Iron Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Virtually no problems emerged during this excellent transfer.
Sharpness truly excelled. Even the widest shots maintained rock-solid definition, as fine detail was fantastic and the movie came across with great precision. I saw no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and no edge haloes appeared. Source flaws also failed to become a factor in this clean presentation.
In terms of colors, the flick went with a moderately stylized set of tones. Hues tended to favor either cool blues or subdued ambers. Within those parameters, the tones looked positive. Blacks were dark and firm, but shadows could be a bit dense at times. Though most of the low-light shots seemed positive, a few were a little too opaque. I suspect a lot of this stemmed from photographic choices, though, and I didn’t think the shadows created problems. Nothing stood in the way of a solid “A” grade for this stunning presentation.
I also felt pleased with the movie’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield appeared broad and engaging throughout the movie. All five speakers got a strong workout as they displayed a lot of discrete audio. This made for a convincing environment as we heard plenty of atmosphere and objects swirl actively and appropriately about us. Of course, the action scenes worked the best, but pretty much anything that featured Stark and his Iron Man suit brought out a good sense of place.
Sound quality also appeared solid. Dialogue was crisp and distinct. Speech showed no signs of edginess or any problems related to intelligibility. Effects were always clear and dynamic, plus they displayed virtually no signs of distortion even when the volume level jumped fairly high; throughout explosions, crashes, and various engines, the track stayed clean. Music sounded appropriately bright and accurate and portrayed the score appropriately. The mix featured some pretty solid bass at times as the entire affair seemed nicely deep. All in all, the soundtrack worked well for the material and didn’t disappoint me.
How did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray compare to those of the movie’s DVD release? Audio seemed pretty consistent for both, but the visuals demonstrated a tremendous step up in quality. With some sharpness problems, the DVD disappointed, but the Blu-ray was precise and detailed. It offered a radical improvement over the DVD.
This two-disc release of Iron Man comes packed with supplements. We get everything from the DVD plus a few Blu-ray exclusives. I’ll note Blu-ray materials with special blue print.
On Disc One, we start with 11 Deleted/Extended Scenes. All together, these last a total of 24 minutes. They include “Convoy Ambush” (3:27), “Craps Table with Tony and Rhodey” (1:51), “Tony and Rhodey on Stark Jet and Military Ceremony” (4:21), “Rhodey and General Gabriel” (0:52), “Tony Comes Home” (1:31), “Tony Begins Mark II” (0:51), “Dubai Party” (3:32), “Pepper Discovers Tony as Iron Man” (0:51), “Obadiah Addresses Scientists” (1:54), “Rhodey Saves Iron Man on Freeway” (1:25) and “Rooftop Battle” (3:22).
Don’t expect any lost gold here. Most offer extensions to existing scenes, and those aren’t particularly valuable. Even totally new sequences don’t have a ton to offer. For instance, “Dubai” just shows more of Stark’s womanizing and little else. I like “Freeway” since it pays off Rhodey’s efforts at the end of the film – he kind of vanishes otherwise – and “Rooftop” gives a bit more dimension to Obadiah, but overall, the scenes remain inessential.
For a look at the movie’s comic book origins, we head to the six-part The Invincible Iron Man. It fills 47 minutes and three seconds with notes from Marvel Comics executive editor Tom Brevoort, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, creator Stan Lee, writers Gerry Conway, Joe Casey, Dan Knauf, Charles Knauf and Warren Ellis, writer/artist Bob Layton, and artists Gene Colan, John Romita, Jr., Patrick Zircher and Adi Granov. The piece examines the origins of Iron Man as well as aspects of the character, supporting roles and villains. We also learn about the series’ development, various story lines it pursued over the years, and challenges.
“Invincible” bears a strong resemblance to a similar piece for Fantastic Four. My biggest complaint there remains my main gripe here: the show doesn’t cover the series’ history very well. It tosses out some notes about the earlier years and skims over the majority of its life before it spends most of its time on recent depictions. I suppose that’s somewhat inevitable since modern artists/writers will be more accessible, but the emphasis on newer work leaves the program unbalanced. It’s still informative and interesting, but it doesn’t offer a great history of Iron Man.
Disc One finishes with the Hall of Armor. This interactive feature lets you get a closer look at the four different suits used in the film (“Mark I”, “Mark II”, “Mark III” and “Iron Monger”). It’s not the most fascinating thing I’ve seen, but it’s a decent way to take a better peek at the armor.
Over on Disc Two, we launch with a seven-part “making of” documentary entitled I Am Iron Man. The one-hour, 48-minute and 55-second show mixes behind the scenes shots and comments. We hear from director Jon Favreau, suit consultant Adi Granov, illustrators Phil Saunders and Ryan Meinerding, storyboard artists Stephen Platt and David Lowery, production designer J. Michael Riva, actor/executive producer Peter Billingsley, producers Avi Arad and Kevin Feige, Marvel Comics executive editor Tom Brevoort, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, co-writer Mark Fergus, Stan Winston Studio founder Stan Winston, physical suit effects supervisor Shane Patrick Mahan, stunt doubles Mike Justus, Greg Fitzpatrick and Oakley Lehman, stunt coordinator Thomas Robinson Harper, military technical advisor Harry Humphries, Air Force DOD project officer Christian Hodge, Prologue Films founder Kyle Cooper, title designer Danny Yount, and actors Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaun Toub, Leslie Bibb, and Terrence Howard.
The show starts with pre-production topics like suit design and construction, storyboards, animatics, and pre-viz, sets, working in the suit, casting, rehearsals, and preparation, and the start of the shoot. From there we look at performances, locations and production design, stunts, hardware and practical effects, and various sequence specifics. Finally, the program goes through post-production at Skywalker Ranch, the titles and a few visual elements, and wrapping up the flick.
I certainly can’t fault the documentary for brevity; at nearly two hours, it provides an extended view of the production. It manages to mix information with behind the scenes elements well. I must admit that some parts of the details mentioned aren’t terribly revealing, but the shots from the production are quite good. The show moves surprisingly briskly as it gives us a nice take on various aspects of the movie.
Next comes the 27-minute Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man. It features Favreau, visual effects supervisor John Nelson, Embassy VFS supervisor Winston Helgason, 3D artist Paul Copeland, lead 3D artist Michael Blackburn, Orphanage VFX supervisor Jonathan Rothbart, visualization/HUD effects supervisor Kent Seki, HUD design supervisor Dav Rauch, ILM VFX supervisor Ben Snow, animation director Hal Hickel, viewpainter Ron Woodall, model supervisor Bruce Holcomb, VFX art director Aaron McBride, compositing supervisor Jeff Sutherland, and technical director Philippe Rebours. “Wired” visits the three effects studios that handled Iron Man - The Embassy, The Orphanage, and ILM – and examines what each one did for the film. It zips through the appropriate effects topics in a solid manner that gives us a good idea of the challenges and their solutions. I especially like some of the test footage that shows early work.
A Robert Downey, Jr. Screen Test lasts six minutes. Actually, it provides three screen tests. We see Downey with the reporter at the party, chatting with troops on the Humvee, and discussing Iron Man with Rhodey. All are interesting, though the one with the soldiers is the best since it includes alternative – improvised? – dialogue. I’d have liked a test of Downey as Iron Man, but this is still a cool collection.
More about performances arrives via the four-minute and 10-second The Actor’s Process. It shows raw footage of rehearsals with Favreau, Downey and Bridges. It provides another good piece of behind the scenes footage.
Some wackiness comes to us next with a clip from The Onion. Entitled “Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to Be Adapted Into Full-Length Film”, the two-minute and 39-second segment follows the gag presented in its title. The concept seems more inventive than the actual snippet, but it’s mildly amusing.
In addition to four trailers, we get four Galleries. These cover “Concept Art” (90 stills across 10 domains), “Tech” (27), “Unit Photography” (50) and “Posters” (3). Some good material arrives here, though the interface can become frustrating. That’s especially true in the “Concept Art” area, mainly because some of the domains include only a few images; it gets tedious to sort through them all. Still, the elements themselves are worth a look.
Although I’d like to refer to Iron Man as one of the great superhero movies, I can’t do that. It provides an enjoyable, well-produced effort with more strengths than weaknesses, but it just doesn’t hit the heights of the best comic book flicks. The Blu-ray offers great picture and audio along with a very nice collection of extras. This is a top-notch release for a good – but not stellar – action flick.
To rate this film, visit the Ultimate Edition review of IRON MAN