In "Iron Man 2," the world is aware that billionaire investor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is the armored super hero Iron Man. Under pressure from the government, the press and the public to share his technology with the military, Tony is unwilling to divulge the secrets behind the Iron Man armor because he fears the information will slip into the wrong hands. With Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow), and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, Tony forges new alliances and confronts powerful new forces. (from IronManMovie.Marvel.com)
Just two years ago, actor/director Jon Favreau brought the comic book hero of Iron Man to life on the big screen. As the sleeper hit to lead off the Summer in 2008, Iron Man was widely well-received. Now, to launch the summer of 2010, Favreau is back along with most of the cast from the original to continue the story of Tony Stark and his metallic alter ego.
Every sequel has its expectations. For Iron Man 2, the best thing fans can look forward to is seeing more of Iron Man in action. We already saw Tony Stark's transformation from billionaire playboy to armored super hero in the first installment, so we know the origin story is out of the way. Favreau does a great job avoiding retracing his steps from the first film in IM 2. While we're bound to see more robot versus robot action, there are plenty of fun surprises in this second outing to keep us on our toes. However, Favreau doesn't trade story for lots of action, like many sequels often do. In fact, he may even trade some action for more story. The sequel introduces many new characters, but never feels the Spider-Man 3 dilemma of "more-is-less," and instead makes IM 2 feel like a pretty natural progression of the tales of Stark as Iron Man. And instead of Stark's story blissfully barreling forward as his world's first super hero, he is confronted with serious opposition from the U.S. government who want Tony to turn the Iron Man "weapon" over to them. We even follow Stark into court where we get an ever-so-slightly overlong sequence where Tony has to fight the powers that be to let him retain the rights to his own creation. It's great stuff to further the story, but anyone who bought a ticket to see more action is going to find themselves quickly getting bored.
And much of Iron Man 2 is like this. Scene after scene of furthering the story sans grandiose action sequences with humor and character development woven through for good measure. It makes the action scenes that are in the movie stand out, but the film's pacing leans on the slower side. The climax of Iron Man 2 does give fans the pay off they're hoping for, but some are likely to feel like the journey getting there was a bit arduous. However, Downey Jr's Stark is continuing to develop and mature as a character and the story gives him more than a few hurdles to leap over this time around (and Downey is as great as ever in the character). Depending on where a third installment in the story could choose to go -- assuming a third one will eventually be made -- Iron Man 2 could very well feel like a middle chunk to a larger story (think the Lord Of The Rings trilogy). When placing Iron Man and Iron Man 2 back to back, the latter feels like a rather natural progression from the first film. The only glaringly different change is the recasting of "Rhodey" with Don Cheadle instead of Terrence Howard. Howard was a warm and likeable take on the character, while the always reliable Cheadle plays Rhodey pretty straight and stiff throughout this installment. It feels weird to have a different actor in the role - especially since no one else around these characters has changed - but Cheadle does a valiant effort trying to fill those shoes nonetheless.
Speaking of changes, composer Ramin Djawadi does not return to score Iron Man 2, but is instead replaced by composer John Debney (The Passion of the Christ, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty). Debney actually does a great job in giving Iron Man a more theatrical score composition and less of a rock opera vibe. Djawadi created some killer metal-heavy rock themes for the first film, but the orchestral cues were not a strong point. Debney excels at those instead, and he fits this installments vibe pretty well. While the changing of composers within a series can drastically change the feel of the movie, thankfully the Iron Man series doesn't suffer from the change (unlike the changing from Elmer Bernstein in Ghostbusters to Randy Edelman in Ghostbusters II, or Jerry Goldsmith in The Mummy to Alan Silvestri in The Mummy Returns. Both sequels' scores paled in comparison to their predecessors and affected the films.... and Randy Edelman's work on The Mummy 3 was just atrocious).
As part of the expanded cast for the second outing we have Scarlett Johansson as Potts' new assistant Natalie, Mickey Rourke as the film's central villain Ivan - AKA Whiplash, and Sam Rockwell as direct competition for Stark as weapons supplier Justin Hammer. All are great additions and do well in their respective roles. Rourke is rather mysterious as the son of a former associate to Stark's father, and he is convincingly menacing as a primary villain. Johansson does her usual best providing eye candy for the male audience, but she gets a jaw-droppingly solid action sequence later in the film that is a fun one to watch (and Favreau beefs up his role as Happy Hogan in the second outing, even getting in on some of the action as well). Lastly, Rockwell is excellent as the arrogant competitor to Stark Industries. Rockwell is an incredibly versatile actor (I still love his work Galaxy Quest) and he does a good job as one of those guys you love to hate.
Content is mixed this time around. Instead of any blatant sex scenes - like in the first movie - the sexual content is reduced to some cheerleaders and pretty ladies in cleavage-revealing dresses and the occasional use of innuendo in the dialogue. Most of it is playful or sarcastic and not vulgar, but you get the implications pretty well. There is a little bit of blood in the action and violence, but it isn't nearly as bad as the first time around. Language contains two bleeped-out "f" words when a Senator directs those at Stark as shown on TV. There are also a couple muttered "s" words and a handful of "Oh my G-d's" as well as the "a" word and a few uses of "h*ll." There's a quite a bit of action violence - most of it being nonlethal, and most of it involving robots fighting each other. For those wondering if this film is suitable enough to take the children too, I would advise against it. On top of the aforementioned content, Iron Man 2 is clearly fashioned for adult audiences and its pacing is likely to bore the snot out of the kids. I wouldn't say it's a film for children.
Overall, Iron Man 2 does not best its predecessor, but it's not a disappointment by any means either. While the pacing is slower and the tension a little less (I probably felt more tension re-watching the first film than watching this one for the first time), it does not result in an overall weak film. Favreau is out to tell a story here - and continue Tony Stark's story - and he does a good job in furthering the tales of Iron Man. If you didn't like the first one, you probably won't like this one either, but those hoping for a bigger sequel will probably be disappointed. Expect lots of dialogue-heavy scenes in addition to the expected action sequences. Lastly, if you're a comic book fan, stick around until after the credits to see a brief additional scene. It has nothing to do with Iron Man himself, but it teases audiences as to a future installment in Marvel Comics' pending Avengers film. It's very brief and won't mean anything to anyone unfamiliar with the Avengers characters. Iron Man 2 is still a fun super hero outing and I do hope they continue the adventures of Tony Stark and Iron Man in future films (and soon!).- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/7/10)
After the 2008 sleeper hit Iron Man, comic book fans and new fans of the metal-suited hero were itching for a sequel. While Iron Man 2 did not live up to most fans' expectations, I did enjoy the film and find that it gets better with each viewing. It makes a worthy follow-up to the origin story that preceded it, and the film couldn't look better in Blu-Ray. While some Blu-Ray transfers still occasionally can tend to look grainy, the picture on Iron Man 2 is bright, colorful and crisp as can be.
With the Blu-Ray combo pack, the Iron Man 2 Blu-Ray discs come with a host of bonus features - all in high definition as well, and are spread across two Blu-Ray discs (with a regular DVD and digital download serving as the third disc). The feature film disc - AKA Disc One - includes some of its own features, but the best are included on Disc Two. Let's take a look at Disc One first...
S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault - Feel a little out of the loop on the whole S.H.I.E.L.D. organization and all the little inside details that maybe only comic book buffs might know? This feature grabs scenes from the movie and overlays some digital details to explain some little details. There are fifteen scenes selected here -- from Whiplash looking at the Arc Reactor diagram at the beginning of the film, to mentioning the Ten Rings group and even giving us a quick 3D look at the Mark V Iron Man briefcase suit (the one on the cover of the DVD). We even get a closer look at Captain America's shield that makes a cameo. The true treat maybe the highlight a wee little teaser to the plot of The Avengers film. The last of the fifteen scenes highlights an info panel that is tracking "Gamma incidents." Hmmm... After the video scans, you can view case files that focus on Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk (yes, including characters and shots from the movie). It's cool to see them tying everything in together (it just looks and feels so incomplete with this only being the third film leading up to The Avengers, with Captain America and Thor on their way soon).
Previsualizations and Animatics - This is one of three features that play along with the movie. If you watch the film with this on, an in-set window will pop up, showing storyboards for the scene you're watching. It's cool if you're a fan of storyboards, but it's not a must-see feature. There's also a feature-long Commentary from director Jon Favreau. That's about it for special features on Disc One.
Deleted Scenes (16:50) are one of the main features on Disc Two. There are eight deleted scenes, with optional commentary from Favreau. It all starts with an alternate opening that replaces the Whiplash intro with Iron Man on an airplane... puking into a toilet bowl (due to nervousness). It contains the footage that was seen in the trailer but not the theatrical final cut, where Pepper kisses the Iron Man mask and he says "You complete me!" as he jumps out of the plane. It's a fun intro, but the one chosen for the final opts for the more dramatic. Next is a sequence during Tony's trial where Tony sends Pepper out for hot dogs and Hammer shows an Iron Man toy during his speech. The third scene is after the hearing where Rhodes, Tony, and Pepper are on Stark's jet, arguing. It goes into a little more character development for Rhodes and Stark's friendship, but it's a bit lengthy and understandable why it was cut. Next was a great extended sequence that shows Tony trying to find a new element (but failing) and then an extended interaction with Pepper as they walk and talk through his lab. There's some good footage that was cut here, including Tony showing Pepper a hologram of his race car, which we see later in the film. The next two scenes take place at his birthday party. The first has Tony showing Natalie how to use the Iron Man glove, destroying an ice sculpture. The next has Pepper telling Rhodes that Tony is out of control and Rhodes confronts him while Tony has a party girl using both Iron Man gloves to float in the air. There's some added tension between Tony and Pepper in these scenes, and they just add to Tony's growing wreckless behavior. Neither were really essential to the film's plot. Next is a great little sequence where Rhodes is wearing the Mark II suit and presents it to the military. This definitely should have been left in. The last scene is an extension of when Tony does discover the new element. I can see why it was cut down, but the little touches seen here were nice.
Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 (1:27:08) - The main behind-the-scenes documentary is just under a whopping hour and a half in length. After a brief intro about everyone expressing how fresh the first film was and how the expectations were high for the sequel, "Ultimate Iron Man" begins with "Rebuilding The Suit," launching this segment with footage of Favreau from just before filming began and him expressing his experiences with the actors and pre-production. We then see how they used motion capture to film a lot of the Iron Man suit action sequences. What's really interesting to note here, is as they showed the motion capture suits in action, you caught glimpses of the monitors with filmed live action footage on them and the motion capture being planted into those shots. We briefly see what is clearly a deleted sequence of Iron Man and War Machine fighting inside Tony's house, with a woman in her underwear on a bed watching the two duke it out. I'm not sure what the relevance of filming that was, but it's probably a good move to have kept it out (and this is not shown in the deleted scenes either). After the focus on using motion capture, "Ultimate Iron Man" begins reflecting on Mickey Rourke as Whiplash and the cast talk about what it was like to work with him. It then goes in-depth into the construction of Whiplash's suit, with how it was designed, and see quite a bit of footage of it being tested, Mickey talking about it, and even trying it on for the first time. The feature then talks about the Iron Man suit construction for different scenes, War Machine, the actors' experience wearing the suits, and then even just regular costume design. It then goes into Scarlett Johansson's rigorous training as Black Widow, including a good amount of footage of her practicing and performing the stunts in preparation. The "Rebuilding The Suit" portion ends with Favreau's hope and enthusiasm for the second film before their official filming began.
"A Return To Action" is the second part of the "Ultimate Iron Man." It opens with Downey addressing the cast and crew in the court room scene before the cameras were about to roll on the film's first scene (shot on April 6, 2009), and his delivery wasn't much different than that of the character he plays (there's one bleeped "F" word and a joke about "sexual favors" in his speech, and 2 more bleeped "F" words during filming). We're shown a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage from this sequence, spliced with interviews with Downey and actor Garry Shandling. Some real fun stuff was included here. Then we move to the fourth day of shooting on the "streets of Moscow," which was shot in Manhattan, before going to the set that was Ivan's lab for making the first suit. We're then taken to Edwards Air Force Base and given the low down on shooting there and a little inside trivia on the scene where Sam Rockwell pitches weapons to Rhodey (there's also some bleeped out language during some outtake footage shown here). "Ultimate Iron Man" then takes the viewer into Stark's house for the filming of the brawl between Iron Man and War Machine (well, before he's officially War Machine), then back to Scarlett for her final suit fitting and gym scene filming with Favreau's Happy Hogan character. Favreau then talks about filming the last day in Stark's garage before they moved filming to Monaco for the racing sequence. It's intriguing to learn that none of the actors were actually in Monaco for that filming on location, but stand-ins were used in Monaco and then sets were built in L.A. to include the actors. We then get some candid footage of Favreau and Rockwell on the set, Scarlett and Jon shooting her major action sequence (more brief bleeped out language here), and then there's a montage of effects filming with Favreau's voiceover to add some dramatic effect to the documentary. "Building A Legacy" is the final segment to the documentary, and focuses mostly on the post-production elements of the film. Favreau shares a lot about the process and we even get a look into the editing room as he works with the editor, see Paul Bettany recording his voice for Jarvis, and even get to see inside the recording studio at Abbey Road where the film was scored by John Debney and the London Symphony Orchestra. This segment spends a lot of time on the music and Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello who provided some electric guitar for the score. It all ends with the cast and crew sharing their expectations and thoughts on the film. But after the credits roll on the documentary, the footage resumes with a focus on the after-credits scene that's at the end of Iron Man 2. Actor Kenneth Branagh is directing the next Avenger film, Thor, and so we hear from him talking about the scene at the end of IM2 that features Thor's hammer. We also see some behind-the-scenes footage from the small sequence. It serves as a nice little teaser for the 2011 film.
Featurettes (30:31): There is a half hour of additional featurettes for Iron Man 2 on Disc Two. The first one, "Creating Stark Expo," focuses on the Stark Expo and recreating a Worlds Fair kind of scope for it. There's a little reused footage from the feature documentary, but most of this material is new to these featurettes. "Practical Meets Digital" goes more into the suits and the special effects in the film, including how they created the physical suits for the actors and stunt men. The featurette then goes into detail on the digital creation of the suits and key fight scene effects like during the Stark house fight, especially. "Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury" goes into the evolution of the Nick Fury character from the comics and explains how the original 1960's vision for the character was updated for modern times and the film as "The Ultimate Nick Fury." It's cool to hear the crew, and even Samuel Jackson himself, talk about the character and give more insight into Fury for those of us who really have no knowledge about him. Next is "Illustrated Origin: Black Widow," who is performed by Scarlett Johansson, and it gives a lot more explanation, as well, as to who here comic book character is. This one delves a little less into the details of her origin, but it's still rather enlightening for her character. "Illustrated Origin: War Machine" first addresses the film origin of War Machine -- it being adapted from the "Mark II" suit from the first film. This one spends much more time on the film version of the character, but does tap into the comics satisfyingly. Lastly, "Working With DJ Am" is a short featurette in honor of the popular DJ who passed away from a drug overdose after the filming. Favreau pays a nice tribute to the artist to wrap up the featurettes.
Other features on the Iron Man 2 Blu-Ray include Concept Art Galleries - including for the Hammer Drones, Whiplash, the Stark Expo, Stark's mansion, and more - three Iron Man 2 theatrical trailers, and the movie music video for AC/DC's "Shoot To Thrill." Overall, with some decent deleted scenes, a handful of insightful featurettes, and a revealing feature-length documentary on the making of the film - not to mention a DVD and digital download of the feature film - the Iron Man 2 blu-ray combo pack is the quintessential version of the film for fans to take home. The documentary does add a dimension of appreciation to the film and those who didn't care for it the first time (or just found that it didn't live up to the quality of the first) may want to give it a second shot in high definition in their own home. As for me, I'm ready and waiting for Iron Man 3.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/24/10)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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