Iron Man: Ultimate 2-disc Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin & Noor Razzak (5th October 2008).
The Film

When I first heard the casting for Marvel’s “Iron Man” (2008) adaptation I was blown away by the perfect casting with Robert Downey Jr. as the alcoholic super-hero Tony Stark/Iron Man. In combining Downey’s widely publicized, real life problems with substance abuse with his very real acting talent, Director Jon Favreau had crafted a publicity and casting buzz that got me incredibly excited for the feature film.

The story of the film follows Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a billionaire technological-super-genius, who lives a relatively carefree life running his father’s weapons company. While he is in Afghanistan demonstrating the power of his latest Jericho missile, the convoy he is travelling in is attacked by a terrorist organization using weapons his company designed and sold. After barely surviving the attack, Stark is kidnapped by the organization and confined with fellow-captive Dr. Yinsen (Shaun Toub) where the two men are forced to build a version of Stark’s Jericho missile for the organization. Stark uses his technological genius to build an immensely powerful power source and a mechanical super-suit to get away. After escaping his captors Stark changes the way his company is run and attempts to pursue a more benevolent purpose through his company and his secret identity as Iron Man.

First and foremost, a huge amount of credit must be given to Stan Winston’s incredible practical suit designs which simply are beautiful on screen. I have incredible respect for Favreau taking the time and funding to build a practical suit rather than simply abuse the powerful CG he has at his hands. However this doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair amount of CG in the film, but for the most part it’s used in instances when there is no likely physical way for the practical suit to stand in, such as flying next to air force jets. But the intermittent examples of completely unnecessary CG look and feel really bad, especially when they digitally map Robert Downey Jr.’s face onto the suit, bringing back bad memories of faces CG’d on to bodies in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy (though some watching in the special features makes me think it’s more of the helmet being mapped onto Downey Jr.’s head, more on this later, but either way it’s distracting and looks really off). Beyond this, the film still looks good, Favreau has a good handle on the action and the final battle in the film is really entertaining to watch, if at least just to see Iron Man duke it out using cars as weapons and trying to save people in the meantime.

In the writing and acting of the film, Downey’s casting proves perfect as he plays off the billionaire-playboy incredibly well, with enough cheesy charm and narcissism to really capture the character. It’s been a good year for Downey, marking his full resurgence into Hollywood mainstream and he does a great job of carrying the movie, though not without some bad lines that just don’t hit home for me. Terrance Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow are also good in their supporting roles. Howard makes some unnecessary references to later becoming War Machine, but I’m glad he was cast in the role and will be a good War Machine in the future; I’m interested to see how it plays out. My one hang-up is Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane. Don’t get me wrong, Bridges is an incredible actor from “Tron” (1982) to his magnum opus as “The Big Lebowski” (1998), but I can’t stop seeing ‘The Dude’ when Bridges is trying to be menacing as Obadiah Stane. He has some awkwardly written parts, but Bridges does a good job, beyond my personal reservations and some off writing in some scenes.

Overall, “Iron Man” is a well put together film, that’s well acted and directed for the most part, but there are some incredibly rough spots in the writing and some visual styling. By no means do these break the movie, but they really hold it back from becoming a great comic book movie.

Video

Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 ratio, and in full high-definition 1080p 24/fps. This transfer has been mastered using AVC MPEG-4, in a matter of weeks Paramount has released two high-profile discs that were made for HD, "Transformers" (2007) and this film, "Iron Man". The film is filled with special effects, incredible production design, beautiful locations, and action scenes! This film was literally made for HD presentation. To begin with the image is intensely sharp, and the quality is fine without any edge issues. The print is impeccably clean, not a speck, piece of dirt or other artefacts relating to compression. The detail reaches deep right down to little subtle things like the intricate parts to Iron Man's suit and lab, you can also virtually count the hairs of Downey Jr.'s goatee. Colors are nice and bright, black levels are bold and deep without any noise, grain is at a minimum. Overall this is a reference quality image, if you have an HD set-up and want to blow away somebody then this is a disc to do it with.

Audio

This disc includes three audio options in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its TrueHD track presented at 48kHz/24-bit. The HD track is just as incredible as the picture, the audio is load, boisterous but can also be intricate and subtle so the range is vast. The aggressive nature of the track makes it another reason to show off your HD set-up. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, action scenes virtually blast off the screen especially the final fight between Obadiah and Tony. The sound mix feels natural and well placed throughout the 5.1 sound space. The film's score pumps with a mixture of scored material and some classic rock tunes which add further depth to the layers of this mix.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Boasting ‘over 4 hours of special features’ on it’s packaging, this 2-disc set is well loaded with a making-of documentary, an interactive feature, a load of featurettes, photo galleries and deleted/extended scenes, though is blatantly lacking any sort of commentary track. Here’s a disc by disc breakdown of what’s there.

DISC ONE:

First up there's “Hall of Armor” an interactive feature, this is a very cool feature that basically gives you access to the "Stark Database" as seen in the film, here you get to explore the three suits, the Mark I, II and III in their full glory, you can zoom around, check the angles, features of the suits, etc. It's a fun feature that fans will enjoy.

Next is “The Invincible Iron Man” this featurette runs a full 47 minutes and 3 seconds, and again is available to play in 6 parts or as a whole. This really beefy featurette talks with Stan Lee, John Romita Jr., Warren Ellis and a variety of people involved in the character talking about a full origins story and character evolution, both for Stark and the Suit, allies and villains and a lot of historical context. This is another outstanding special feature that reveals some real insight into the character himself and the comic creation and current storylines, a featurette that should become an industry standard for comic book movies. Not only are these nice for those who like special features but aren’t acquainted with the comic book character, but are just a great look through the character from the mouths of industry insiders. Here’s a rundown of the titles and times for the individual chapters:

- “Origins” runs for 8 minutes and 16 seconds.
- “Friends and Foes” runs for 2 minutes and 52 seconds.
- “The Definitive Iron Man” runs for 5 minutes and 28 seconds.
- “Demon in a Bottle” runs for 59 seconds.
- “Extremis and Beyond” runs for 25 minutes and 27 seconds.
- “Ultimate Iron Man” runs for 4 minutes and 1 second.

Next up are the deleted and extended scenes. All of them have time codes placed around the edges of them, which is sort of interesting but more distracting than anything else. Here’s a rundown of the scenes included:

- “Convoy Ambush” this extended scene runs for 3 minutes and 27 seconds and adds back in some shots cut out of the original presentation, that features more fighting between the marine escort unit and their attackers. It’s a really good scene to begin with and the extra parts make it a good standalone scene.
- “Craps Table with Tony & Rhodey” runs for 1 minute and 51 seconds. This is another extended scene of Stark gambling in Cesar’s Palace betting incredible amounts of money and playing up the playboy aspect of his life. A fun scene, but the original length was fine.
- “Tony and Rhodey on Stark Jet and Military Ceremony” runs for 4 minutes and 21 seconds. Another extended scene of Rhodes and Stark travelling on Stark’s jet with some stripper/flight attendants and a military scene that looks cool, but would have messed up the pacing of the film.
- “Rhodey and General Gabriel” runs for 52 seconds. Rhodes and a General discuss his intent to return to Afghanistan to try and find Tony after he was captured.
- “Tony Comes home” runs for 1 minute and 31 seconds. Tony returns to his house after returning from Afghanistan and chats with Jarvis.
- “Tony Begins Mark II” runs for 51 seconds. Stark designs and sets his machines to work on crafting a new arc reactor for his chest.
- “Dubai Party” runs for 3 minutes and 32 seconds. Stark tells Pepper to get his house in Dubai ready for a party, complete with dancing to music that was never added in and loads of girls in bikinis.
- “Pepper Discovers Tony as Iron Man” this scene runs for 51 seconds. This is an alternate scene to Pepper finding Tony changing out of his Iron Man suit, where she just finds him drinking in the middle of his Dubai House, still in full Iron Man regalia; honestly much funnier than the scene actually used in the film.
- “Obadiah Addresses Scientists” runs for 1 minute and 54 seconds. Stane tells his researchers to work harder on creating his Iron Monger suit off of Tony’s design for the original Iron Man suit.
- “Rhodey Saves Iron Man on the Freeway” runs for 1 minute and 24 seconds. Rhodes drives one of Tony’s cars into Stane right as Stark is about to be killed. This scene features some preliminary CG work, showing how the full Iron Man head was actually CG on a practical suit.
- “Rooftop Battle” runs for 3 minutes and 22 seconds. This extended scene is more about the aftermath of the rooftop battle, featuring a brief conversation right before the Iron Monger suit falls into the Stark Arc reactor and Stane looks to Tony for help.

If you have a Profile 2.0 player you can access the Paramount BD Live feature, here you can port yourself directly to the Paramount site and access new and exclusive content. This feature goes unreviewed at this time.

DISC TWO:

Here the real meat of the special features begins with “I Am Iron Man” a feature-length Making of documentary running at 1 hour, 48 minutes and 56 seconds in total, with an option to watch it broken down into 7 parts. In total the making of documentary is kind of incredible, covering an immense of amount of concept art, behind-the-scenes footage of special effects shots and just general aspects surrounding the production from pre through post. Favreau, Downey Jr., Paltrow and much of the rest of the cast and crew cover the entirety of the production process. This is a well put together documentary that really covers the entire process, a great example of what a making of should be. Here’s a short rundown of the individual segments titles and runtimes, though they should really all be watched together. Here are the chapters:

- “The Journey Begins” runs for 20 minutes and 28 seconds.
- “The Suit that Makes the Iron Man” runs for 10 minutes and 15 seconds.
- “Walk of Destruction” runs for 22 minutes and 14 seconds.
- “Grounded in Reality” runs for 14 minutes and 26 seconds.
- “Beneath the Armor” runs for 15 minutes and 28 seconds.
- “It’s All in the Details” runs for 14 minutes and 17 seconds.
- “A Good Story, Well Told” runs for 11 minutes and 48 seconds.

“Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man” runs for 27 minutes and 2 seconds. This expansive featurette covers the whole technical process in putting together the visual effects shots of Iron Man. Favreau does some good talking about the need for a practical/CG mix, with some cool looks at the tests put together and looks at the three studios hired to do the effects and their different segments of the movie. A good look at the whole process, doesn’t quite remove all my frustration for some of the CG shots but a cool look behind the scenes.

Robert Downey Jr. screen test runs for 6 minutes and 2 seconds. This clip is some raw footage of Downey Jr.’s screen test, a cool look at the early phases of production from a perspective of casting.

“The Actor’s Process” featurette runs for 4 minutes and 11 seconds. Downey Jr. and Bridges rehearse some scenes and talk through their characters motivations for the specific scene. A fun look at the process again, short enough to stay interesting, and neat that Favreau puts it on the DVD. It’s a little impressive at how much footage he used outside of just regular production for the DVD.

“The Onion ‘Wildly Popular Iron Man trailer to be Adapted into Full-Length Film’” runs for 2 minutes and 39 seconds. This clip from the ‘Onion News Network’ comedy video that is funny and a nice addition into the DVD, some nice satire on comic book fan reaction following announcement of comic book properties.

A series of theatrical trailers are also included on this disc, you can view them with a "play all" option or individually, they include:

- Theatrical teaser which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds.
- Theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- International trailer "B" which runs for 2 minutes 3 seconds.
- International trailer "C" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.

Additionally there are four photo/art galleries in total on the disc:

- “Concept Art” features 91 images of different environments and characters.
- “Tech” contains 27 images, mostly conceptual art and 3D renderings of technology used in the film.
- “Unit Photography” has 50 images of both production stills and on set photographs.
- “Posters” shows 3 posters for the film.

Finally the disc also includes credits which features 5 text pages of information.

Packaging

Packaged in a 2-disc Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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