roughly 17 minutes, and here they talk about returning for the sequel, which begins with Downey Jr. giving a speech to the crew, and indicating that they shouldn’t be worried if he and Favreau go from seeming like they’re on the verge of performing sexual favours on one another, to not talking to one another, and how that’s just the way they work. He then says that they’ll be doing a lot of cool stuff, “…‘cause we know a lot of people are going to see this film, whether we f*@k up or not.” It’s a fun, in-depth look at the crew, and it shows just how much fun this group had on set. Another very cool piece that is just such a well put together that it puts so many other making of featurettes to shame.
Expanding the Universe – Do I have to say that every piece is awesome? Yes? Okay, well this is the third piece of this feature, and it is awesome! This one is just under 19 minutes in length and shows the universe of Iron Man expanding in the sequel, and how small changes can actually be interpreted as big changes in the eyes of the audience if they’re visual, and not just tech-talk. They use the change from the chest piece of Iron Man that switches from a circle shape to a triangle as an example, and it does make sense. We then meet Scarlett Johansson and her stunt double, Hiedi Moneymaker (can that really be her last name?), and we see Scarlett learning the leg takedown she uses against Favreau near the start of the film. Lots more behind the scenes stuff here, and if you’ve watched the others, you know you’re watching this one too.
Building a Legacy – The final piece of this feature is 20 minutes in length and talks about the work involved in post-production. It starts with Favreau talking about how they’re putting together the film, editing, fixing the score and adding different effects before the release. It’s really awesome to get into the mind of the director, and just see how they see the film once they’re out from behind the camera and see everything with fresh eyes. It’s also awesome to learn about how they use the Jarvis voice (who just happens to be Paul Bettany, which I hadn’t picked up on earlier) to fill in for scenes that had to be deleted, yet held critical information vital to the rest of the movie. It’s very cool to learn that they did this, and it worked so seamlessly that viewers wouldn’t think twice that it wasn’t supposed to be part of the movie in the first place. This might just be my favourite out of all the featurettes, just because it’s so simplistic, but also so deep.
Featurettes – Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, you click on Featurettes and bam, five more show up on your screen.
1) Creating Stark Expo – This one comes in at just under 7 minutes, and talks about The Stark Expo, and gives a bit of history on it, and how Tony has taken it into his own hands to keep the tradition alive. We see how the entire thing came to life, and how the sets were created, and again, just how much fun everyone had putting this thing together.
2) Practical Meets Digital – This is an eight and a half minute featurette that mixes the effects heavy Iron Man with the actual scenes where the actors are wearing the suits. That’s right, they aren’t always digital, they actually get to wear that bad-ass suit. Downey speaks of the feeling when wearing the suit as having the coolest Halloween costume ever, and says, “I’d be getting ready, and just catch a glimpse (of myself in the suit) and go, “That’s right, Grandma’d be proud.” Really fun stuff, and nothing will make you more jealous.
3) Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury – This is a six minute featurette, and it has Marvel Editor-in Chief Joe Quesada talking about how S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the coolest properties that Marvel has ever created, as it gives them so many options and stories built right in, just with how much information that the group has at their fingertips. We go through comic pictures of Nick Fury, and they talk about his background, and give little bits of information on the character. They talked about instead of being created in the ‘60s, what if it was created today? They speak of the Ultimate Universe, where technology is updated, and Samuel L. Jackson was used as the basis for the updated Nick Fury (without his knowledge even) but he was more than happy when he found out, and jokes that it was just a matter of time before they green lit a movie and he was already in.
4) Illustrated Origin: Black Widow – Much like the previous featurette, though half the length, this one talks about Scarlett Johansson’s character in the film, and her background as a comic book character. It’s a very cool background, and I can see why rumours are already starting to fly about her getting her own spin-off film, which, in the hands of Marvel, almost can’t miss.
5) Illustrated Origin: War Machine – The final illustrated origin story is War Machine, is just under four minutes long and it talks about how the suit came to be, and how it works into the second film. It’s a very cool perspective on War Machine for those who may not know a lot of background on the character, and while it’s been said he won’t get his own film, he’s a welcome addition to future Iron Man films.
6) Working with DJ AM – This is a two minute featurette, which is a bit of a send-off to the late DJ AM, Adam Goldstein, who worked the party at Tony Stark’s home in the film right before the battle with War Machine. It’s a nice addition to the features, and definitely worth watching.
Deleted Scenes – There are eight deleted scenes, including an alternate opening, which delves more into Tony’s alcoholic side, as the film begins with him face down in a toilet, while wearing the Iron Man suit, being prepped by Pepper Potts for a mission he’s got to set out on (which we know is Stark Expo). It’s a fun scene, and there are some funny lines shared between the two (including the “You complete me” from Stark as he jumps out of the plane, which was in the trailers for the film, but many may have wondered where it went when they saw the final product.) Unlike most films where the deleted scenes aren’t interesting, the ones found here are quite fun to watch, and some would be cool to have back in the movie, but at the same time, cuts have to be made, and for once, I’m glad I got to see some of them in the special features.
Concept Art Galleries – There are eleven different art galleries, ranging from the Hammer Drones, to the Mark IV suit, to Russia, to the Stark Mansion. You scroll between various pictures, and it’s interesting to see just where the visuals were at before things came to life.
Theatrical Trailers – There are three different Iron Man 2 trailers here to be viewed.
Other Marvel Trailers – This is one where you might think “Oh, Thor trailer!” or something along those lines, but really it’s just a trailer for the Avengers Animated film, as well as two trailers for the SEGA Iron Man 2 video game.
Lastly, there’s a music video for Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC.
This disc contains the DVD version of the film, as well as the Digital Copy.
Iron Man 2 is the best Blu-ray release I’ve seen this year. It really has everything you could possibly want if you’re a fan of the film, and so much more. There’s something for everyone, and even if you’re just a fan of film-making, the special features are so in depth, interesting, and well put together that you can’t own this movie and not watch everything it has to offer. On that note, go out and buy this Blu-ray now.
Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment present Iron Man 2. Directed by: Jon Favreau. Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson. Written by: Justin Theroux. Running time: 124 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray: September 28, 2010.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.