Iron Man Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Where it all began
The rock star that kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man remains one of the strongest superhero origin movies.It's curious thinking that there was a time when people were actually in doubt over whether or not an Iron Man adaptation would work. Sure, DC were on the rocks, but there was no such thing as the Marvel Cinematic Universe back then, and Robert Downey Jr. was hardly a sure bet - quite the opposite. Yet actor/director Jon Favreau knocked it out of the park, and Downey Jr. carried the ball across the finish line to cement one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood. The end result was a tremendous piece of pure entertainment, and one hell of a start to what would eventually become one of the biggest franchises on the planet.Downey Jr's Tony Stark remains an interesting sort-of twist to DC's equivalent non-super-powered millionaire technology-reliant superhero, Batman, and, with that kind of hindsight, it's easier to swallow the fact that - against initial expectations - he would go on to be one of the greatest characters in this universe. Cocky, arrogant and hardly ever seen without a drink in his hand, the genius inventor's transformation into Iron Man is a compelling origin story, packed with strong supporting characters (Bridges chews his lines whilst Paltrow glows) and kick-ass action set-pieces. Indeed it's only a strong start such as this that made the rest possible.
Picture QualityIron Man sneaks onto German 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a deeply flawed HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Shot on 35mm but limited by a 2K DI, right from the outset it's clear to see that something is off. Softness abounds, and all the old defects you'd long since thought most UHD titles had escaped from, appear to rear their head - crush, blocking, and what looks like the effect of over-enthusiastic DNR. The skin tones run a little hot but this would almost be acceptable if it weren't for the fact that they've also been smoothed to oblivion. Sometimes it almost feels like somebody has hit that 'pastel effect' button you used to be able to use to manipulate photos on your phone.
This German UHD Blu-ray release has a deeply flawed video presentation
Once you've calmed down from all of this, you can try and sit back and appreciate the benefits of any of the format's toys - High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), which, on this first Iron Man release, are applied in a far from consistent fashion and, consequently, only impresses in fits and starts. Obviously key things like the suit / core glow remain high points, as well as some of the explosions, and basically anything with a hint of colour (like Tony's Hot Rod), utilising the more vibrant, in-your-face tones afforded by these broader ranges with higher peaks. Unfortunately the tinkering is excessive and a little clumsy, with the picture both brighter and darker at the same time, courtesy of terrible contrast (the introduction to Tony's mansion is painful).
There are still some nice shots, which is what is all the more frustrating about this release, as, when it works, it looks pretty good. You'll go through entire scenes and get lulled into almost preferring this experience, even if, when you switch back to the Blu-ray, you not only realise that the clarity is frequently better, but you also realise that the implementation of HDR and WCG has probably made the whole thing look a little over-the-top, rather than 'enhanced' it. Some have suggested that the poor results here are not only as a result of bad implementation of the tools, but also because no new 2K master was sourced, but instead just the master used for the original Blu-ray that's nearly a decade old now. If all that's true, then, logically, a Marvel-commissioned 4K release could easily fix these problems and deliver a far more impressive release, and from what's evidenced here, that would not be a hard task.
Sound QualityIron Man's accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is not quite the immersive Atmos/DTS:X track that Ultra HD Blu-ray adopters may have been hoping for, but still an impressive offering that matches up to the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that the original Blu-ray wielded.
The soundtrack remains demo quality
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array, whilst the rocking soundtrack gives the film a frequently stadium-like effect (not to mention the actual crowd usage in some scenes) perfectly marrying up to both Stark's personality and the action sequences themselves. The effects are superbly rendered, from the distinctive wind-up of the Iron Man suit itself, to the repulsor blasts and on-board weaponry, right the way through to the penetrating warzone sequences which happily land smart bomb payloads right in your living room. Fans of the film will already know just how great the audio is, even without Atmos, and it's still demo material.
In terms of the lack of English subtitling; in the first film this isn't really much of an issue.
ExtrasAll the Blu-ray extras are ported onto the Ultra HD disc
Kindly, Concorde port over the extras onto their Ultra HD Blu-ray (at least all the extras off Disc 1), with the 6-part Making-Of: I Am Iron Man; the Downey Jr; the half-hour Visual Effects Featurette, and a couple of nice Screentest / Rehearsal segments - one with Downey Jr and one with both him and Bridges which is an excellent insight into the process. There are also a slew of Deleted Scenes including a decent alternate / expanded ending to the final fight. The disc is rounded off by some Trailers and a Stan Lee Easter Egg.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictOne hell of a start to what would eventually become one of the biggest franchises on the planet
While we wait patiently for the Disney/Marvel monolith to get on board the Ultra HD Blu-ray bandwagon, German manufacturing studio Concorde jump the gun to deliver their own 4K takes on the trilogy. The results are flawed at best, with the first movie, in particular, standing out like a sore thumb. Those who buy the Steelbook Trilogy release may still hold on to it for the sequels, but, as a standalone release, Iron Man itself arguably looked better on plain old Blu-ray.
You can buy Iron Man on Ultra HD Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £36.99
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