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Iron Man Blu-ray Review

Iron Man was the first film from Marvel Studios, was helmed by a director known for comedy rather than visual effects, features a star (Robert Downey Jr.) who’s a magnet for negative press target and features a superhero about whom most non-comic book readers have probably never heard. Amazingly, by the time Iron Man’s first footage was released, comic book fans were joined by mainstream moviegoers in a box-office take that undoubtedly birthed a legitimate franchise.

Iron Man is far from a perfect film, but it manages to stay true to its comic origins without alienating mainstream audiences. Robert Downey Jr. plays billionaire industrialist Tony Stark whose secret identity is a flawed superhero who, like Batman, possesses no supernatural abilities. He designs the Mark I Iron Man suit out of self defense and learns the hard way that following in his father’s footsteps isn’t necessarily the right path. The script cleverly and appropriately never abandons Tony’s personality and thirst for attention as perfectly translated in his final speech to the media.

It’s Stark’s personality and interaction with Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) and other characters that makes watching Tony as interesting — if not more so — than suited-up Iron Man. The effects and set pieces are outstanding save for a brisk and uninspiring final showdown with Iron Monger, but it’s the charm and hurt that Downey Jr. portrays through Tony that carries Iron Man’s allure, not the snazzy CGI and flying suits.

Paramount has shown a willingness to go “all out” for big films on Blu-ray, from Transformers to Beowulf, with impeccable audio/video presentations on two-disc sets loaded with high-def supplemental features. The studio delivered much the same here with Iron Man.

The 2.4:1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 shines like the sun glimmering off Iron Man’s armor. The locations are diverse and challenging ranging from a cave to a sweltering desert to nighttime streets in downtown Los Angeles. The contrast and colors in all these scenes vary greatly and are all presented nearly flawlessly. There are a small handful of exceptions where blacks fall a bit flat, namely in the cave, but by and large this transfer is one to queue up for friends, neighbors and anyone else to whom you want to show off the benefits of 1080p Blu-ray video.

More impressive than the video transfer is the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless audio track. Let’s face it; a movie about a man in a metal suit who flies alongside jet fighters and launches missiles should light up the surrounds. This mix is incredibly deep and immersive along the lines of Bay’s Transformers. If missiles aren’t swirling around the soundstage, then a thunderous boom is bursting from the subwoofer a la the surprise explosion of a Humvee in the opening act. Remarkably, dialogue is never lost in the mayhem, as it’s always crisp, clear and audible.

Supplemental features, spread across two discs and almost all presented in high definition, are accessible via a custom 3D interface reminiscent of Iron Man’s heads-up display. The effect is both cool and fitting the film’s visual style.

Disc One

Hall of Armor (HD) — This interactive learning tool provides “did you know?” tidbits and tech facts about the Mark I, II, III and Iron Monger armor. Each armored suit and its accessible body parts can be rotated 360 degrees, but there is no way to control the rotation or to zoom-in or -out manually. The facts are fun to learn, but accessing them would have been a lot more fun with a fully interactive and moveable camera, the type of feature expected on a Blu-ray release.

The Invincible Iron Man (47:04, HD) — Six short featurettes are available with a play-all function: Origins, Friends and Fores, The Definitive Iron Man, Demon in a Bottle, Extremis and Beyond, and Ultimate Iron Man. Together they delve deep into the history of Iron Man with interviews with many of the comic’s creators, including Stan Lee. Viewing this is like taking a class in Iron Man lore only without having to take a quiz afterwards.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (23:56, HD) — There are 10 scenes total, including a lengthy extended scene with the final shots of Iron Monger and Iron Man. Also included is an extended opening scene with the ambush on Tony’s military caravan. In this sequence, Tony tries to fire his own guns but doesn’t know how, not something expected from a man who can build a flying suit and a heart charger from scraps.

BD-Live — A trivia game that runs simultaneously with the film. Easy enough.

Disc Two

I Am Iron Man (1:49:00, HD) — Seven featurettes comprise this nearly two-hour long behind-the-scenes Iron Man documentary. Raw footage spans the period six months before principal photography, through post-production including divulging the secrets of where practical effects end and CGI begins, and right up to the film’s premiere night. In essence, it more than serves as a substitute for a feature-length commentary. Standout bits come from either Downey Jr. preparing for the role of Stark and Favreau making small decisions in the editing suite.

Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man (27:01, HD) — The original ILM test for Iron Man in its entirety is an unexpected and welcome surprise, along with an in-depth look at the other two effects companies that worked on the film. Foci include the creative decision behind and ins and outs of the depth-defying HUD and Mark I armor design and fabrication. This is a fantastic extension of the Hall of Armor feature on Disc One.

Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test (6:03, HD) — Pretty self explanatory: Downey Jr. trying out for the role of the title character in three scenes.

The Actor’s Process (4:13, HD) — Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges rehearse a scene as Favreau curiously looks on. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process with acting veterans typically unseen.

The Onion: Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to be Adapted Into Full-Length Film (2:38) — A silly newsroom spoof with few laughs that has the distinction of being the lone extra feature that you can live without. It’s also the only one not presented in high definition.

Trailers (HD) — Included are the Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailer, International Trailer B and International Trailer C.

Galleries (HD) — Concept Art, Tech, Unit Photography and Posters are all covered.

I was actually one of the mainstream moviegoers who knew little to nothing about Iron Man before learning about the film’s production online. Like thousands of others, I have been converted into a fan of the billionaire industrialist turned publicly acknowledged superhero. My admiration for the film, despite its flaws, has been justly realized on Blu-ray Disc. A near-perfect transfer, an arguably perfect lossless audio track and a wealth of informative and fun supplemental features come together into a two-disc package that can truly impact adoption of the high-def format in a positive way. Iron Man on Blu-ray isn’t merely recommended. It’s a must-own title.

Buy Iron Man (Ultimate Two-Disc Edition) on Blu-ray at Amazon.

Score: 9.3
A proper superhero film that derails a bit in the final act but is fantastic in every other way, including in its Blu-ray transfer. Buy this film now.

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