With the first Iron Man grossing an impressive $US585 million worldwide there was little doubt a sequel would come along soon enough, and only a couple of years later here we are with almost all the principal cast returning. This sequel, simply titled Iron Man 2, was a decent follow-up and amassed an even more impressive $US625 million. No more mucking around then, let's get to what this movie is all about...
With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances -- and confront powerful enemies.
Central to this movies success is the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, again played by Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow respectively, and their on-screen love-hate relationship provides much of the charm and humour in this movie. They really click together and while Pepper isn't in the same level of danger as in the first film, she has a larger role in this sequel.
Of course a movie such as this also relies on the thrills and spills of the action sequences and Iron Man 2 delivers more then the original, which is a near-must for a sequel. From the car racing around Monaco and the first appearance of Whiplash, to the fight between Iron Man and War Machine, to the final climactic battles. The CG work, of which there is a lot of course, is pretty good for the most part although there are some areas, such as the race cars from above the could have been a little better.
The transfer is free from any film artifacts or dirt, and the transfer retains a light film-like quality. Indeed this is probably as close to reference quality as we have seen on Blu-Ray recently - no - scrap that. This is reference quality. The film is often colourful, but contains great contrast levels and detail in the darker scenes too.
In terms of audio Paramount have ditched the impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 format they used in the original films Blu-Ray port and have opted for DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (24-bit/48Khz) instead - something which we can't complain about as we personally prefer the DTS tracks in general. Now we hope you have a great sound system because this disc sounds, well, just WOW! This film has some of the most aggressive use of surround sound channels we have ever heard and the LFE will have your room shaking during some intense sequences. As you would expect from such a major release the audio design is superlative with clear dialogue and bone crunching effects.
Beyond the primary English track this Blu-Ray disc also includes an English Audio Description track encoded at Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps, as well as Spanish, French and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 640kbps. Subtitles are provided in English, Danish, Spanish, French, Dutch, Norwegisn, Finnish and Swedish. We sampled the English subtitles for a while and didn't detect any major issues with good pacing and clear text.
Yet again Paramount has released this disc loaded with extras - in fact there's so much it's on a second disc too. Rather then waffle on, here's the details...
Audio Commentary with Director Jon Favreau: It's clear that Jon has a big passion for this franchise and he goes into plenty of detail about the production. In the race sequence for instance Jon details which parts were filmed where, what is CG, and how it wouldn't have been possible without the Prince of Monaco being on board. Interestingly the audio commentary has a lot of honesty and Jon doesn't seem to shy away from some of the battles he had with Marvel - although he never blatantly rips into them.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault: The Vault (HD): This section on the disc contains plenty of information about the Iron Man universe including detailed looks at the files and objects that appear in the film.
Previsualization and Animatics (HD): By turning this on you can see the images in a PIP window which were used for the creation of the film. It's only in selected seqeuences but is a good representation of what the filmmakers prepared prior to filming.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault: Footage Scan Mode (HD): This is a pop-up trivia track with tidbits of information such as Tony Stark's toxicity levels, design schematics, and other relevant information.
We now move onto the second disc which certainly contains the bulk of the extras...
Featurettes (30:28/HD): As with the previous doco this is also split up into parts - Creating Stark Expo (6:44), Practical Meets Digital (8:37) which was my favourite featurette with a look at special effects and the suits, Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury (6:07), Illustrated Origin: Black Widow (3:06), Illustrated Origin: War Machine (3:52) and Working With DJ AM (2:02).
Deleted Scenes (16:50/HD): In all 8 scenes are presented here (seven deleted and one extended) with optional commentary from director Jon Favreau. These scenes vary from near complete to still requring visual effects. Sadly these scenes only include some pretty average Dolby Digital 2.0 audio encoded at 224kbps.
Galleries (HD): Split up into 11 different themed areas this extensive gallery contains dozens of images from the pre-production of the film.
Theatrical Trailers (6:03/HD): Three trailers are presented here in HD using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. They give away too much plot so avoid if you haven't seen the feature movie already.
Music Video: Ac/DC "Shoot To Thrill" (5:37/HD): The Aussie rockers make an impact with this Iron Man 2 music video clip. Not their greatest song ever, but the clip looks and sounds great.
Finally we have a third disc which includes a Bonus DVD Digital Copy of the film for those that are interested - for us it's HD or nothing, but we're sure some will find a use.
Review By: Dave Warner