Release Date(s)2010 (August 13, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios/Fairview Entertainment (Paramount Pictures/Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
As Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) reveals to the world that he’s the Iron Man, his father’s former collaborator, Anton Vanko, dies in exile in Siberia. Anton’s son, Ivan (Mickey Rourke) builds an arc reactor of his own, determined to serve Tony a cold dish of revenge. But Tony has bigger problems; the palladium core that powers his own reactor (and keeps him alive) is slowly poisoning him. A rival industrialist, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) begins secretly funding Ivan’s efforts. Tony’s new assistant (Scarlett Johansson) may not be who she seems. Even his best friend, USAF Lt. Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard), disgusted by Tony’s cavalier attitude toward advanced technology, confiscates one of his new prototype Iron Man suits. At least Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is on his side as she attempts to keep Stark Industries afloat in troubled times. And Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has his eye on Tony as a possible candidate for a little project called the Avengers Initiative.
Iron Man 2 raises the stakes significantly for Tony; even as he attempts to use his vast empire to ensure peace on planet Earth, the sins of his past continue to trouble him. Rourke chews up the screen as Ivan Vanko (better known to Marvel fans as Whiplash), providing an unrelenting sense of menace. Paltrow is not only a capable romantic foil for Tony, she’s a believable replacement for him as the new CEO of Stark Industries. Points for the Elon Musk cameo; Musk was the person Robert Downey Jr. consulted when he began playing the role of Tony Stark and several of this film’s scenes were filmed at Musk’s SpaceX headquarters. But the best aspect of this film is the way it begins to flesh out the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nick Fury and Phil Coulson both return, and Johansson makes her first appearance as Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow). There’s even a tease for the introduction of Thor in the film’s closing credits.
Like the original film, Iron Man 2 was shot photochemically on 35 mm film using Arriflex and Panavision cameras with Panavision anamorphic lenses. It was finished as a 2K digital intermediate, upsampled for Ultra HD in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and has been graded for high dynamic range in HDR10 (Dolby Vision is available only on the Digital presentation). The good news here is that the image is mostly pleasing, better looking than Iron Man in 4K (reviewed here) and about on par with Thor on the format (reviewed here). The image is occasionally a little optically soft, with light-moderate grain, and VFX shots tend to exhibit lower resolution. Blacks are also a tad crushed from time to time, and DNR is still apparent, but not so much as on the original Iron Man. Yet many other shots are crisp looking with excellent detail and nice texturing. HDR gives the shadows depth and makes highlights really pop. And the 10-bit color space enriches the film’s palette wonderfully. Overall, it’s a modest improvement on the Blu-ray image, especially good with regard to the coloring.
Audio-wise, the 4K disc offers a new Dolby Atmos mix that—like the image—is decent, but not a standout experience. Dialogue is clear, with a medium-wide soundstage, robust mids, and moderate low end. But the overall tonal quality is a bit muddy. Rather than a spacious mix with lots of precision and bombastic dynamics, what you get here a more of a thick wall of sound. There’s plenty of surround activity, with smooth movement and panning, and the height channels offer occasional discrete cues. But the overall sound environment just sounds… dense. This is especially obvious in the Grand Prix de Monaco race scenes, which are muscular but lack refinement. This is in no way a bad surround mix, but it’s not a standout one either. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, 5.1 Dolby Digital in Quebec French, and 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus in French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. Optional subtitles include English for the Hearing Impaired, Quebec French, French, Spanish Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, and Swedish.
There are no extras whatsoever on the 4K disc itself, but the package includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray as well. That disc adds:
- Audio Commentary by Jon Favreau
- SHIELD Data Vault – Footage Scan Mode (a Picture in Picture viewing mode)
- SHIELD Data Vault – The Vault (and interactive image and text gallery)
- Previsualizations and Animatics (a Picture in Picture viewing mode)
The commentary is terrific. Let’s be honest; Favreau is always worth listening to. He provided tons of insights on the production. And it’s just him, so he keeps up a constant stream of thoughts and anecdotes. The rest of this material is of limited value at this point. It was interesting once, but it feels a bit dated now that we’re eleven years into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, not included here is Disc Two of Paramount’s excellent Blu-ray release of this film, which included more of the set’s traditional special features. So you’re missing the outstanding and feature-length Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 documentary, all five of the featurettes (including a favorite involving the creation of the Stark Expo in the film), the deleted scenes, the concept art galleries, the trailers, and the AC/DC Shoot to Thrill music video. That’s a bummer that is in no way made up for the fact that you get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
Iron Man 2 is a great sequel to the original and finally begins to expand the MCU mythos, introducing characters that will be important for many films to come. Paramount’s Blu-ray special edition was a terrific release, but unfortunately Disney has chosen to omit most of its best features. What’s left is an A/V upgrade that 4K and MCU fans will probably want to add to their collections. But get a good price on it and be sure to hang onto that previous Blu-ray release if you want to keep all the extras.
- Bill Hunt