PictureIron Man comes blasting to next generation Blu-ray with a glorious 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original, and broad, theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is exceptional throughout, making this a benchmark disc on that count. There is no unintentional grain - and what I mean by that is that there are clearly sequences that had been purposefully over-saturated (particularly earlier on in the movie, where we see how Iron Man is forged). During the latter parts the picture is crisp and clean and showcases some of the best quality visuals brought to Blu-ray thus far. There is no softness, no print defects and it's a pretty-much picture-perfect presentation. The colour scheme is broad and varied - but dominantly daylight-based, with sun-drenched West Coast action, bright, realistic explosions and, of course, the glistening gold/red of Iron Man's armour. The darker scenes retain clarity too, with solid blacks allowing for decent shadowing and no heightened grain. Overall it is one of the best picture presentations I have come across on Blu-ray, just what we were hoping for from this highly anticipated release.
SoundTo accompany the stellar video presentation, Iron Man gets the deluxe aural treatment as well, coming with one single, spectacular sound option - a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that really shows what this next generation format has to offer. Dialogue is clear and coherent throughout, from Downey Jr's snappy comebacks to the shouts and screams during the more explosive action sequences. The score is perfectly tuned to the narrative, with enough 'patriotic' overtones when appropriate, and plenty of build-up for the tense sequences. It's thrilling, punchy and beat-laden, totally in-line with the 'rockstar' lifestyle of both Iron Man and his enigmatic alter-ego. Effects prevail throughout the movie, whether it be the smaller mechanical whirrs of the armour being locked into place, the shatter of broken glass, the vibrant street life or throbbing parties, or the powerful action scenes - populated by blasts, cannon fire and explosions. Iron Man simply rocks, and any purchaser would be proud to show off their home cinema setup using this disc.
ExtrasComing to us in a 2-disc set, this class release does not disappoint on the extras front, brimming with everything we would expect for this kind of high profile title - well, almost everything. At the outset it is worth noting that there is no Audio Commentary to accompany this movie, nor a PiP track, although the people who have put together these discs have clearly gone to a lot of effort to try and make up for any deficiencies. (It is worth noting that the Iron Man Interactive IQ quiz is not accessible until we hit the release date of the movie)
On the first disc we get a near-hour-long “The Invincible Iron Man” Documentary, which charts the inception of this character, from its comic book origins, the characters that mark his helpers and his opponents, and his development into the Ultimate Iron Man of latter years. Split into six discernable sections - Origins, Friends and Foes, Definitive Iron Man, Demon in a Bottle, Extremis and Beyond and Ultimate Iron Man - chart the history of the character, with interesting contributions from the comic book personnel involved, including creator Stan Lee. For relative newcomers - and I knew little about this particular Marvel character - this is a Documentary not to be missed.
We get 11 Deleted/Extended scenes, totalling nearly half an hour of extra footage. Jon Favreau clearly put a lot into the production, but few of his deleted cuts have much visual worth - the parade sequence being a prime example of something that looks good but has no place in the final movie. Correspondingly, some of the extended dialogue - in particular the extended scenes between Downey Jr and Terrence Howard - are actually quite interesting and funny. Towards the end of the collection we get an unfinished alternate end battle, which is - in my opinion - superior to that included in the final version, not just in terms of action, but also in terms of the last few lines of dialogue that pass between the two battling opponents. Overall, it's worth sitting through this extra footage to get to the gems that lie within. Finally on the first disc we get Hail of Armour, which is much more than just your average stills gallery, using a Tony-Stark-technology-like design to allow you access to the various incarnations of Iron Man (and Monger), with various respective images, and panning and zoom functions to give you more of a 3D impression of the contents.
The second disc kicks off with another massive documentary, almost twice as long as the one on the first disc, running at the best part of two hours in length. Reminiscent of classic best-of-the-best Documentaries like that on the Jaws disc, this is a comprehensive affair which addresses almost every aspect of the production, in seven distinctive parts - The Journey Begins, The Suit that Makes Iron Man, The Walk of Destruction, Grounded in Reality, Beneath the Armour, It's All in the Details and A Good Story, Well Told. As is probably obvious, these sections detail the pre-production work, the initial concepts, the costume design, the more explosive action sequences and the story itself. With interesting interview contributions from all the big players involved - from Downey Jr to Paltrow, Bridges and Howard, as well as Favreau and some of the creative team involved, including Stan Lee himself, we get a thorough picture painted of this particular superhero, complete with behind the scenes footage and video diaries. Although, at nearly two hours, there is guaranteed to be some wasted footage, this is still one of the best making-of Documentaries to adorn a disc since Blu-ray inception.
Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man is a half-hour companion piece to the other Documentaries, that focuses specifically on the visual aspect of the movie. Considering its importance to the proceedings, it is no wonder that they devoted an extensive Featurette explicitly to this part of the production, and here we get to see how they brought Iron Man to life and gave him credibility as more than just a CGI blur. We get to see the various (real-life) suits in action, and the layering and effects work done to allow him to take flight and so forth.
Nearing the end of the disc we find quite a nice hidden gem in the form of 10 minutes of Rehearsal Footage. Although the actor's process section involves other cast contributions, it's Robert Downey Jr's screen test that is the must-watch aspect of this little offering, with it crystal clear from his performance here why he won the part. Definitely worth checking out. Finally, to round off the disc, we get a more routine Stills Gallery - split into Concept Art, Tech, Unit Photography and Posters - as well as the Theatrical Trailers.
VerdictIron Man was a sleeper summer blockbuster hit, far exceeding anybody's expectations, both in terms of action, acting, narrative and visuals. Highly accessible for mixed audiences - male, female, younger or more mature - it is a great superhero imagining, made excellent by an outstanding central performance from Robert Downey Jr, on absolute top form. Although it may not have the gravitas of the Dark Knight, it exceeds on all other levels as one of the most fun superhero actioners out there. Although it was a sleeper hit, come the time of its Blu-ray release and fans were eagerly anticipating a top disc. The result should break all expectations with not one, but two discs brimming with quality extras. Highly recommended as not only one of the most enjoyable movies of the year but also one of the best demo-quality-releases.
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