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October 5, 2008
Iron Man (2-Disc Edition) Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
3/4/20089/10/2008ParamountJon Favreau
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MRobert Downey Jr

THE MOVIE
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Robert Downey Jr as Tony Star/Iron Man.

When you think of big comic book characters there are a few that immediately stand out - Spiderman, Superman, Batman, The Hulk, and probably a couple of others. Iron Man is one which few people would instantly name, at least, prior to this movie coming out. Perhaps it was a surprise then when Marvel announced Iron Man would be their first movie project handled in-house. No more teaming up with other movie studios.

This was obviously a gamble for the company, but should movie goers respond as they have to several other franchises it could reap massive rewards for the company. Fortunately for Marvel this 'lesser known' character wasn't a flop at the box office. In fact, Iron Man it has become one of the biggest superhero movies of all time with a worldwide gross surpassing $US571 million thus ranking it as the 5th highest grossing comic book movie of all time behind the Spider-man trilogy and The Dark Knight. Not bad at all...

Tony Stark is a billionaire industrialist and inventor who is kidnapped overseas and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armour and escapes captivity. Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past. When he uncovers an evil plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armour and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.

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Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Since I saw the very first trailer for Iron Man I was pumped to see this movie. It looked great, had plenty of action and promised to be another good, if not great, comic book based movie. While the final act lets the movie down a little - it feels a little rushed and tagged on - this is still vastly superior to almost every other movie released this year. As many moviegoers would be aware most movies telling origin stories of characters tend to plod along at times, but that isn't the case with this movie as it keeps a fair pace from the opening frames in the military convoy, to the final climactic battle (and make sure you check out the extra scene after the credits have rolled!).

Direction by Jon Favreau (whose previous credits include Elf and Zathura) this movie is simply superb. Rarely do you get an action movie that is filled with characters with plenty of heart, motives and humour but he has pulled it off here. Before you groan about humour we must suggest that it never groanworthy, and more often then not is totally unexpected. Who will ever forget the result of the first test firing of the booster rockets on his Mark II Iron Man shoes?

Without a shadow of a doubt what makes this movie so special is the absolutely perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr. as the playboy billionaire Tony Stark. We are all well aware of his own personal battles with alcohol and drugs, so it's not a stretch to see Tony Stark battling the same demons in parts of his life.

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Tony Stark works on the Mark I Iron Man suit.
In terms of supporting cast the one person that really surprise me was Gwyneth Paltrow. I have never really been a fan of her work. Sure, there is the odd movie such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and The Talented Mr. Ripley which I enjoyed, but I'm not going to go out of my way to find her movies. Iron Man, though, presents her in a new light as the very likable Pepper Potts. She plays off Robert Downey Jr perfectly, and has some great lines in the movie too. I will never forget the line Pepper says to a reporter Tony has a one night stand with; "I do anything and everything that Mr Stark requires, including, occasionally, taking out the trash", Classic.

Other supporting cast including Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, and Jon Favreau all put in fine performances as well and, in Marvel tradition, keep an eye out for a great little cameo from Stan Lee too!

One final, very sad, note is that this was the second last movie that visual effects legend Stan Winston worked on prior to his passing earlier this year (his final movie being the upcoming Terminator Salvation). While much of the 'Iron Man' universe has been set in the comic books his, and his studios, attention to detail is impressive and deserves credit.

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Iron Man tests his suit!
Iron Man is one of the most entertaining, gripping, and amusing comic book movies ever. If you haven't seen it as yet then you are doing yourself a disservice as it's a blast for people of all ages (well, perhaps those that are old enough got M rated movies). With plans already in place for a sequel in a couple of years this is a movie you won't want to miss and if you have seen it, no doubt you'll be looking to add it to you collection at home.

VIDEO
Presented in 1080p at the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 this AVC MPEG-4 encoded movie looks quite spectacular, with only one or two small exceptions. The start of the movie, and particularly some of the scenes in the caves can exhibit an amount of grain which isn't seen in other parts of the movie. Don't get me wrong, I understand grain is a part of any film stock, but it is inconsistent from scene to scene which stands out. I also felt that some scenes here were a little washed out in colour, perhaps intentional it is also a little off putting.

Beyond those small niggles though this is a nigh on perfect transfer with vibrant colours, great detail, and excellent contrast levels. For such a visual effects laden movie there are few 'CG' looking scenes which is testament to the efforts put in by the filmmakers and special effects houses that worked on this movie - including Industrial Light & Magic.

AUDIO
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Putting together the Mark I suit.

Iron Man comes to Blu-Ray with an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, and it's an absolute cracker. By far the most impressive aspect of this transfer is the brilliant use of surround sound channels and sub-woofer for LFE effects. Not only is everything brilliantly clear, but also adds a depth and liveliness to the picture rarely seen in even the most recent of releases. If you want a sample of the audio on this disc check out the test firing of the Jericho weapon from 14:39 to 15:59. Indeed the flying sequence with Iron Man and the two fighter jets between 1:21:05 and 1:24:40 also sounds, and looks wonderful.

Even with all the effects, explosions, and jets the dialogue remains clear at all time and never becomes muffled. Music by composer Ramin Djawadi also deserves mention as it never overwhelms the film or dialogue, but provides that heroic theme music that you will likely remember well after leaving the cinemas.

The only other track on this disc is an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps. This also a stunning track with little to complain about. Naturally this format doesn't quite have the same fidelity as the English Dolby TrueHD track, but you won't find anything much to complain about. Subtitles include English and English for the Hearing Impaired as well as eleven other languages. In sampling selected dialogue heavy scenes the subtitles demonstrated their accuracy to the dialogue on screen with decent timing giving you plenty of time to read them.

EXTRAS
In traditional Paramount style the extras on this disc are not only superb in visual and audio presentation, but also in their content. The only thing which I felt the disc was missing was an audio or Picture-in-Picture commentary. While production is extensively covered in the documentaries, commentaries often bring out other small details and add bit more insight into what cast and crew were thinking during production or about the story. Anyway onto the first discs extras...

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Building the Mark III Suit.
Hall of Armor: The Iron Man movie contains four different Iron Man suits and in this feature you can select any of the four suits, get a 360° view, and then zoom in to each part to get technical details. Sure, it's a bit geeky, but this is exactly what we love. You could spend the better part of an hour here looking at each suit and components.

The Invincible Iron Man (47:05/HD): This featurette is split up into six parts (Origins, Friends & Foes, Definitive Iron Man, Demon in a Bottle, Extremis and Beyond, and Ultimate Iron Man. It includes plenty of interviews with the comic book artists as well as the creator Stan Lee and details the changes to Iron Man in the comic book universe over the 40 years since inception.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (23:56/HD): Eleven deleted or extended scenes are presented here with their filming dates and time markers present. Unfortunately visuals effects aren't complete in many and the audio is only Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192kbps. Still, some do add a little more to the story.

BD-Live: Iron Man I.Q. (HD): A Java based trivia game which uses clips from the movie to base questions upon. As well as official Marvel created quizzes, you can also play fan made ones.

Despite the extensive extras on the first disc, it is Disc 2 which holds the bulk of the extras so let's have a look at that...

I Am Iron Man (1:49:00/HD): Now this is spectacular. Running for 1 hour 49 minutes this 'fly on the wall' styled documentary is brilliantly put together and covers all aspects of the production from the early pre-viz, to the suit production, rehearsals, filming and post production. Rarely do you see a documentary as well put together as this, and one which matches the brilliance of the movie. There are plenty of discussion points shown including reasons for lighting, setups, effects, audio and costumes, as well as some other side notes - such as the director losing 75 pounds during filming!

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Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in Iron Man.
Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man (27:01/HD): If you love visual effects like I do then you must check out this feature. It is technical in places, but really shows just how much goes into the effects in a movie such as Iron Man including using three different companies to do the visual effects. This is well worth your time even if visual effects don't generally interest you.

Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test (6:03/HD): A series of screen tests with Robert Downey Jr. Interesting in that it shows how much of the character was evident from the very earliest stages.

The Actor's Process (4:13/HD): A look at rehearsing, and refining, a scene outside the Firefighters Family Fund Benefit with Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges.

The Onion "Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to be Adapted into Full Length Film" (2:38/HD): Ummm.. I think this is a spoof news report about making an Iron Man trailer into a full movie by extending the scenes. To be honest, I don't know what this was actually created for. Strange, and a commentary would have been welcomed!

Theatrical Trailers (8:01/HD): Four trailers are presented here. The Theatrical Teaser, the Theatrical Trailer, International Trailer B and International Trailer C. As well as being presented in 2.35:1 with AVC MPEG-4 HD video each trailer has Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 640kbps.

Galleries (HD): A series of dozens of still images split up into four areas - concept art, tech, unit photography and posters - and then split up into even smaller areas.

OVERALL
Iron Man is one of the best comic book movies of all time. While many origin stories can be pretty slow, this movie is fast paced with plenty of humour, plenty of action and great acting. Presentation of this movie is nigh on perfect, while the extra features are among the best seen. If this isn't in your Blu-Ray collection then you're missing one of the reasons why Blu-Ray is so superior to DVD. Stunning.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
9/10
THE VIDEO
9/10
THE AUDIO
10/10
THE EXTRAS
9/10
OVERALL
9/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.