Released: May 2, 2008
|by Dan Goldwasser
on October 11th, 2008
A surprising smash hit, Iron Man took the box office by storm, ushering in the summer of 2008 movie season with its balance of story, action, and humor - taking in over $570 million worldwide, and ranking the #2 movie of the year so far, behind The Dark Knight. When billionaire entrepreneur and weapons developer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), is ambushed in Afghanistan following a weapons demonstration, he is held ransom and forced to build a weapon for the splinter jihadist group holding him hostage. But he doesn't do that - instead, he builds a mechanized armor that helps facilitate his escape. Now back home, he feels he has a new purpose - to help instead of harm - and changes the mission of Stark Industries accordingly, against the wishes of his CEO Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who has alternate plans for Stark. Thus is born Iron Man, a new type of superhero, whose powers come from technology instead of biology. (Kinda like Marvel Comics' version of Batman.) The film is supposedly the first in a trilogy series, and so much of it is centered around Stark's creation of Iron Man, with all the experimentation and development therein. His dutiful assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and buddy/military liaison James Rhodes (Terence Howard) are there to help him along the way. It's a fun film, one that doesn't take itself too seriously, but does a great job in providing the exhilaration and excitement necessary to be a successful and entertaining film.
Recently released on home video, Iron Man has a few flavors: a single-disc DVD, a two-disc "Special Edition" DVD, and a two-disc Blu-ray release. In HD, the film looks and sounds great. A very natural film-like presentation helps pull you into the movie. It's not quite a picture-window effect, but the color balance, saturation, contrast and overall image is great. There's a bit of a mixed media effect going on, with different portions of the film shot in different styles, but overall it's a demo-worthy image. Audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD English, and sounds killer. Dialogue is clean and centered, with sound effects and music providing plenty of immersive sequences. The battle sequence at the end will want you to show off to all your friends!
The two-disc set is chock-full of extras too. There is no commentary track, but director Jon Favreau has given us enough material that we can still get a great sense of the making of this film. Starting on the first disc, the 49-minute long documentary "The Invincible Iron Man" is an extensive look at the history of the comic book. There are interviews with creator Stan Lee, as well as numerous writers and artists who were involved with the comic series over the years. It's a fascinating look, and provides a wealth of back-story information on the comic - something I knew basically nothing about. 24-minutes of
"Deleted/Extended Scenes" are included as well, some of which provide just a bit of extended dialogue, and others which give a bit more character depth and action segments. All of these extras are in HD. Also on the first disc is the "Hall of Armor", a controllable 3D gallery that lets you "explore" the various Iron Man suits. Finally, BD-Live lets you download a 10-question "Iron Man IQ" trivia quiz, that will pop up throughout the film to test your knowledge. I can only hope that they eventually add a trivia track, like they did for Transformers, since that was a great addition and showed off a great ability of BD-Live. (To that end, I wonder how hard it would be to download a compressed audio track, for a commentary? There was a "live" commentary of Iron Man done by Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. done earlier this fall at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, and it would be a great example of the versatility of the Blu-ray format if they could somehow get this to us!)
The second disc is where the bulk of the extras for Iron Man are placed. Beginning with a 110-minute long documentary "I Am Iron Man", this seven-part look at the making of the film is incredibly extensive and candid. Director Jon Favreau discusses the challenges he faced with making the film, and pretty much all of the actors and crew (including the late Stan Winston) are interviewed and shown. It's never boring, never redundant, and a very well done documentary. Unfortunately, there is nothing on the music except for a brief mention of Ramin Djawadi by director Favreau. Running nearly 30-minutes, "Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man" takes an in-depth look at the research and development for the look of the visual effects of the film, as well as how it all came together. Broken down by effects house (much like the old Terminator 2 laserdisc/dvds), this is a great look at how it all came together, with lots of before/after footage as well as a very informative look at the development of the Heads-up Display (HUD) for the Iron Man suits. It's a little-explored area, so I'm glad they give the artists who work on that task their due!
We get to watch Robert Downey Jr.'s "Screen Tests" (6-min.) as well as four-minutes of rehearsal footage with Jeff Bridges and RDJ ("The Actor's Process"). Including the Onion's video news parody "Wildly Popular Iron Main Trailer to be Adapted into Full-Length Film" was a clever touch, and wrapping up the disc are four of the theatrical trailers (two domestic, two international), all in HD, and a bunch of still galleries, which include pre-production and concept artwork for the sets and costumes, and well as some behind-the-scenes production photos.
If after going through all of those extras you still feel like you didn't get a peek at part of the making-of process, I don't know what to tell you! It's a very thorough exploration of the film, from the comic book all the way through to the premiere. While it would have been nice to have some more information on the music, and hopefully there will be a BD-Java trivia track or commentary to come, Iron Man has gotten a great presentation on home video. 2008 is certainly the year of the superhero movie, thanks in no small part to Iron Man - a fun film that's definitely worth picking up.
|by Dan Goldwasser
on May 6th, 2008
I really don't know much about the Iron Man comics books. All I know is that it's yet another Marvel Comics superhero except that this is their version of the rich industrialist-turned-crimefighter, kinda like DC Comics' Batman, but without the pathos. In the film adaptation, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, a megarich prodigy who is running Stark Industries, a military weapons developer. When his convoy is attacked in Afghanistan, and he is captured by terrorists who insist he build them a weapon, he realizes that the products he makes are getting into the wrong hands, and he needs to change the path of his company - and his life. He is being kept alive by an electromagnet installed in his body that is keeping the shrapnel from entering his heart - and Instead of building a weapon for the terrorists, he decides to build an armored and weaponized metal suit that will allow him to escape. And thus, Iron Man (Mark I) is born.
Now back at home, Stark finds himself at odds with his business partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) who believes that Stark Industries should continue the military contract work. Stark decides that the best thing to do is to perfect his suit design, so he goes to work at it, while apparently growing a relationship with his trustworthy executive secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). His tests on the new suit involve perfecting the flying abilities - and a bit of revenge against the terrorists who held him captive, and have been attacking innocent Afghani villagers with Stark Industry weapons. This leads to the involvement of his friend and company military liaison James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), and soon Potts is uncovering a more sinister plot - one that will put Stark and Stane into major conflict for the future of the company.
Iron Man was directed by actor/director Jon Favreau, who has had reasonable success behind the camera in Elf and Zathura. His take on Iron Man is to bring us a superhero that has no special powers other than what he was able to create using his genius and inventiveness, and keep things slick and sharp, but infused with a bit of heart. The casting of Robert Downey Jr. in the title role is excellent - he is fast and witty, entertaining to watch, and plays the part of a playboy businessman perfectly. The pacing of the film is solid, with never a dull moment, and while there are a few small plot points that seem a tad contrived, overall it's a straightforward and plausible storyline that effectively presents the creation of a new type of hero. The visual effects were handled by Industrial Light and Magic, and following up on their amazing work on last year's Transformers, they are leaping ahead of the rest of the pack when it comes to photo-realistic computer animated devices. The climactic battle between Iron Man and Iron Monger is completely believable.
Music for Iron Man was not handled by Favreau's previous collaborator John Debney. Instead this time the music was composed by Ramin Djawadi, who has worked with Hans Zimmer (credited as score producer). The music is edged with hard rock elements, grungy electric guitars, lots of percussion, and a few themes that overall work well in the film, but don't scream "buy the soundtrack".
Iron Man is part of a larger Marvel Universe of superheroes, as evidenced by Tony Stark's cameo in the upcoming The Incredible Hulk feature film, and the post-credits tease of an Avengers film. (Be sure to stay through the end credits - it's worth it!) There are two sequels planned for Iron Man, and you can bet I'll be looking forward to them. With a fun performance by Robert Downey Jr., a relatively solid storyline and a lot of exciting sequences, Iron Man kicks off the summer of 2008 with a blast.
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