PicturePresented in it's original aspect ratio of widescreen 2.40:1 and coded at 1080P using the AVC codec, Iron Man comes to Blu-ray disc with a blistering High Definition transfer that stands head and iron shoulders above the majority of things I have seen on the format before...
First up is the amount of detail in the picture. Now I'm aware that Blu-ray should contain a lot of detail as per the nature of High Definition. I also know that if the disc authors get it wrong, then detail can be lost in a haze or the softness of the picture. Not so on all counts here. The picture is razor sharp all the way through. Even from a distance in a dark cave, you can easily make every last detail of the grey suit - down to the last rivet. As Stark plods into the bright sunshine things only get better...there's a lot of potential for the dreaded Edge Enhancement in a lot of scenes. You know the ones - white mountains up against a deep blue sky background. I didn't notice any Edge Enhancement the whole way through I'm please to report.
Grain is also noticeable by it's absence in some of the scenes where you would expect to see it - bright daylight close ups is normally a good place to spot it. The film was shot using high definition cameras so this could account for the lack of grain - though I suspect that some form of DNR has gone on in certain scenes.
Black levels are nigh on perfect throughout and the detail I mentioned earlier never seems to disappear - even into the shadows. Contrast levels are high early on - but I believe this is deliberate to emphasise the surroundings and the blistering heat.
Colours are solid and spot all the way through also - including flesh tones. The red and yellow of Iron Man's armour is just how I remembered it from the comic books - and once again, the amount of detail that the makers have gone into developing this suit is visible for all to see.
I have read some things on the internet about some inconsistencies in the picture quality throughout the film - all I can say is I didn't see them - and my equipment has been ISF calibrated! All I saw was a lesson on how to encode a disc...reference material in anybody's book
SoundWhy do we have this Home Cinema hobby? It's not to upset our bank managers every time a new high end amp or projector comes out...though that is part and parcel of it. It's because we are all perfectionists and want to watch and hear the film as the director intended - and believe me, after 15 years of upsetting my bank manager, I think I know what I'm looking for...and it's right here in this blue box with the man in the red suit on the front.
Bursting from your speakers in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the sound mixers certainly can't be accused of holding back - every trick in the book is used here.
First up is the LFE channel. From the minute Tony Stark fires that rocket at the mountain and it explodes in the distance, you know you're in for a subsonic treat. But it's never over the top - always restrained. It does add to the realism and never once drowns out the other sounds that are meant to be heard...look at the scene where Iron Man takes out the tank with the tiny missile. Sure, as the tank explodes, your sub tries to cave your chest in - but at the same time, you can hear metal on metal as Iron Man walks away from the carnage.
Dialogue is pin sharp and is never drowned out by the mayhem that often accompanies it. The mid to high end receive as much attention to detail as the low end - take the scene where Tony Stark is wearing his Iron gloves and blows the windows out in his office with the subsonic blast. There's a distinct whooomp as the beam leaves the glove and crashes into the glass, which then crashes to the ground in individual shards that can be picked out as they scatter across the floor...
The surround channels are in constant use throughout and the use of the split surrounds is frighteningly real. There are far too many individual moments to pick one - but if you held an F16 to my head and threatened to let loose a missile into my ear, I would say jump to the scene where our hero tries to outrun two US war planes if you haven't heard your surrounds for a while...
To cut a long story short(ish), this is Home Cinema heaven - again, reference material.
ExtrasThis really is one of the big Blu-ray releases of the year so far and one that film fans the world over has been waiting for with baited breath. So far, Paramount has delivered on the sound and picture front - but is the extras package just as rivet bursting...? So much so that the studio have split the extras over two discs - read on true believers...
Looking at disc one first up, along with the movie itself we have :
Hall Of Armor (American spelling as per the disc) - which is a fascinating Java filled extra that enables the viewer to examine all four sets of armour used in the film in intricate detail.
The Invincible Iron Man (47.05 HD) is a documentary split into six sections detailing the origin of Iron Man, his allies and foes, The Infinite Iron Man, Tony Starks battle with alcohol addiction - and two interesting new takes on the hero, Extreme Iron Man and The Ultimate Iron Man. As a fan of the original comic books, this was a must watch for me as it goes into great detail on the full history of the hero covering his highs and many lows.
As for the latter two - I could well leave them alone as a reader - but the history wouldn't be complete without a mention of them on the disc.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (23.56 HD) - delve deep into director John Favreaus' mind - and ask yourself why he left the final cut scene out...'nuf said.
BD Live - which wasn't up and running at the time I wrote this review.
Moving swiftly onto disc two then, we cover the meat of the extras package - some people would have been happy with what was on disc one - thankfully the director is a bit of a show off and brings us loads more - kicking off with:
I Am Iron Man (1.49 HD) which is one of the most complete making of documentaries I have had the pleasure to see. It covers just about every aspect of the filmmaking process and starts six months before filming even began.
Not to be missed.
Wired: the Visual Effects of Iron Man (27.01 HD) is a fascinating look into the special effects that are in the film. There are so many that they were put out to three effects house - with the bulk of the work being done by ILM. Two smaller and lesser known houses, The Orphanage and The Embassy were also on board and the film is divided into three segments so that each studio gets a say on what they did - again unmissable. There are shots in this that you swear aren't CGI in the film and it was a real eye opener for me.
Robert Downey Jr Screen Test (06.03 HD) - in which it does it exactly what it says on the tin - though really - was anybody else even considered for the part...? I heard that Tom Cruise was considered but after watching the film, you get the impression that it was written for the leading man...
The Actors Process (04.13 HD) - is a short vignette in which the leading man and Jeff Bridges rehearse a scene along with the director - after watching this, it's hard to convince yourself that a script even exists...you'll see what I mean once you've viewed it.
The Onion “Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer To be Made Into A Full Length Film (02.38 - HD) I remember watching this on U Tube before the film was released. It's a spoof newsreel mocking the trailer...it's funny the first time you watch it.
Theatrical Trailers - Four in all - all in HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
Galleries rounds up the extras package. We get extensive still shots from four parts of the movie making process - Concept Art, Tech, Unit Photography and the Movie Posters.
I need a lie down...an almost perfect set of extras there. The only thing obvious by it's absence is a commentary of any sorts - but thanks to the two superb long documentaries on both discs, there's enough here to keep comic and film fans alike happy until Iron Man 2 comes along.
VerdictSuperhero movies - love them or loathe them, Hollywood are going to keep churning them out. It seems that they are now looking further down the best selling comic book list to come out with new ideas.
Iron Man is not the biggest selling comic book of all time - not even near it. So it was somewhat of a surprise when mega bucks were thrown at this film to produce something special - and that's exactly what the makers have done.
However, this film just goes to show what some careful thought on the casting and a little bit of loyalty to the source material can achieve. Robert Downey Jr is brilliant as Tony Stark and makes the franchise his own from now on. Given the actors troubled past, I for one am delighted that he has found his forte and can't wait for him to don the armour again in Iron Man 2 sometime soon.
As a Blu-ray package, I feel kind of spoilt by Paramount. If there was a wish list of extras I would have had for this film, I believe each and everyone one of them is on there somewhere. Noticeable by its absence though is a commentary. I think it would have been great to get Downeys thoughts on the movie as he was watching it.
With absolute reference picture and sound quality, this disc is the reason you spent all that money on an expensive Home Cinema system - now go on, give it treat and click “buy” now...
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