Thursday, October 2, 2008

From the Archive: "Iron Man" Blu-Ray Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original Blu-Ray Review of “Iron Man.”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Iron Man”
Blu-Ray Review originally published October 2nd, 2008

2008 has been the greatest year in film I’ve ever experienced, but you wouldn’t have known that before May 2nd; the year didn’t start out very promising, but all that changed when the first major release of the summer hit theaters.  Winning over audiences and critics alike, it started the summer off on the right foot, and cinema hasn’t let up since.  Now, that film is on Blu-Ray, a disc I’ve been dying to get my hands on.  Is this 2-Disc set as technically sound as an Arc Reactor?  Find out in my review of Iron Man: Ultimate 2-Disc Edition on Blu-Ray Disc.


They say the best weapon is one you never have to fire. I prefer the weapon you only need to fire once. That's how dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.”
Guess what?  Robert Downey Jr. improvised that line.  It’s a small example of the sort of creativity, brilliance and charm Downey Jr. brings to the role of genius inventor Tony Stark.  I want to say this right off the bat; there’s a good chance Downey Jr. gives the best superhero performance of all time in this film.  He definitely deserves that praise.  Downey Jr. simply IS this movie.

The film’s slickly paced and quick-witted opening sequences introduce us to Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), multi-millionaire super-genius who makes his money developing weapons for the U.S. army.  He’s also a fun-loving, sarcastic playboy that doesn’t seem to give a damn about, well, anything.  While in Afghanistan, the car Stark is in with a few other soldiers is attacked; the soldiers are killed, and Stark is captured and told to create a missile for the terrorists.  Instead, Stark builds the first Iron Man suit, and escapes with it.  Back in America, he shuts down his company’s weapons manufacturing division, to the annoyance of co-President of the company Obadiah Stane, and begins work on a new and improved Iron Man suit.

The film moves along at a brisk (for a superhero movie anyway) 126 minutes, every second of it fun and interesting.  Iron Man has all the makings of a great superhero film, but also ignores many of the regular superhero-flick conventions, making for something fresh and inventive, while still having a comfortable feel to it.  The inventiveness and creativity of the picture is what sets it apart from most superhero films.

The creativity is evident down to the very core, in the casting department.  As I said above, Robert Downey Jr. is simply phenomenal.  Rarely do we see an actor inhabit a character so completely; Downey Jr. and Tony Stark feel inseparable after just a minute or so of screen time.  The character is sarcastic and somewhat uncaring, throwing funny quips out in every direction; but he never feels like a jerk.  Downey Jr. humanizes him and makes him a loveable character from the get-go, and the drama of the film works because of this.

Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah Stane, the villainous co-president of Stark Industries.  He quickly sheds any memory of Jeff Lebowski and becomes an effective villain early on.  Terrence Howard portrays James Rhodes, military liaison to Stark Industries and Tony’s best friend; Howard doesn’t have too much to do, but he fits extremely well with the rest of the cast and has good chemistry with Downey Jr.  Gwyneth Paltrow is the stand-out of the supporting cast as Stark’s unusually competent assistant, Pepper Pots. 

The script is well-paced and well-written, and the 2 hour running time breezes by.  It actually comes close to feeling too short, but really it just tells a great story about a man with questionable morals becoming a hero.  It’s a very interesting and emotional story about morals; who says that superhero movies can’t have compelling drama?  The film definitely has a sharp focus that it executes with precision; it isn’t bogged down by any origin stories of villains or other characters.  This movie is about Tony Stark; it’s about Iron Man.  Some superhero movies lose focus in their last act, but Iron Man always knows what it wants to be.   

This summer has been chock full of great movies, and Iron Man still stands out as one of the best.

Film Rating: A


Iron Man is one of the most visually interesting films of the year, with an amazing attention to detail, especially in all the technical designs Tony makes for his suit; I’ve been dying to see all that detail recreated in hi-def, and I was not disappointed.  Watching Iron Man on Blu-Ray is a blast.

What struck me most about the image are the rich, gorgeous colors, which simply jump off the screen.  They’re incredibly vibrant, and the deep, solid black levels match the quality of the colors.  Detail is excellent in most scenes; outdoor scenes, especially in the Middle East, are rich with detail, but the most visually interesting sequences are the ones in Tony’s lab, and the Blu-Ray effortlessly demonstrates that.  Some darker indoor scenes, especially early on, are a bit too soft, but that wasn’t a problem as the film went on.  Grain levels are consistent with what I noticed in theaters, and while grain isn’t used much, it makes the image look deeper and more film-like when it is.  The scenes that best show off the image are the escape sequence in Afghanistan and anything involving the Iron Man suit; be it red, gold, or silver, the colors and detail make that suit look good.

The audio is a perfect match for the image, and I was consistently impressed by how crisp and clear the sound was.  This movie can get loud, but even in its loudest moments, one can discern every fragment of the audio track; there are tons of sound effects present, and all of them sound realistic.  The great balance of music, dialogue, and sound effects, combined with some truly epic bass levels, makes it sound like the film is happening in your living room.
Video Rating: 18/20
Audio Rating: 19/20


Be it Blu-Ray or DVD, the excellent array of extras in this set are a benchmark for comic book films.  The only thing I felt was missing was a commentary track with Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. (or even more people), which would have been so much fun to listen to.  Still, it’s hard to miss that when you consider the staggering amount of material that is here.  Plus, nearly every feature is in Full HD, something only Paramount is committed too right now, and I commend them for it.

Disc One contains the film as well as some bonus features.  The first is The Invincible Iron Man, a 50-minute documentary about the history of Iron Man in the comics.  Various writers and artists talk about their experiences, and the best part is Stan Lee explaining the origins of the character.  11 Deleted and Extended Scenes are also included, and while all of them certainly belong on the cutting room floor, these were quite interesting to watch, and fill in a few small plot gaps.  Together, they run about 25 minutes.  There are also two features on Disc One exclusive to Blu-Ray; the first is Hall of Armor, an interactive feature where you can examine the various suits from the film in detail.  The second is a BD-Live trivia game, Iron Man I.Q. that plays during the film.  I don’t have my player connected to the internet, so I can’t comment on this one, but it doesn’t sound like anything special.

The features on Disc One make a good little extras section in their own right, but we’re just getting started.  Most of Disc Two is devoted to I Am Iron Man, a 2-hour documentary on the making of the film, detailing the shoot from pre-production to release.  Every moment of it is entertaining and intriguing, and nearly every member of the cast and crew participate, with director Jon Favreau being present nearly all of the time.  Most of the documentary is devoted to the actual shooting, and seeing all this in-depth, fly-on-the-wall set footage is incredible.

Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man runs thirty minutes and is an in-depth look at the effects of the film, something the documentary didn’t go into too much depth about.  This is also fascinating, and includes some very cool footage of early effects and such.  Robert Downey Jr.’s Screen Test is interesting, but ultimately disposable; The Actor’s Process is far more interesting; it’s a four-minute clip of Jeff Bridges and Downey Jr. rehearsing a scene.  A clip from The Onion is also included; this fake news story is about Paramount developing the Iron Man trailer into a full movie.  This is hilarious; I remember seeing it last Spring, and I’m glad it was included here (it’s the only feature on either disc not in HD).  Four Theatrical Trailers and a monstrous Gallery, full of concept art and the like, round out the extras.

Lack of a commentary aside, this is one of the best sets of extras that I’ve seen all year.  Everything on here is essential viewing, and the documentary darn-near justifies the price of the whole set.  As for packaging, the standard Blu-Ray case is housed in a cardboard slipcase.  The slipcase has a picture of Iron Man on the front, while the Blu-Ray case features Downey Jr. out of the suit and an image of full-bodied Iron Man.  It’s nifty. 

Extras and Presentation Rating: 9.5/10


Iron Man is still one of my favorite films this year; everything just clicks.  This Blu-Ray set is a home-run, with dazzling video and audio, and an epic slate of extras.  Do I even need to clarify that this is a must-buy?  Paramount may have screwed the format war up beyond repair, but now they’ve finally gotten on board with the hi-def beat, they’re truly doing the best work in the business. 

OVERALL GRADE (not an average): 9.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment