Iron Man is one of Marvel Comics’ better known second stringers. While everyone knows the name, Iron Man was more often relegated to the role of team player, as a part of The Avengers, and, occasionally, called into action as a supporting player in one of the Marvel Universe’s many apocalyptic sagas. Of course, comic books whose main characters are forty-something womanizing alcoholics don’t exactly leap out at the kiddies, so Tony Stark and his tin-headed alter-ego had to sit idly by as just about every other major Marvel character got their own movie before he did.
Then along comes Jon Favreau; a director and unapologetic comic book geek with an almost unhealthy love and knowledge of Iron Man’s universe, and a maverick idea of just who should be the man to play him. I remember when news came down that Robert Downey Jr. had signed on to play Stark, and, while I’ve always loved Downey’s work, I couldn’t help but pray that Favreau had himself a back-up plan when it all went to hell. Now, over $300 million dollars later, Favreau and Downey Jr. are already gearing up for a sequel to what turned out to be one of the best comic book movies ever made.
The film opens with a jarring sequence in which military industrialist, Stark, and his Army escorts are ambushed in Afghanistan, resulting in Stark’s capture by the terrorist, Raza (Faran Tahir), where he is forced to construct a missile for them. During his three month incarceration, however, Stark devises a completely different kind of weapon – a heavily armed and armored suit with which he escapes his captors. Returning to the United States, Stark informs the press that, after seeing firsthand what Stark Enterprises’ weapons are capable of, he has decided to cease all weapons manufacturing, and, instead, focus on technology to actually help people rather than blow them to bits. This doesn’t go over so well with Tony’s surly business partner, Obadiah Stone (Jeff Bridges), who is even more perplexed by the inventor’s secretive new project; an upgrade of the suit that helped him escape Raza. Now, after years of profiting from death and destruction, Tony Stark has chosen a new path in life; one that threatens to turn old friends into bitter enemies.
Iron Man is a cut above your average super-hero flick, sporting a cast of talent rivaled only by that of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. Downey Jr. is a revelation as Stark, imbuing the character with the actor’s trademark humor, while, at the same time, lending him a deep sense of pathos and gravity. The supporting cast of Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow (as Stark’s tireless assistant, Pepper Potts) and the always reliable Terrence Howard (as Col. James Rhodes, who, you can be sure, will don his War Machine suit next time out) make Iron Man as much of a performance piece as it is an action film, as Favreau wisely lets his cast run with the material, making the characters very much their own. Favreau, himself, shows a wonderful eye for action, as he expertly orchestrates one jaw-dropping FX sequence after another, but, despite all of the bombast, still manages to be an “actor’s director” with some wonderfully personal scenes, most notably those between Downey and Paltrow .
While Iron Man may have been overshadowed by The Dark Knight and the tragic fate of star, Heath Ledger, I personally found Iron Man to be the more complete and satisfying comic book experience. It’s fun, exciting, heartfelt, and, at times, hilarious. Iron Man is just a pure blast from start to finish.
Paramount delivers Iron Man to Blu-ray in a scrumptious 2.35:1 1080p transfer, presented on a 50 GB BD disc. This is yet another fantastic encode by Paramount, and stands shoulder to shoulder with Transformers and Beowulf as reference quality material. The image is vibrant and possesses a three dimensional depth that has to be seen to be appreciated. While there’s an occasional softness (especially during the CGI sequences in which artificial depth of field is employed) it seems like more of an artistic choice rather than any sort of indictment against the encode. This is just drool-worthy stuff that will certainly have those who’ve yet to own a Blu-ray player seriously entertaining the purchase.
Iron Man’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is an aggressive beast, sporting some truly gut-rumbling bass, and a sonically appealing mix overall. The mix is very “compact”, however, with everything from the score to the sound effects to the dialogue sounding a bit compressed, making low-volume viewings a little less impressive (and, seeing as how I just welcomed a new baby into the household, low-volume viewings may be the norm for a bit). Once the baby was up and around, however, I bit the bullet and let the volume fly, and its truly enveloping and immersive stuff, with everything from the biggest explosions to the most innocuous of ambient effects well represented.
Iron Man comes loaded onto two 50GB BD’s, with 1080p supplements spread out across each. Disc One sports the “Hall of Armor” feature, which is a nifty interactive look at the suits used in the film, offering the ability to “fly” within them, and access schematics for further scrutiny of each suit’s construction. Disc One also features “The Invincible Iron Man” featurette, which consists of nearly an hour’s worth of goodies broken down into digestible little segments. Rounding out the bonuses on the first disc are eleven deleted/extended scenes and a BD-Live enabled trivia game.
Disc Two is where the meat of the supplements lay, as with the seven part “I Am Iron Man” featurette (which clocks in at nearly two hours!), the thirty minute “Wired – The Visual Effects of Iron Man”, and several other short featurettes, image galleries, trailers, and more. This is one of the most comprehensive and value-packed BDs yet!
One of the best movies of 2008 is now one of the best Blu-ray discs ever! Iron Man is crowd-pleasing stuff, buoyed by great performances, solid direction, and a great sense of fun that was sort of missing from this year’s other blockbuster super hero flick. Loaded with high quality, high definition extras, this Ultimate Edition two disc set is a must buy!