Iron Man 2 is still awesome.
It's still a fun movie with all sorts of emotional beats and explosions and characters and lead-up and all those great things that, to be honest, make me read comics every week. If you pick up a monthly, you expect to see something of the character on the cover in the book, you expect to see him (or her) do something incredible and, by all rights, you should be interested in what the next issue is going to do. In a perfect world, I would be a millionaire with a unicorn and comics would always be recognizable, satisfying and leave you hungry for whatever is coming next.
Iron Man 2 worked almost as a film second, and a movie first because they devoted a lot of time to talk about the past and the future. Samuel L. Fury tries to get Tony Stark's life back on track so they can use him for this "Avengers Initiative." We go through an overwhelmingly Walt Disney-inspired piece for Howard Stark and the better future he saw when he put together the first Stark Expo. This is the continuation of something big, larger than life or even the life that the movie contained it in.
Settling down the the fanciest-schemanciest Blu-ray copy I could get my hands on, I wanted to see what it was like when you took this movie home. Did the lukewarm reception still come from the wide variety of audiences the movie tried to please? Or was it just not that great? Come with me and see.
So, for those of you playing at home, I purchased the FYE version of the three-disk Blu-ray (it comes with the feature, a whole disk of extras, then a DVD copy and a digital download). From what I could tell in a panicked search on Sept. 28 -- I forgot the DVD was being released -- this seems to be the most you could acquire in just pure, sweet content. The first disk displays the movie, a director's commentary track and a fun little bit of technology called The S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault. This goes just an inch further in your movie-watching experience and shows off some of the movie's Easter eggs and, in The Vault's case, gives you some extra history on the Incredible Hulk movie and how it ties in to the Iron Man movies. Personally, I'm not a fan of reading text on a screen, but the Vault's fully in character with tying the Super-Soldier program in with last-known intel on the missing Bruce Banner, PhD with that prototype of Cap's shield we see pop up in Iron Man. They also have, for the impatient like myself, Footage Scan Mode, which finds all the details they threw into the movie (OM Captain America's shield?) and pops it out with a little display and a small text description. Did you know that the big tube-thing that Tony Stark made a new element out of at the end of the movie was a Prismatic Accelerator, possibly from Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. ("Potential Energy Group/Alternate Sources/United States")? Thanks to the Footage Scan, I do, and I got a shot of the blueprints behind it.
Going through a movie you just got on DVD for the cool bits is tough. Searching in the background for that one shot of the Captain America comic might be a triumph for those with bigger screens, but when the Blu-ray already knows I want the details, pulls them out for me and lets me skip around through them? That's rad. From the Stark Expo interface menus, the S.H.I.E.L.D. reports and background images, interacting with your TV takes on this immersive quality. I loved the computer interfaces from the movies and, while I still have to use a remote, the Blu-ray brings a little of that home for you.
Jon Favreau is a very honest commentator as well as a huge film geek. Over the deleted scenes on Disk Two, he notes that "If you're watching deleted-scenes commentary, then you're a real geek," promising a little more inside-baseball as to what these scenes are used for and why they were removed. During the Making Of segments (poorly titled "Ultimate Iron Man," which made me at least think there was going to be some sort of comic history involved), Favreau has fears and doubts. There are moments where he'll be on-set with the cameras and admit that nearly losing Mickey Rourke from the project terrified him. That he felt they started too late in their development and two years for such an ambitious project would make everyone lose sleep, especially himself. His word is not law, and there are a lot of moments of him going out of his way to incorporate everyone's input, from the cast to the crew. The composer gave notes to Tom Morello, who riffed some guitar tracks for the soundtrack. Mickey Rourke visited Russian prisons on his own time before they started filming, the choreographers and Scarlet Johanssen worked overtime for all of her stunts to make them as natural as possible. This movie was made in the mighty Marvel manner, with an idea shared between both writing and art teams to create the clearest picture they could come up with.
Maybe that's why this movie wasn't received as well as the first. Favreau in the behind-the-scenes portion calls it "fighting against a memory," that the first movie was so popular, audiences remember it as something bigger than what they actually saw and so now they have to live up to something they didn't even produce. The first Iron Man is arguably a perfect comic-book movie, with action and drama in just the right equal parts to be a recognizable brand, satisfying in story execution and leaving us hungry for what life is like now for Iron Man after his big reveal at the end of Movie #1. Movie #2 is the second issue; it gave you more plot that developed from the first, a bigger threat than what Iron Man defeated last time and something else to look forward to afterward: The Avengers. Perhaps this is some sort of new entertainment form we're creating, some sort of movie-comic hybrid where it's developed as you would a comic book but filmed for a mass audience in a more palatable format.
Whether or not we're at the dawn of a new age and witnessing the birth of a new form of media -- the Comovie! Movic! -- I'd still recommend taking the time to get a copy of the DVD or Blu-ray and all its features. The movie is a much more friendly and inclusive process with all the time and details they took to present it to viewers. Who's hungry for the next film?