Iron Man: Ultimate Two Disc Edition (Blu-Ray) Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: PG-13 (for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.) Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+ Time: 125 minutes Disc Format: 2 SS/DL BD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2008 Blu-Ray Release Date: September 30, 2008 Billionaire industrialist and playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) makes weapons to fight the fights of the world. He tends to turn a blind eye to where these weapons finally wind up until he is captured and held hostage by Middle Eastern militants. During the shelling that led to this capture, he’s struck by the shrapnel of a missile that bore the Stark Industries label. Once he is revived, he finds a small, circular object implanted in his chest to keep the shrapnel from reaching his heart. Starks captors want him to build them missiles but with the aid of a fellow hostage, he creates an iron suit that can resist bullets, throw flames and fly. When he finally returns to civilization, he decides to change the focus of his weapon building company to more of a humanitarian effort, much to the chagrin of stockholders and his second in command, Obidias (Jeff Bridges) Stark sets to work in his underground workshop and he refines the iron suit concept into a more stealth, streamlined and technologically advanced suit. He returns to the small country he escaped from and liberates the oppressed town folks. Meanwhile, his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) tries to appeal to his heart while helping Stark to look what he knows what he’s doing business-wise. His military adviser, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard), also helps him in his new venture by keeping the military off his back. But Obidias has other plans for the technology Stark Industry makes, and his means may be the ultimate end to the newly christened “Iron Man”. I moderate for my friend Tim Sale’s forum and it is a community of his fans and fans of comics and pop culture in general. With Iron Man and this summers other big comic book movie, The Dark Knight, there has been lively discussion comparing and contrasting “comic book” movies to a non-comic book based movie. The notion for years has been to give a slight pass in quality since it is a comic adaption and to critique it differently than a regular movie. However, with this picture and The Dark Knight, the “comic book movie” has finally achieved some relevance in the cinematic world. Iron Man benefits from a great script and direction (the latter by Jon Faverau) utilizing someone people who haven’t done a movie like this: Downey, Paltrow and Howard. Due to this, they bring more “chops”, if you will, not discounting what can very easily be made camp and taking the story seriously. The result is an exciting and entertaining two plus hours that leaves us wanting more. Downey brings the boozy charm and swagger to the lothario aspect of Stark, probably drawing on his own checkered past. Paltrow, who I can rarely stand, infuses Potts with just enough zip to make us appreciate her as much as Stark does. If and when the eventual sequel arrives I hope Stark is kept as a swingin’ single as I don’t think we really want to see him calmed down. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. Iron Man is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture maintains a diverse color palate throughout and at times it seems to have contrast levels boosted and the whites blown out. This is more evident in the desert scenes in the first part of the movie. As we transition back to civilization, the image returns to a more normal, natural look with the image toned down a little, but still retaining rich and vibrant colors. Flesh tones are exceptional and I was very pleased comparing the differences between Downey and Paltrow in several scenes. Black levels are inconsistent as they are subject to the way the picture was shot in the first part of the movie in the desert, leaving them not as dark as they could be. Again, the later part of the movie recovers from this and gives us good, detailed shadows. I was expecting the image to show more dimensionality than it did, but it is a minor quibble. Detail is good showing the intricacies in the costumes and sets and allowing us to see fine detail in the many computer screens. Sharpness is very good without making the picture look too hot. I did not notice any edge enhancement or other dirt or debris. Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. I watched the move with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. The sound field is very immersive using the surrounds to excellent effect. Panning was smooth between all of the channels and I kept looking around to hear certain sounds hanging in the air between my speakers. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Stark is in his shop building the armor and we can hear all the gear going together coupled with his commands to the computer. The tings and bumps he makes in the suit come across beautifully. Fidelity was excellent with an incredible range of other sound effects, music and voices. LFE’s blend seamlessly with the mids and highs and give us plenty of warm, rich bass to provide the added punch to the action scenes. Paramount has been doing an excellent job with these soundtracks, especially with this and Transformers, and I’m very eager for their other, upcoming tent-pole releases. Bonus Material: all of this content is in HD unless noted otherwise. Disc 1 Hall of Armor: much like the similar feature on the Transformers disc, this feature allows you to choose the three Iron Man armors or the War Monger and zoom in on a specific part and get a close up look. The Invincible Iron Man (47:04): this piece is broken up into six separate parts: Origins, Friends and Foes, The Definitive Iron Man, Demon in a Bottle, Extremis and Beyond, Ultimate Iron Man. Starting with Stan Lee and interviewing numerous comic writers and artists, we are presented with an excellent background and history to the Iron Man character as realized in the comics. Being a comic reader and fan for 25 years, it was great to see Gene Colan and Bob Layton doing interviews, but maintaining their enthusiasm and excitement for the character. Colan has recently been having serious health issues and it was a real pleasure to see him here. This doc is also interesting as it shows how much comics have changed since the 60’s, in terms of writing, art and even reproduction. Deleted and Extended Scenes (23:56): there are eleven scenes here. Some of them are quite interesting and others are just minor extensions that add nothing to the movie. What is interesting here is the fact they are not finished so you see some of them without sound or visual effects and knowing how the scenes looked finished you can get a good idea of the process towards a completed picture. The scenes are also dated and it was interesting watching how a seemingly continuous scene was shot months apart and brought together in the editing room or through effects. BD-Live: I believe this part will go live on the street date, so I will update the review at that time. Disc 2 I Am Iron Man (1:49:00): this too is split up into multiple parts which can be watch together or separately. These parts are: The Journey Begins, The Suit That Makes the Iron Man, The Walk of Destruction, Grounded in Reality, Beneath the Armor, It’s All in the Details, A Good Story, Well Told. This doc takes us through pre-production through shooting and release and everything in between. Instead of breaking out each of the major components of the movie (although that is done a bit in the later pieces), the production integrates it into a great story of the making of the movie. All the principles are here (Downey, Paltrow, Favreau, etc.) as well as all of the other craftsman that makes the finished picture. This is a great piece that strays away from the usual EPK hype to show us just how much everyone cared about this project, a factor lost on so many pictures today. I’d much rather watch something like this as opposed to the usual director’s commentary (especially since Faverau is so involved here) because you can have all the elements brought together as the scenes are shot. Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man (27:01): the previous doc doesn’t really go into the CGI in too much depth, but this piece does, showing us what ILM and the other two companies did on the picture. Robert Downey, Jr. Screen Test (6:03): who knew they did these things anymore! A lot of Downey riffing on what he thinks Stark would be like, which isn’t too far from Downey himself. The Actor’s Process (4:13): video of Downey and Bridges working with Faverau on their characters and scenes. The Onion “Wildly Popular Iron ManTrailer to be Adapted Into Full Length Film” (2:38): a very funny take on the hype of Iron Man. Trailers: four total, the teaser and three different theatrical trailers. Image Galleries: included here is “Concept Art”, “Tech”, “Unit Photography” and “Posters”. This section contains a few pictures of each of the things listed. This type of material was used quite a lot during the early days of DVD’s and it has since lost favor. I enjoy seeing some of this for this movie since so much of the picture was developed before the camera’s even rolled. Conclusions: While it is an exceptional adaptation from another medium, Iron Man stands on its own quite well as a movie. The actors and director all contribute to a fun and exciting flick. Paramount’s excellent Blu-ray shines with a great A/V experience and a great set of extras. RECOMMENDED!