Iron Man (US - BD)
Reviewer Marcus Doidge marvels at the new Iron Man Blu-ray from Paramount...
Iron Man, the first of this year’s offering from the Marvel Comics hits Blu-ray. Jon Favreau directs Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the billionaire weapons dealer who gets captured in Afghanistan whilst on a routine weapons demonstration. Almost fatally wounded and only saved by a device implanted into his chest to prevent shrapnel from reaching his heart, Tony is ordered to make his captors the latest missile in Stark industries catalogue.
After seeing that Stark Industries weapons are being traded to the bad guys, Tony Stark has other plans. Covertly building a suit of iron that enables him to escape, Tony gets back to American soil and announces to the world that Stark Industries will cease making weapons. This doesn’t go down well with his business associate Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) and worries Stark’s close friends Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Terrence Howard).
Tony also makes the decision that he wants to protect the very people he’s put in danger, and using his genius mind and improving on his previous iron armour design, he becomes Iron Man as he sets out to put all of his company’s wrongs, right.
Story wise, Iron Man is about as paint by numbers as comic book movies get. Take character through a life changing event, make them see the error of their ways, make them use their abilities for good—you got yourself a superhero movie. Of course, outside of all that you have the love interest who you know should be with the lead but isn’t and the friend that turns out to be a baddie and of course the final battle where the hero that’s known for wearing a mask, loses it, so the studio can show of its star.
This doesn’t make Iron Man at all dull though. It’s packed with entertainment value. Robert Downey Jr. provides a fantastic lead in Stark, in an almost Johnny Depp-esq career evolution. From well respected actor within the industry to full on A-list Megastar over night. He makes Stark a brilliant character and for me to say that after spending much of my comic book reading career finding Tony Stark and Iron Man a waste of printer ink, it really is a hell of an achievement. He’s got genuine chemistry with Paltrow and he totally sells the fun in coming up with the design and tech of Iron Man—and what a world of great tech this is. From the holographic design that everyone wishes their home computer was like, to the actual red and gold of the suit, everything about the Iron Man armour is beautifully realised and almost seamlessly blended between practical and digital effects. I know Superman: The Movie touted it a long time ago, but it’s taken like thirty years for me to actually believe a man can fly.
For all this praise though, I have to say that I didn’t quite get the Iron Man buzz that just seemed to run and run at the beginning of the summer season. It is a lot of fun and considering he’s a lesser known character in the Marvel universe, especially to non-comic readers, this just kept on making money at the box office, which indicates that people kept going back. I really didn’t get this at the time. On my first viewing back in May, I just felt that there wasn’t enough in here for me to rush to see it again anytime soon. Outside of one really good performance surrounded by a lot of average ones, there’s not nearly enough action. The opening twenty odd minutes were pretty sluggish, mainly due to the fact we’d seen the edited highlights in the trailers and knew pretty much beat for beat what was coming. There’s a whole lot of pretty dull stuff with Bridges that is a superhero movie’s way of covering the fact that this is essentially a corporate take-over sub-plot and the last act doesn’t really know what to do with itself to tie things up, beyond a lot of Robocop 2 visuals and some explosions. On this, my second viewing however, all of these issues weren’t quite as weak as I’d original thought. I still think the final act is missing something and I still don’t quite get the massive amount of admiration this all drummed up, considering there’re way better superhero movies out there that get no love at all, but to its credit Iron Man is certainly looking like the franchise to keep an eye on, with a sequel promising to up the game.
Iron Man is Marvel’s first step into having some control over their characters, which can be nothing but a great thing. However on the flipside of that, if we just end up getting origin stories as basic and as generic as this for Captain America, Thor and the others planned, the superhero movie bubble could very well pop long before we get to see them all together in the planned Avengers movie.
Iron Man is presented in 2.35:1 and looks pretty darn good. It’s not a transfer that said ‘reference quality’ to me, which was a little disappointing, but this is mainly due to the overall look of the film rather than the transfer itself.
Colours are sometimes a little muted, but again I feel that this is a design choice that uses a lot of cool blues and greys, as opposed to a transfer problem because when the colours really comes to life, they look great. For example, the gold and red of the armour looks fantastic when brightly lit in Stark’s workshop, explosions look bright and warm and skin tones look good despite suffering from some very slight blocking in the movie’s darker scenes, especially in the cave in the first half.
Thankfully, a lot of Iron Man’s key scenes happen in bright natural daylight and this really shows off the details in this HD transfer. The scratches and scruffs on the costume when it gets battered look absolutely sublime and tiny tricks on the glints of reflective sunlight off of the suit look great too. In the darker night scenes, most of the time everything is well lit anyway and still remains impressive but I personally thought there was a slightly blurred or hazy look to the showdown between Iron Man and Iron Monger in the closing scenes, but this is more than likely an effects issue rather than the transfer as I felt much the same thing in the cinema back in May.
Iron Man’s audio had me on side from the get go, what with the use of AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ in the opening scene. It’s loud, it’s clear and I was impressed straight off. Then the explosion goes off and if I wasn’t convinced by this sound mix already, this did it. It’s incredibly powerful in the bass department but it’s more than just loud, there are little sounds in the speakers that really show the care in this mix. Pieces of debris, smoke and gun fire are all very well placed, which thankfully continues for the entire movie.
There are little touches to the sound effects that use all of the speakers without making it feel as if it’s showing off. Little hisses of pistons or creaks in the mechanics of Iron Man’s suit always feel like they have their own place in the surround system and they all blend together to keep it sounding natural and never forced. The dynamics in Iron Man’s flight as he whooshes across the screen is also impressive and the action sequences all take it up a notch without losing the subtle touches that are used in the quieter scenes. This was a great and thought-about sound mix that really compliments the movie and may very well be considered a show off mix by some. The biggest shame in the audio department is that the movie itself has no main theme to enhance the visuals. In fact, the music generally did very little to call attention to itself outside of the opening ‘Back in Black’ and Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ in the closing credits
I think extra features at their best should make you like the movie more than you already did and even more so make you want to go back and watch the movie all over again with all the information you’ve learnt, enabling you to appreciate it more. Iron Man has exactly those types of features.
Disc one comes with ‘The Invincible Iron Man’ (47:04) documentary which focuses on the comic book history. I dig these features on all the superhero movies and look forward to them greatly. This one is packed with detail and filled in a few gaps I had in my Iron Man history nicely, as well as highlighting why I think the character is a little limited.
There are eleven deleted/extended scenes (23.56), most of which are fillers, but there’s a nice one with a party scene that added something more to Tony Stark that’s well worth checking out. All of these scenes also gave me the feeling a directors/extended cut may be on the horizon just before Iron Man 2.
Rounding up disc one, is the ‘Hall of Armour’, in which you can see 360 degree turnarounds of the different Iron Man suits and is much the same as the recent Transformers one in both dullness and fluff. Also there’s a BD Live selection which wasn’t live at the time of the review.
Moving onto disc two, the first selection you have is ‘I am Iron Man’ (1hr 49mins), which is one of those features that does everything you want it to do. Every element of the production is covered without it ever getting dull. There are some great moments with all of the cast, and as per normal Fav is such a likable down to earth guy that you just feel welcomed into watching him work. Add to this, seeing Stan Winston and his people working in the studio, was as great as it was saddening. As this was one of the last movies he worked on before his recent death, it was nice to see the man at work, hear his thoughts on the film and hear how much he wanted to work on Iron Man. This true movie legend will be missed. This documentary has so many quality moments, that it really is a reason in itself to buy this Blu-ray.
Once you’ve finished the main meal of the features, there are still the deserts. First up there’s ‘Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man’ (27:01), which highlights just how much of this is CGI and how well it’s all hidden. There’s the Robert Downey Jr. screen test (6:03), which is actually quite unimpressive and shows how much he ups his game for the main event.
‘The Actors Process’ (4:13) is a cool little rehearsal between Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges as they work out a scene with Fav overseeing. It’s good seeing these two actors prepare and there should really be more of this on movie features in general.
A great addition to all this is The Onion news story about adapting the trailer into a full length movie (2:38). Those of you who may have not caught this online in the build up to Iron Man’s release are in for a treat. This is a wildly funny take on the current trailer buzz that’s evolved over the last ten years or so and just a great little extra to get with the movie.
Finishing up, there are four trailers and four galleries as well as the credits for the disc. In addition—and not really an extra feature as such—be sure to watch past the movie’s credits for the first hint of what’s to come in the future Marvel-movie franchise.
Despite the paint by numbers approach, Iron Man is a whole lot of fun. It’s by no means my favourite superhero movie of the year, like many other critics have proclaimed (well, maybe before The Dark Knight hit), but Iron Man is easy to watch and full of charm.
The Blu-ray isn’t quite the fine example of the format that I’d hoped for in the video department but it is by no means a letdown either. It’s a big studio movie handled with a lot of care and obviously a title they know could very well be one that will get the next wave of punters to adopt Blu-ray into their homes.
Fans and newcomers will be pleased with the entertaining and informative features that Paramount have put together and in many ways for me, have made Iron Man that little bit better a movie. All in all, this is a great package.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 30th September 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: I Am Iron Man - The Journey Begins, The Invincible Iron Man, Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test, The Actor’s Process (scene rehearsal with cast) • The Onion “Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to be Adapted into Full Length Film”, Image Galleries, Trailers, Hall of Armour.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow,Terrence Howard,
Length: 126 minutes
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