We present this guest DVD review from James Harvey at The World's Finest Online
Everyone knew this movie would be a hit when it hit theaters this past May, but no one expect how big of a hit it would be. Grossing almost $100 million dollars in its first weekend, 'Iron Man' quickly climbed up the ladder to become Paramount's top earner of the summer, bringing in well over $300 million dollars and cementing itself as the next big super hero franchise. Not only did the movie bring in the big bucks, but it also amassed critical acclaimed as one of the best reviewed movies of the year to date. And now as the title prepares to hit home video, does it stand up? Let's get the synopsis out of the way and find out!
Based upon Marvel's iconic Super Hero, 'Iron Man' tells the story of Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man. However, he runs into unexpected bumps along the way as he tries to live up to his heroic persona. 'Iron Man' features an all-star cast including Academy Award nominees Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and was directed by Jon Favreau.
'Iron Man' is an origin story done right. As with most super-hero franchises today, we have to sit through the character's origin before getting to the good stuff and, basically, setting up the rest of the franchise. Now, this isn't a bad thing by any means. Personally, I like seeing how a character's origin is realized on the big screen, the changes made, how it's adapted, all that stuff. And, thankfully, 'Iron Man' is one of those characters whose origin can be changed as needed to fit the times and nothing is lost. He's probably one of the more adaptable characters in comics today. All the surroundings can change but the origin does need to be about one thing – the man in the armor. That is Iron Man, that's his character, and thankfully they get it right. We get a special effects-juiced story, but, as the credits roll, this story is about Tony Stark. Not Iron Man, but Tony Stark.
And the story succeeds thanks to the solid premise, even if it is a bit of a “paint-by-numbers” affair, and the excellent cast. Downey is pitch-perfect as Tony Stark, playing the role he was born to play. Downey plays Stark quick and brash. He's self-involved, impulsive, a total playboy, a complete jerk, and, during the movie, his character doesn't really change. Yes, he has his eyes opened by what he sees during his capture and afterwards, but, still, he acts on the same impulses when he dons the suit of armor and, frankly, that keeps his character interesting. In fact, it's Stark's impulsive nature that leads into the movie's jaw-dropper of an ending. You seriously can't beat an ending like that and, for the couple people who haven't seen the flick yet, it's a great way to wrap up the first 'Iron Man' movie (but stick around after the credits). The whole cast does well with what they're given, and most of them get a couple choice scenes. Paltrow is great as Pepper Pots, Tony's assistant, and has a great moment where she has to help Tony in a rather comical life or death situation. Howard, as Jim Rhodes, doesn't have many scenes, but it's obvious he's being set up for a bigger role in the later movies (any fan who knows the character's comic roots knows that). Bridges as Obidiah Stane, obviously the main villain from the first moment we see him, does a great job chewing up the scenery, even if it gets a little stale during the climactic battle. Regardless, a solid supporting cast and probably one of the most impressive casts to date on a comic book movie.
So, solid story? Check! Solid cast? Check! So, what about the special effects? Well, they're nearly flawless. Especially after viewing the bonus features about the visual effects of the movie, I'm even more amazed at how solid the effects are here. In fact, there's a couple scenes where I was sure the director was using practical effects and, nope, digital effects. Except for maybe a couple moments, the digital effects are seamless, flawlessly fitting into the movie. The creative team behind the effects for the movie really did a great job on them here, and the work will likely stand up for years to come.
If I have any complaint about the movie, particularly the story, its the final tussle between Stark and Stane. I know, for sake of the story, having Stark's armor low on power is done for dramatic affect,
but how much cooler would it have been if he was full power? It could have made for an epic battle and a great capper to the film. Still, what we get here is still a surprisingly strong and fun tussle.
Overall, 'Iron Man' is a great movie, one that definitely deserves the heavy praise it amassed earlier this year. It definitely holds up on home video, and has a ridiculously high rewatchability factor. This is a movie I find myself wanting to watch again, for a third time since I receiving the DVD to review. 'Iron Man' is definitely a Must See by fans and non-fans alike. This movie just hits all the right notes on what makes Tony Stark tick, and it also makes him a fascinating character to watch. Despite all of his flaws, and he has quite a few, there's something about the character that is hypnotic. Mix in Downey's flawless performance and some really great action sequences, and you have a movie worth revisiting over and over again.
Given the blockbuster status of the movie, Paramount Home Entertainment has given 'Iron Man' a completely packed release on Blu-ray. For those wondering, the extras on the Blu-ray are nearly identical to those found on the DVD except for the high definition finish of the Blu-ray release. The extras are a rock solid collection, exploring both the history of the character and the movie, and providing a few snippets of never-before-seen footage. So, let's see how these extras break down disc to disc, shall we? Did I mention the extras are presented in high-definition? They look excellent!
The main draw on the first disc for many fans will be the hefty bundle deleted scenes. Clocking in at almost 25 minutes, nearly every scene is solid, including a great shot of Stark in costume dangling a drink from one hand, but it's understandable on why these were cut. While some scenes do fill out the movie nicely, keeping these would have slowed the film's pacing. The other major extra on this disc is the "Hall of Armor," which provides an interactive 3D look at all the different Iron Man suits. A pretty cool extra that is actually more cool than it sounds. Also, it should be noted that the BD-Live extras are expected to be enabled on this title's street date (Sept. 30th). The disc is rounded out with a documentary on the comic book roots of the character. Maybe I'm a sucker for comic book movies that actually pay tribute to the actual comic books, but I though this documentary did a serviceable job on the comic book roots. Yes, it is a bit uneven, focusing more on the current “Extremis” status of the character than on other notable events in the comic. Yes, “Demon In A Bottle” is mentioned, and even gets its own title card, but that segment of the documentary lasts for maybe four minutes before moving on to the roughly twenty minute “Extremis” segment. “Civil War” gets a brief mention as well. Thankfully, the really horrible “teenage Tony Stark” arc is completely ignored, but no mention of War Machine? For shame. Still, while wickedly uneven, it's great to see so many comic book creators from past and present interviewed.
Onto the second disc, we get a great documentary feature mixed in with a bunch of shorter featurettes and galleries. The feature-length documentary on the film's production is excellent, running at nearly two hours, taking us from preproduction up to a week before the film's theatrical release. It's an exhaustive look at the film's production and it's quite fascinating. We see so much of how this film came together, including a nice detailed look at the film's practical effects (which also come up again in another bonus feature). The remaining extras on the second disc include rehearsal footage, screen test footage, a great breakdown of the special effects (which I recommend fans check out), some assorted still galleries, trailers, and a sketch from The Onion poking fun at the movie's Internet hype. They all add nicely to the main documentary feature here on the second disc.
All of this comes wrapped in a very attractive package. The video and audio is great for a Blu-ray release, but not as great as I was hoping. I was hoping that the quality of the audio and video would surpass the recent 'Transformers' Blu-ray release, but nope. It falls a little short, but, still, the film does look great. The grainy look of the film is intact, even though the transfer does go back and
forth between noticeably grainy and seemingly smoothed over a couple times. But, like I said, the movie does look really excellent. The audio is strong, but, again, not as strong as it could have been. Perhaps they're keeping the top-notch audio and video transfer for the inevitable double-dip, but, until then, what we get here is nothing to sneeze at. Blu-ray enthusiasts should be pleased by the audio and video work presented here. The Blu-ray release comes packed inside a two-disc Elite Blu-ray case that has a slipcover that reveals different art underneath (a rarity), with Tony Stark on the front cover and perhaps one of the coolest shots of Iron Man in existence on the back. Inside we get an insert advertising the BD-Live functions as well as a note to keep your players firmware updated. Disc art for the two discs inside is a plain grey with white lettering. Outside of the bland disc art, it goes without saying that this is an attractive package, and Paramount
Home Entertainment has made sure that 'Iron Man' definitely looks sharp, on the inside and out.
Overall, both the disc and the movie itself is incredibly solid, providing a wealth of extras to back up a great movie. 'Iron Man: Ultimate Two-Disc Edition' is a Must Own for any Blu-ray enthusiast and fans of the character and movie. The audio and video is great and the extras really give a solid look into the character's history, both the comic book roots and the history of movie itself. While 'Iron Man' is a great action film, the character work is where it shines, particularly when it comes to Downey's performance of Tony Stark. Probably one of the best bits of casting from Marvel Studios in some time (since Hugh Jackman as "Wolverine" in the 'X-Men' franchise, actually), this movie has definitely put the kick back into Marvel's kick-ass character catalog. 'Iron Man' is a spectacular movie that deserves a space in anyone's Blu-ray collection.
'Iron Man' hits Blu-ray and DVD on September 30th, 2008.