The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
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Studio and Year: Paramount - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 125 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terence Howard, Jeff Bridges
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Written by: Mark Fergis, Hawk Ostby, Matt Holloway, Art Marcim
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: September 30, 2008
"Heroes aren’t born, they’re built"
Suit up for action with Robert Downey Jr. in the ultimate adventure movie you’ve been waiting for, Iron Man! When jet-setting genius-industrialist Tony Stark is captured in enemy territory, he builds a high-tech suit of armor to escape. Now, he’s on a mission to save the world as a hero who’s built, not born, to be unlike any other. Co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges.
As a kid I was definitely a comic book fan. I dabbled a little bit in DC comics but my heart belonged to Marvel. Spiderman was my first Marvel favorite, followed by Thor and then I picked up an Iron man comic. There was always something about Iron man that I found intriguing. I can’t say for certain whether it was Tony Stark’s money/fame/brilliance or Iron man’s vulnerable side that showed that underneath the armor was a man who was fallible but couldn’t show it. I guess it might have been the idea that potentially anyone could be Iron man once they donned the armor. For me I always thought that his armor was just so freakin’ cool. When this film was announced I was excited to see how Hollywood was going to implement the design of the armor as well as adaptation of the story. I remember downloading the trailer for the movie to my PS3 and watching it with my son who was blown away. He said “Dad, we have got to see this the day it opens !” The whole family went on opening day and everyone including my wife had a great time. It goes without saying that Iron man is not the kind of film that is aimed at those seeking epic cinematic reward. Its goal is to draw the audience in by faithfully recreating the fantasy world of this character which would probably only be possible using today’s big budget film special effects. Doing it in a bygone era probably would have made it much less believable and less successful. The true test, at least in my eyes, was going to be how well they designed and implemented his armor. I have to be honest, the scene in chapter 8 where he puts on the Mark II armor and the camera scans from the back of the boots and slowly rotates upward and around to the front revealing the helmet, blew me away the first time I saw it. Both my son and I said the same thing at the same time, “ that is so cool”. The coolness factor runs very high here. To say that they nailed every aspect of Iron man’s armor would be an understatement.
I thought that the screenplay did a nice job of covering Tony Stark and his transformation into Iron man. It was modernized a bit which was certainly appropriate. I think that the pacing was right on the money. Things moved along quickly as the opening sequence throws Tony right into trouble and is immediately followed by a quick flashback sequence that establishes the main players. Before you know it he is wearing the Mark I armor and lighting up a few Afghani terrorists. I have been a fan of Robert Downey Jr. ever since I saw him in a film called “Less than zero“. I can’t think of a role that I have seen him in where I didn’t like him. His personal troubles aside I think he is one of the finest actors of his generation. I have to admit that I was skeptical when I heard that he was going to be in this role. It wasn’t that I thought that he couldn’t do it but I was curious if he would be right for the part. After seeing the movie I really couldn’t picture anyone but him in the role. He added just the right amount of charismatic charm, humor, strength and fallibility to Tony Stark. I find Gwyneth Paltrow to be an attractive and genuine actress whose characters are almost always smart and likeable. She was great as the very efficient and affable Pepper Potts. I am not so sure that I completely bought Jeff Bridges (who is also a favorite of mine) as the conniving and back stabbing Obadiah Stane but he is solid in every role so it worked. Last but not least is Terrence Howard as James “Rhodey” Rhodes and the central cast is really quite good.
The story was well balanced and established good audience connection with the characters. The action based sequences were lots of fun and featured superb special effects. I really enjoyed Iron man. I thought that Paramount and Marvel did an outstanding job in bringing him to big screen. Their due diligence has ensured that this character has a future and at the conclusion of the credits we are given a glimpse of what that future may entail.
Parental Guide:The rating is for some intense sequences of Sci-Fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Iron Man comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.8 mbps.
Having seen Iron Man theatrically I had high expectations for this Blu-ray disc and it did not disappoint. The high resolution Dolby TrueHD soundtrack simply rocks. The is a very dynamic presentation that features hard hitting transient peaks that will reward those with systems capable of reproducing them with an experience that is best described as skin tingling. The low frequency effects are used authoritatively to underscore the bombastic and aggressive nature of this soundtrack and it does so quite effectively. This mix delivers bass that is truly prodigious as it extends down into the upper 20 to lower 30hz regions as times. Its palpable presence is never in question as it fills the room with refined bass quality that is appreciably superior and downright room shaking. A great example of this can be found in chapter 5 as Tony (wearing the Mark I armor) pounds on the steel doors in the cave. This is a sophisticated sound design that is loaded with various sound effects, spatial cues, music, and dialogue. Each was clearly represented with enriching clarity, detail and appropriate sound field placement.
I appreciated the attention to detail that enabled even seemingly small background sounds and effects to be distinctly audible. Listening during the final moments of Tony’s capture in the cave in Afghanistan as three soldiers approach the entrance to the room where Tony waits in his newly built armor. They whisper as they approach the door which echoes just enough through the rear channels to replicate the expanse of the tunnel, while the soft crunching of the sand beneath their boots and their voices can be heard through the center channel. There are more obvious examples such as the multitude of sounds that represent Tony’s armor at its various stages. Listen as Iron Man climbs out of the crater in Afghanistan after being shot out of the air by the tank in chapter 11. The articulate and descriptive sounds that his armor makes as he reaches up to climb out and the audible texture of its metal alloy against the rocks as he comes into contact with them. It sounds great. This is an aggressive surround mix that makes extensive use of the entire sound platform. There is a wealth of discrete and ambient related effects that envelop and revolve around the listening position. It generates a sound field that is aurally engaging as you are transported into the onscreen action. The music score is a perfect mate for the spirit of the film as it is often blended with action sequences and sounds superb. Dialogue was clearly rendered and variably distinctive. Occasionally I would have preferred that it be a bit more prominent within the mix. There was never an issue with intelligibility.
The video presentation was quite impressive as well and reminiscent of what I saw theatrically. Colors are lustrous with visually striking primaries, natural tonality and consistent balance. Contrast is elevated which makes bright scenes pop while slightly diminishing white detail although fidelity didn’t appear adversely effected. Blacks were stable with good dynamic quality and appreciable depth. Shadow detail and visibility in low lighting was strong. I was able to clearly make out the uneven surface and rocky texture of the walls in the dark background during the sequences that take place in the Afghanistan caves. Resolution is excellent as images are well detailed, vibrant and dimensionally proportionate. Close up camera shots are particularly striking at times and reveal lots of fine minutia and visible nuance. Complexions were real looking with a hint of golden highlights that made several of them appear less divergent. Sharpness is consistent for the most part only becoming less defined in a handful of shots. I didn’t detect any softening or other problems relative to mixing CGI and real persons/objects onscreen. Grain was present, appearing well preserved and evenly layered. It looked great.
** It should be noted that during my evaluation of Iron Man it was determined that the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was activating the Dynamic Range circuitry in my Denon AVR. I recommend that users ensure that the Dynamic Range/Night Mode options are turned OFF in their receivers/processors/PS3/players so that the full audio capabilities inherent in the audio can be achieved. Denon owners will need to check this while sending the TrueHD audio bitstream to the receiver/processor. Those who are using their players to do the decoding (internally) should not be affected. **
As one would hope with a blockbuster film like Iron Man the bonus content is robust and comprehensive. No stone is left unturned so that you get a full appreciation for the work that went into bringing this film to the big screen. It begins with a wonderful look at the Iron Man character as told by Stan Lee and several from Marvel who were actively involved in illustrating and writing him. It covers his origins and continues through to what he has developed into today. There is an interactive feature that allows a detailed look at all of the armor used in the film. 11 deleted/extended scenes and BD Live access (not enabled as of yet) round out the extras on disc one. Disc two begins with a documentary that follows the creative process of the film and it continues through production. The visual effects segment is equally interesting while the screen test and rehearsal footage is nice but boring. There are four trailers, multi-layered photo galleries and a quirky news spoof about making the Iron Man trailer into a full length film. There are dozens of interviews, extensive illustrations both still and video based that cover storyboards, CGI effects, behind the scenes and more. This is a bonus package that is commensurate with the film’s status and is easily worth the time required to view it all. The BD Live features are not available currently but should be by release date.
Disc # 1
- (HD) Hall of Armor - An interactive look at the Mark I - III and Iron Monger Armor featured in the film
- (HD) The Invincible Iron Man - A breakdown of Iron Man that looks at his origins and goes through to his latest incarnation
- (HD) 11 Deleted/Extended scenes
- BD Live
Disc # 2
- (HD) I am Iron Man - A multi-part segment that follows the creative process through production
- (HD) Wired: The visual effects of Iron Man
- (HD) Robert Downey Jr. screen test
- (HD) The actors process - Rehearsal footage featuring Jeff Bridges and Robert Downey Jr.
- (HD) The Onion: “Wildly popular Iron Man trailer to be adapted into full length film”
- (HD) Trailers - Theatrical, Teaser, International B & C
- (HD) Galleries - Concept art, Tech, Unit photography, Posters
Like most who are reading this I looked forward to Iron Man coming to home video with anticipation. Theatrically it lived up to the expectations of fans and its next test would be its debut on Blu-ray Disc. Well I am here to tell you that it is truly an enjoyable home theater experience. It delivers superlative audio and excellent video quality that is sure to impress all who see it. Paramount has included a stockpile of bonus content that covers its full body of work from concept through production. This film is great fun and its presentation on high definition Blu-ray Disc from Paramount makes it a must have for every collection. Highly Recommended.
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