Iron Man: Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 8-Oct-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Hall of Armor
Featurette-The Invincible Iron Man
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-I Am Iron Man
Featurette-Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man
Featurette-Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test
Featurette-The Actor’s Process
Featurette-The Onion ‘Wildly Popular Iron Man trailer to be Adapted . .
Theatrical Trailer-x4
Gallery-x4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 126:01
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jon Favreau
Studio
Distributor
Marvel
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Robert Downey Jr.
Terrence Howard
Jeff Bridges
Gwyneth Paltrow
Leslie Bibb
Shaun Toub
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Ramin Djawadi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    Iron Man is one of this year's cinema blockbusters and has been eagerly anticipated on both the standard (DVD) and high definition (Blu-ray) formats. Based on the successful Marvel Comic, Iron Man has been an outstanding critical and commercial success, and happily joins the likes of Superman, X-Men, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight as being one of the greatest film adaptations of a super-hero comic book. The outstanding high definition transfer of Iron Man and the bonus disc of extras make it a worthy addition to your collection.

    Created by writers Stan Lee and Larry Lieber with art and design by Don Heck and Jack Kirby, Iron Man first appeared in Marvel comics' Tales of Suspense in 1963. The talented Lee, who also co-created Spider-man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, and Thor, liked the idea of a successful and popular ladies-man Industrialist who moonlighted as a superhero. The concept of a wealthy businessman with a secret alter ego has proved not only a popular idea with Marvel’s readers, but has also allowed the writers to explore some interesting themes over the years. Although Iron Man might have started life in the 1960s during the Vietnam War as an anti-communist crusader, in more recent times the comic has explored themes of technology in society, the impact of industrialization on the environment, and computer-enabled white-collar crime in the modern corporate world.

    Following the outstanding commercial and critical success of the wonderful film adaptation of X-Men in 2000, Marvel’s stable of popular characters came increasingly under the spotlight of Hollywood’s producers and script-writers. In 2002, another Marvel adaptation, Spider-man, again proved the film-going audiences voracious appetite for popular comic book characters in a well-realised big-screen adaptation. It was shortly after this that another Marvel favourite, Iron Man, first went in and then out, and then back in to development.

    Finally arriving on the big screen after years “in development hell”, Iron Man has been expertly brought to the screen with a script which credits no less than four separate screenwriters in producing the final adaptation. It's claimed that up to a further seven uncredited writers were also involved in the many script drafts before a shooting script was agreed upon. Fortunately, the film’s plot is a fair representation of the original comic book story, which in turn has also evolved the back-story of Tony Stark over the years, to incorporate references to more recent events, such as the Iraq War and the US military involvement in Afghanistan.

    Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a multi-billionaire playboy. A well-known and loveable rogue, Stark is a hard-drinking, wisecracking womanizer. Although Stark inherited from his father the world's largest weapons design and manufacturing corporation, he does not rest on his laurels. Indeed, Stark is considered "a visionary, a genius, and an American patriot". Stark’s genius stretches from mechanical and electrical engineering, to physics, and to even to computers. But Stark’s life is a rather shallow one. Greedy and cynical, Stark only cares for himself, and lives a secluded life with his many toys in a mansion perched high above the Pacific Ocean on the cliffs of Malibu. Stark is the quintessential "man who has everything and nothing".

    However, while visiting Afghanistan to provide the US military with a successful demonstration of his new weapon - the devastatingly destructive Jericho Missile, things take a nasty turn for Stark. While Stark is happily joking around with his armed escorts in a Humvee, their convoy is attacked with his own weapons. Stark is injured and kidnapped by an unnamed group of militia/terrorists led by a Warlord named Raza (Faran Tahir). The Taliban and al-Qaeda aren't named specifically in the film, but their waving of Kalashnikovs, video-taped threats, and appearance seems all very familiar.

    Stark's captors force him to build them a Jericho missile in their crude desert laboratory. But instead the ingenious Stark sets to work creating a suit of armour with weapons with which he can escape. He does this with the help of his fellow captive, Yinsen (Shaun Toub), a doctor who, while operating on Stark's wounds, grafted a crude magnet into Stark's chest to keep shrapnel from entering his vital organs and killing him. Stark later replaces this with a mini-reactor of his own design that can also power his weapons, mini-missiles, flame-throwers, and even a jet pack which allows him bursts of flight.

    While imprisoned amongst the parts his captors gave him – all taken from his own weapons, Stark’s sickening realization is that he has provided weapons to US enemies. Stark's epiphany leads him to a very different view of the weapons business, and what role he will play in it. Armed with a new suit, and purpose, the Iron Man is born. The irony is that Stark's anti-militaristic revelation leads him to build the ultimate weapon. One might also note the other grand irony that only when his heart is 'mechanical' is Stark finally capable of feeling.

    Following his escape Stark finds his way back home, where he is warmly greeted by his loyal but cheeky assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Stark casually lets her know that he has no plans to go to hospital, but would rather get a cheeseburger and hold a press conference at which he will announce that he will no longer make any weapons. Although Stark’s buddy and military liaison, Air Force Colonel James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Terrence Howard) doesn’t seem too bothered, Stark’s sinister second-in-command Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) is less than impressed with this news.

    Of course what Stark secretly has planed is to build a much better Iron Man suit - one with every high-tech gizmo and weapon he can cram into it. As an audience, we then enjoy many scenes of trial and error, as Stark builds and tests his various designs.

    As with the first instalments of most superhero movies, Iron Man devotes a lot of time in providing a background on the origins of the main character. Many movie-goers find this kind of exposition boring and simply want simply to get on with the action, but I find this part fascinating. Indeed, I often find this section of the film more interesting than the cartoon-like clichéd plots that follow. I think Spider-man, Batman Begins, and Iron Man are all good examples of this.

    Although Iron Man is mostly a fun movie, strangely some of Act II and III of the film is a 'guilt trip', and guilt isn’t fun. Perhaps some of the strangeness in the story comes from the left-leaning politics that seem to underpin it. In the beginning of the film Stark believes that World peace comes with a big stick, and that “ensuring freedom and protecting America and her interests” requires plenty of missiles and tanks, and he certainly doesn’t mind getting rich in the process of supplying those. But later, as Iron Man, he has developed a global social conscience, separating him from Spider-Man, Batman, and even Superman. For example, when Iron Man rescues some Afghanistan villagers who are potentially victims of his weapons, his involvement seems a little unusual. Not directly involved in the dispute he’s a sort of super-hero umpire – on a U.N. mission. Sadly, worse is to come in Act III when a seemingly long stretch of a movie seems to be a Transformers-like battle through the streets. This is the only time in the movie when the Director's love of CGI visual effects seems to take over the plot.

    Interestingly, the movie’s plot also raises serious questions about how Hollywood now sees America’s role in the world. In the original crude Iron Man costume, Stark battles with US enemies, but later when he refines his suit, Stark spends much of his time fighting the U.S. Air Force and even destroying an F-22 and nearly killing a US pilot in the process. Far from the anti-communist crusader that Iron Man began life as in the 1960s comic, now in film he is attacking the US military industrial complex. Considering all that’s going on in the World right now, it’s interesting that according to one of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters of 2008, America’s deadliest enemies are domestic. The makers of Iron Man are not alone in that view, if you consider other recent blockbusters such as The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Eagle Eye (2008) it seems that a cynical post-weapons-of-mass-destruction audience find it easy to believe that their most dangerous enemies could be found in the Pentagon. That aside, although Iron Man touches on some interesting ideas about the US military industrial complex, it never really goes anywhere with it.

    As a character, Iron Man is different to many other super heroes. For a start unlike Superman or Spider-man, he has no natural super-hero powers. But rather like Batman, what he has is seemingly unlimited wealth, imagination, and a gift for creating armour and weapons. Also, while Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and the other caped and mutated crusaders exist in familiar but parallel universes, Stark’s world is very recognisably our own.

    Also, while most comic-book film adaptations like Fantastic Four simply create a script which justifies a string of large scale action set-pieces, with fights, rescues, and explosions, Iron Man is very different. Iron Man focuses on the main characters and their relationships. Iron Man tackles the main character’s crisis of conscience which makes it a bit like Spider-Man, but without all the wallowing in self-pity, teen angst, and speeches of responsibility. Yes there is still plenty of action in the movie, but it is secondary to the character drama, something I find refreshing in a superhero film. This is why the prolonged ‘robot vs. robot’ battle in Act III was not required for the movie to work.

    Downey's portrayal of Tony Stark is easily the backbone of the film. It’s not just his trademark wit and charm, or his slightly manic but deadpan delivery of one-liners. Downey shines as he finds just the right balance between arms-dealing playboy and self-destructive crusader for justice. Downey’s personal baggage brings a lot of life-experience and emotional depth to the role. This comes as no surprise to me as Downey has consistently shone in his film leading roles ranging from Chaplin (1992) to the more recent Zodiac (2007). Downey also has the screen presence and charisma to overcome the Iron Man suit - at the end of the film it’s him that you remember, not his costume.

    The supporting cast are also excellent. Gwyneth Paltrow is a pleasant surprise as Stark's attractive and assertive personal assistant Pepper Potts. Pepper does everything he requires, including escorting the occasional one-night ‘guest’ out the door the morning after. Not only does she get some great lines, but her scenes with Downey are some the best of the film. The chemistry between their on-screen characters brings a sense of fun and interest to the otherwise familiar scenario of a loyal secretary enamoured with her hero boss. They also provide some moments of emotional depth for the characters amongst all the SFX and action sequences.

    An almost unrecognizable Jeff Bridges plays the ambitious, double-dealing Obadiah Stane, an old friend of Tony's father and now one of the top executives at Stark’s company. Understandably Obadiah does not take kindly toward Stark’s sudden change of heart. Terrence Howard plays Colonel James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, Stark’s liaison with the U.S. Military and perhaps Stark’s best friend. With the fine cast performances and dialogue, all these relationships seem genuine and fully formed.

    Apart from the cast, one of the film's major strengths is in its seamless visual effects and excellent action sequences. The Art Direction and Costumes are great, and the Iron Man suit itself looks fantastic. Iron Man has been expertly filmed by Matthew Libatique, and both the live action and CGI visuals and effects are excellent throughout. Fortunately, for the most part Director Jon Favreau never loses his characters or the plot amongst all the stunning visuals and SFX. Perhaps because of this, unlike lesser films such as Fantastic Four, there are not any action sequences that really stand out as being memorable. Yes the action sequences in Iron Man are exciting, but there’s nothing as climactic as the super-hero battles in Spider-man or The Dark Knight or the X-Men films.

    Ultimately Iron Man is a fun and clever superhero movie. After all, comic-book adaptations are by their very nature usually silly films about people or creatures with impossible and sometimes ridiculous powers. But occasionally a rare film can transcend the silliness and offer up a vision with such credibility and enjoyment, that we can happily suspend our disbelief. In the superhero category, only a few films recently have been able to achieve that. Batman Begins, Spider-man and X-Men are all excellent examples of great Super-hero films. With Iron Man, we can now add one more to that list.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Iron Man has made full use of its generous budget, the film's production values are solid across the board. As this is as much about the technology and gadgets as it is about the plot, the film's designers and special effects team have provided impressive sets and mechanics that combine seamlessly with the excellent CGI visuals.

    Iron Man is presented with a high definition transfer, having been authored in 1920 x 1080p. The film has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.

    The sharpness of the image is excellent throughout, for example consider the detailed interior of the party scene at 71:45, or the interior of the laboratory at 95:31. The black level is excellent, with deep and true blacks. The shadow detail is also excellent, for example look at the textures in the dimly-lit scene inside the cell at 16:54.

    The colour is excellent throughout, with a well-saturated colour palette and accurate skin tones. That said, there seems to be a lot of digital grading throughout this film, which occasionally creates an inconsistency between some of the colours in the 'night' shots.

    I understand that the principal photography utilised both traditional anamorphic and Super35 film. While some of the film stock appears a little grainy at times, for example look at the sky in the aerial shot of Stark's Malibu mansion at 16:54, there are no problems with MPEG artefacts. There are also no Film-To-Video Artefacts such as aliasing, nor film artefacts such as small black or white marks. Rarely some edge enhancement is noticeable, but I never found it distracting.

    13 subtitle streams are present, and the English subtitles are accurate to the spoken word.

    This is a BD-50 (50 GB Blu-ray disc), with the feature divided into 15 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This movie is loud and crammed with plenty of explosions and gun-fire, and fortunately the surround audio quality does it justice. Without a doubt, Iron Man is one of the best audio home theatre experiences of this year!

    The Blu-ray disc only offers two audio options for the feature: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps). Dolby TrueHD Lossless audio is capable of carrying up to eight discrete audio channels, at a sample depth and rate of 24-bit/96 kHz. The maximum bitrate that can be encoded is 18 Mbps.

    As the characters are in humvees, helicopters, iron suits, speeding cars, or, even chatting on their mobile phone while clinging to the exterior of a flying F22, there is extensive use of ADR, but the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout on the default English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.

    The movie's forgettable, orchestral musical score is credited to Ramin Djawadi (Thunderbirds and Blade Trinity), but the movie music that stands out are the hard rock tunes, which suit the film well. But after a great start with AC/DC and Suicidal Tendencies, the hard rock riffs seem to fizzle out. The use of Black Sabbath's Iron Man in the trailer and over the film's closing credits was a great idea.

    As one would expect, this movie has a very aggressive surround presence, with plenty of surround activity. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide ambience throughout, such as the use of the score in the rears at 36:01 or the ambience of the background crowd at the red carpet event at 63:01. There are also plenty of split-rear directional effects, and panning between speakers throughout, such as during the firefight at 40:04.

    The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively throughout, especially to support the many explosions and sound effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a number of genuine extras spread across two Blu-ray discs, with most of the extras being presented in high definition.

Floating Pop-Up Menu

    As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing. There is also an animated Main Menu.

Disc One

Hall of Armor

    An interactive 3-D still gallery allowing viewers a better look at the three Iron Man suits, as well as the Iron Monger suit.

The Invincible Iron Man (47:05)

    Presented in high definition with stereo audio, this featurette includes a number of interviews and original comic book art. This featurette looks at the origins and evolution of the Iron Man character. The six chapters contained are:

Deleted/Extended Scenes (23:56)

    Also presented in high definition with stereo audio, there are 11 Deleted/Extended Scenes:

BD Live

    BD-Live promises to include advanced web-based features in a Blu-ray title, that might include downloadable video content, 'wallpaper', mobile phone ring-tones, interactive movie-based games, or even web-based shopping for product-placed items in the film. Furthermore, with BD-Live, some movie distributors will attempt to create online movie fan-based communities, such as those currently found on Facebook, MySpace or YouTube. In time, BD-Live should create a far more interactive home theatre experience, and perhaps more importantly, the distributors are no longer limited by the finite capacity on the Blu-ray disc in providing extras. But for now, if your Profile 2.0-compatible Blu-ray player is connected to the Internet, only the additional extra is available: Iron Man IQ - Described as an "In-The Movie Trivia Game", this allows viewers to download 10 quizzes designed by Marvel to test your knowledge of the film and the comics.

Disc Two

    Unless otherwise stated, all the extras on Disc Two are presented in high definition with stereo audio.

I Am Iron Man (109:00)

    This featurette includes a number of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, and contains the following seven chapters:

Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man (27:01)

    This featurette features interviews with Director Jon Favreau and VFX Supervisor John Nelson. Naturally the featurette looks at the seamless visual effects in the film, and at some of the VFX providers, such as ILM.

Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test (6:03)

    There are three scenes, in which Downey screen tests for the role of Tony Stark.

The Actor’s Process (4:13)

    Here Downey and Jeff Bridges work with the Director in rehearsing their roles for the film.

The Onion ‘Wildly Popular Iron Man trailer to be Adapted into Full-Length Film' (2:38)

    This is a parody of an Entertainment Tonight type TV show which pokes fun at the many online fan-blogs which predicted that the Iron Man film would never be able to live up to the exciting trailer.

Theatrical Trailers (8:02)

    Four trailers are included - two US and two International.

Galleries

    There are four still galleries, containing Concept Art, Tech, Unit Photography, and Posters.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In terms of content, this appears to be the same BD as was released in the US, except where ours offers an Italian language-dub, their offers French and Spanish.

Summary

    After risking running its brand into the ground with recent rubbish such as Ghost Rider, Marvel's first independently-produced feature film Iron Man announces a very welcome return to form for the legendary comic label. Iron Man happily joins the likes of Superman, X-Men, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight as being one of the greatest film adaptations of a super-hero comic book.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent.

    The extras are genuine and plentiful.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)
SpeakersSamsung

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Action In Or After Credits ? -
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blu ray region coding muddle -
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