Directed by Jon Favreau
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 125 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: September 30, 2008
Review Date: September 10, 2008
One of the most entertaining and adult-embracing superhero movies in years is Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. Both funny and action-filled, and boasting an anti-armament message that’s massively appealing in these troubled times, Iron Man is the thinking man’s superhero movie. But if one doesn’t want to think, that’s fine, too. It’s a terrific popcorn picture as well.
Desensitized by alcohol and the billions that allow him to have and do as he pleases, munitions builder/distributor and engineering genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) finds himself captured on a routine weapons delivery to Afghanistan and must devise a way to escape from his captors with only his own weapons to use as raw materials. He devises an armored suit with some built-in firepower and some primitive rocket launchers that get him away from his enemies, but in the process makes him come to see his own nefarious role in the business of war and subsequently wants his company out of it. Lifelong business partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) thinks Tony’s horrific experience has left him unable to run the company properly and thinks it’s time for some changes. Meanwhile, Tony, enamored of his first attempt at a “super suit,” begins designing and building an improved model.
The expository interludes in any first film of a potential movie superhero franchise are sometimes a bore for fans and often too rudimentary for the uninitiated. For Iron Man, however, the exposition is entertaining due to the lightly sardonic tone given our protagonist and a quick enough but unrushed pace to get to the action sequences. Writers Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway keep a steady stream of quips and off-kilter comments flowing, while director Jon Favreau has not only mounted the film’s set pieces to perfection but has endowed the moments in between them with enough star power, wit, and flow to keep viewers constantly involved. But those set pieces, especially a dogfight with two jet fighters and some exhilarating flying sequences both though Santa Monica and then into space, are breathtaking. The final showdown with his adversary goes pretty much as expected, but after so many dozens of superhero flicks, this kind of David and Goliath meeting doesn’t hold much surprise.
Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony is an appealing loner, rich and intelligent but seemingly at a loss with what to do with his life. His transformation into someone with a purpose gives the film a great lift with Downey’s undeniable talents as an actor instrumental in convincing us of Tony’s transformation from disaffected playboy to world-saving champion. And bringing in such a forceful actor as Jeff Bridges as his steely antagonist couldn’t have been smarter casting. Bridges can and does play the blustery two-faced business partner with a firmness that doesn’t need to resort to melodramatic histrionics. Terrence Howard as Tony’s best friend Rhodey plays a necessary role as a Pentagon big shot, but otherwise he’s a bit one-dimensional. Much more appealing, surprisingly so after her hyper-annoying performance in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, is Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony’s Girl Friday Pepper Potts. She lends further gravitas to keep his eccentric genius as grounded as possible and makes for a fetching romantic interest, too. Noteworthy, too, are Faran Tahir’s treacherous Raza, Shaun Toub’s sweet co-captive Yinsen, and Clark Gregg’s dry-with-a-twinkle Agent Coulson.
The special effects are handled quite beautifully in the movie and seem more believably of this earth than, say, those in the first Spider-Man movie, another Marvel superhero franchise. And with its defiantly slightly older generation of characters, Iron Man carves out a unique film personality that makes this entertaining movie truly one of a kind.
The Panavision 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in an anamorphically enhanced DVD transfer. Skin tones veer a bit too much toward brown in the encoding, and there is smearing in a few long shots. There is also some aliasing in some tight line structures in several places during the movie. Overall, however, the image is sharp and pleasing with good but not great black levels and much better than average shadow detail. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.
For an action movie of this caliber, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track was not quite as stellar as expected. There is plenty of activity in the surrounds to be sure, and the subwoofer gets a full workout from the action scenes in the picture, but the sound design seemed just a bit reticent during scenes where it should have soared especially lacking in some back-to-front pans at some obvious moments. Dialog in the center channel is not always easily discernible either.
Each disc in the set contains bonus features.
On disc one is 11 deleted/extended scenes. Many of these were used in part in the finished picture, and the bits cut were not vital to the scene. The viewer can choose each scene to watch individually or can watch them all in one 24-minute grouping. All are in anamorphic widescreen.
“Iron Man Armored Adventure” is a 1-minute advertisement for the animated series.
Disc one offers previews of Star Trek, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Incredible Hulk.
Most of the bonus items are featured on the second disc in the set.
“I Am Iron Man” is a comprehensive 108-minute documentary that traces work on the film from the pre-production stage of studio hunting, set designing, and location scouting through casting, rehearsals, filming, and post production work. Director Jon Favreau leads the viewer through each of these stages with various actors and production personnel also chiming in all leading up to its premiere in Los Angeles. It’s in anamorphic widescreen.
“The Invincible Iron Man” traces the history of the character in a 47-minute set of interviews with the various writers and artists who have brought the character from the early 1960s up until today. Fascinating panels from the various comic books and graphic novels illustrate the changes in conception the character has undergone during the past decades in this anamorphic widescreen featurette.
“Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man” shows us the work of three special effects houses that were in charge of the multi-faceted demands of the movie. Featured are production supervisors and artists from Industrial Light & Magic, The Orphanage, and The Embassy in this 27-minute anamorphic widescreen feature.
Robert Downey, Jr’s screen tests are included on the disc: three scenes from various portions of the film which run 6 minutes total in anamorphic widescreen.
“The Actor’s Process” shows actors Jeff Bridges and Robert Downey, Jr. rehearsing a scene and discussing their motivations and approaches with director Jon Favreau. It’s a 4-minute vignette in anamorphic widescreen.
A faux-news piece on an entertainment magazine-style show called The Onion finds the anchor and reporter criticizing the decision to make the movie Iron Man. It’s a silly 2 ½-minute piece filmed in 4:3.
Four different image galleries are available for the viewer to step through. The pictures are arranged in these groups: Concept Art, Tech, Unit Photography, and Posters.
Tremendously entertaining and whetting one’s appetite for further adventures in the way a franchise movie should always do (keep an eye out for Samuel L. Jackson in a coda after the end credits), Iron Man is an engaging and enjoyable adventure that comes heartily recommended.