Iron Man 2
Feature Review by Greg Bishansky; Blu-ray Review by James Harvey

It was probably the most anticipated sequel since "The Dark Knight." Well, anticipated by me anyway. I'm sure some people anticipated "Revenge of the Fallen," although I didn't. So, how does "Iron Man 2" stack up? Pretty damn well, I think.

Robert Downey Jr. reminds us all that he was born to play Tony Stark. Strike that, he doesn't play Tony Stark, he is Tony Stark. He embodies that character, and no where does it shine through more than during the birthday party scene where Stark is as drunk as an Irishman on Cinco de Mayo while wearing the armor. It's a scene that, if played by almost anybody else would be so over the top and ridiculous, it would take you out of the movie. But, RDJ doesn't just make you believe it, he makes you feel it.

Mickey Rourke was our villain in this installment as Ivan Vanko or Whiplash. Like RDJ, Rourke just embodies the character of someone you would think spent many years in a Siberian gulag. He was creepy, scary, and managed to both seem not all there while at the same time knowing exactly what he was doing. Not to mention, they took a pretty lame villain in the comics and made him scary.

Scarlett Johansson was very sexy as super spy, Natasha Romanov. While I definitely missed the Russian accent, I can buy their explanation that when she is on Russian soil, she doesn't speak with one. But her role in the story surprised me. I thought she was infiltrating Stark Industries to steal the armor for Russia. I didn't think she was already working for Nick Fury. They also didn't once say her codename, Black Widow out loud. But she was a lot of fun, and I hope to see more of her.

You will love to hate Sam Rockwell as the slick and greasy Justin Hammer. Played younger here than in the comics, but he is just oozing slime whenever you see him. Figuratively, not literally. Not sure if he'll be back for further installments, but I wouldn't mind.

I missed Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes. Not that Don Cheadle was bad. But with Howard, you got the sense that he and Stark were long time friends. With Cheadle, while you knew that, you didn't feel it at all. They just didn't have that chemistry.

The action in this movie was terrific, which is one would expect since it was storyboarded by Geddy Tartakovsky. There are a lot of fun easter eggs in this movie, which I won't spoil for you, you'll either spot them or you won't... but one of them is impossible to miss.

It's not "The Dark Knight." But it's not trying to be. It's the sequel to "Iron Man" and it is spectacular at what it is... an action-adventure movie with heart and soul. It brings the story and the character development to the table that so many action movies lack. Michael Bay could learn a lot from it... the best action sequences in the world don't matter if your story has no heard to it.

On top of this all, the movie sold me on a concept I was a bit cautious about. The idea of the Avengers as a movie. I was not sure how practical, or even possible coordinating a series of separate movies to build up to the climax that is all these heroes coming together. It's never been done before in the film medium. But here, I can really see it beginning to come together. I'm sold on it now, and very excited.

Terrific movie, I am seeing it again.

The Blu-ray

No shocker here, but Iron Man 2 has a stellar Blu-ray home video release from Paramount Home Entertainment, easily on par with the release of the original Iron Man a couple years ago. All in all, a good release, which I’ll break down further below.

Kicking things off with the audio and video, Iron Man 2 looks and sounds excellent from start to finish. Save for some slight banding here and there, there’s not that much fault with the video quality on this Blu-ray release. Textures look detailed and the colors full and vibrant. The blacks are perfect. Iron Man’s armor has never looked better! It looks clean and spotless, and the same can basically be said about the audio as well. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is perfect, able to nicely walk that fine line between those sonic explosions and the quiet character moments. Just listen to the scene w here Whiplash and Iron Man face off on the Monaco race track, or perhaps the epic climactic battle with Iron Man and War Machine duking it out with killer robots. It’s astonishing to hear! There are no faults to be found here – not a single one.

As for the special features, a three-disc set should be pretty loaded right? Well, you’d be right. Yes, one disc is relegated to the additional DVD and Digital Copy, but the other two discs feature a whopping of great bonus content.

The first disc kicks off with an audio commentary by Jon Favreau, who’s enthusiastic throughout. He’s fairly open with details on the film – such as the story, the characters, some missed ideas, the humor, all of that – and makes it a fairly interesting listen. Next up is the S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault, which is basically an interactive database for the movie which can be played during the film or separately, and pretty much fills in some neat background info for the movie and the movie’s continuity, be it details on the Avengers Initiative or the Super Soldier Initiative. It really does add to the world these characters inhabit. The first disc is rounded off with some previsualizations and animatics for the film.

The second disc starts off with the roughly 85 minute “Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 documentary. Divided into four parts, the documentary looks at four different stages of the film’s development. It starts off with the creators discussing bringing something new to the table with Iron Man 2, along with the work that comes with putting together and getting the film going by the cast and crew. The second part takes a closer look at some of the performances in the film, including Robert Downey Jr’s and Sam Rockwell’s duelling roles, and tackling some of the film’s bigger moments – such as filming a crucial fight sequence and Director Jon Favreau’s work. The third instalment looks at some of the new aspects to the film, such as Scarlett Johansson coming in to the cast and filming in Monaco, along with some of the special effects techniques used. Lastly, the documentary ends with looking at the post-production aspects of the film.

Moving on, the second disc also contains six featurettes, totalling about 30 minutes, looking at specifics aspects of the movie. This includes creating the Stark Expo, mixing digital and practical effects, a closer look at Nick Fury and Black Widow and War Machine, and working with the late DJ AM. Up next, a collection of eight deleted scenes - including the alternate opening that was highlighted in the film’s theatrical trailer with optional commentary by Favreau – run for roughly 17 minutes. The disc wraps up with a collection of Iron Man 2 trailers, a trailer for the Iron Man 2 video game and the game’s prologue, a trailer for The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and an AC/DC music video.

While not as good as its predecessor, Iron Man 2 nonetheless remains a solid entry for the Marvel movie franchise and a great film in of itself. The action is exciting, the characters great, and the writing fairly solid (save for a couple questionable glitches). While it doesn’t recapture the sheer perfection of the first film, it’s not to be missed regardless. Everything about this film is amped up, but none of it is excessive. It walks that fine line very well. Plus, the Blu-ray release is fairly stacked! You have a great commentary, a solid documentary, featurettes, pretty much every aspect of the film is covered in great details. Another knock out by by Paramount Home Entertainment! All in all, it’s a great package –an excellent film and an excellent Blu-ray release - that shouldn’t be missed!

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