Everyone knew this movie would be a hit when it hit theaters this past May, but no one expect how big of a hit it would be. Grossing almost $100 million dollars in its first weekend, Iron Man quickly climbed up the ladder to become Paramount’s top earner of the summer, bringing in well over $300 million dollars and cementing itself as the next big super hero franchise. Not only did the movie bring in the big bucks, but it also amassed critical acclaimed as one of the best reviewed movies of the year to date. And now as the title prepares to hit home video, does it stand up? Let’s get the synopsis out of the way and find out!
Based upon Marvel’s iconic Super Hero, Iron Man tells the story of Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man. However, he runs into unexpected bumps along the way as he tries to live up to his heroic persona. Iron Man features an all-star cast including Academy Award nominees Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard and Oscar® winner Gwyneth Paltrow and was directed by Jon Favreau.
Iron Man is an origin story done right. As with most super-hero franchises today, we have to sit through the character’s origin before getting to the good stuff and, basically, setting up the rest of the franchise. Now, this isn’t a bad thing by any means. Personally, I like seeing how a character’s origin is realized on the big screen, the changes made, how it’s adapted, all that stuff. And, thankfully, Iron Man is one of those characters whose origin can be changed as needed to fit the times and nothing is lost. He’s probably one of the more adaptable characters in comics today. All the surroundings can change but the origin does need to be about one thing – the man in the armor. That is Iron Man, that’s his character, and thankfully they get it right. We get a special effects-juiced story, but, as the credits roll, this story is about Tony Stark. Not Iron Man, but Tony Stark.
And the story succeeds thanks to the solid premise, even if it is a bit of a “paint-by-numbers” affair, and the excellent cast. Downey is pitch-perfect as Tony Stark, playing the role he was born to play. Downey plays Stark quick and brash. He’s self-involved, impulsive, a total playboy, a complete jerk, and, during the movie, his character doesn’t really change. Yes, he has his eyes opened by what he sees during his capture and afterwards, but, still, he acts on the same impulses when he dons the suit of armor and, frankly, that keeps his character interesting. In fact, it’s Stark’s impulsive nature that leads into the movie’s jaw-dropper of an ending. You seriously can’t beat an ending like that and, for the couple people who haven’t seen the flick yet, it’s a great way to wrap up the first Iron Man movie (but stick around after the credits).
The whole cast does well with what they’re given, and most of them get a couple choice scenes. Paltrow is great as Pepper Pots, Tony’s assistant, and has a great moment where she has to help Tony in a rather comical life or death situation. Howard, as Jim Rhodes, doesn’t have many scenes, but it’s obvious he’s being set up for a bigger role in the later movies (any fan who knows the character’s comic roots knows that). Bridges as Obidiah Stane, obviously the main villain from the first moment we see him, does a great job chewing up the scenery, even if it gets a little stale during the climactic battle. Regardless, a solid supporting cast and probably one of the most impressive casts to date on a comic book movie.
So, solid story? Check! Solid cast? Check! So, what about the special effects? Well, they’re nearly flawless. Especially after viewing the bonus features about the visual effects of the movie, I’m even more amazed at how solid the effects are here. In fact, there’s a couple scenes where I was sure the director was using practical effects and, nope, digital effects. Except for maybe a couple moments, the digital effects are seamless, flawlessly fitting into the movie. The creative team behind the effects for the movie really did a great job on them here, and the work will likely stand up for years to come.
If I have any complaint about the movie, particularly the story, its the final tussle between Stark and Stane. I know, for sake of the story, having Stark’s armor low on power is done for dramatic affect, but how much cooler would it have been if he was full power? It could have made for an epic battle and a great capper to the film. Still, what we get here is still a surprisingly strong and fun tussle.
Overall, Iron Man is a great movie, one that definitely deserves the heavy praise it amassed earlier this year. It definitely holds up on home video, and has a ridiculously high rewatchability factor. This is a movie I find myself wanting to watch again, for a third time since I receiving the DVD to review. Iron Man is definitely a Must See by fans and non-fans alike. This movie just hits all the right notes on what makes Tony Stark tick, and it also makes him a fascinating character to watch. Despite all of his flaws, and he has quite a few, there’s something about the character that is hypnotic. Mix in Downey’s flawless performance and some really great action sequences, and you have a movie worth revisiting over and over again.
Given the blockbuster status of the movie, Paramount Home Entertainment has given Iron Man a completely packed DVD release on both DVD and Blu-ray. The extras, both on the DVD and Blu-ray, are basically the same except for the high definition finish of the Blu-ray release. The extras are a rock solid collection, exploring both the history of the character and the movie, and providing a few snippets of never-before-sen footage. So, let’s see how these extras break down disc to disc, shall we?
The main draw on the first disc, once you get past the three pre-menu trailers for Star Trek, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Incredible Hulk, are the deleted scenes. Clocking in at almost 25 minutes, nearly every scene is solid, but it’s understandable on why these were cut. While some scenes do fill out the movie nicely, keeping these would have slowed the film’s pacing. The other major extra on the first disc is a preview of Iron Man: Armored Adventures which, even though it really tinkers with Iron Man’s story (and makes him a teenager), it still looks promising.
Onto the second disc, we get two documentary features mixed in with a bunch of shorter featurettes and galleries. No trailers, however, despite being listed on the initial disc specs. The two documentaries look at the film’s history while the other at the comic book roots of the character. While the documentary on the film’s production is excellent, taking us from preproduction up to a week before the film’s theatrical release, I enjoyed the somewhat uneven comic book documentary a bit more. Still, the segment on the movie’s special and practical effects is a must-watch. Maybe I’m a sucker for comic book movies that actually pay tribute to the actual comic books, but I though this documentary did a serviceable job on the comic book roots. Yes, it is a bit uneven, focusing more on the current “Extremis” status of the character than on other notable events in the comic. Yes, “Demon In A Bottle” is mentioned, and even gets its own title card, but that segment of the documentary lasts for maybe four minutes before moving on to the roughly twenty minute “Extremis” segment. “Civil War” gets a brief mention as well. Thankfully, the really horrible “teenage Tony Stark” arc is completely ignored, but no mention of War Machine? For shame. Still, while wickedly uneven, it’s great to see so many comic book creators from past and present interviewed.
The remaining extras on the second disc include rehearsal footage, screen test footage, a great breakdown of the special effects (which I recommend fans check out), some assorted still galleries, and a sketch from The Onion poking fun at the movie’s Internet hype. Oddly enough, no trailers despite being initially listed on the disc specs. Disappointing. However, be on the lookout for a hidden gem or two on the two-disc set.
All of this comes wrapped in a very attractive package. The video and audio on the feature is near flawless for a standard DVD release. The Blu-ray looks amazing, let me tell you, but for DVD owners, the audio and video for Iron Man here is pretty much the best you can get. The packaging is a standard Amaray case with a hinged flap on the inside for a second disc. The case is housed in a die0cut slipcase featuring art that corresponds to the regular cover art of the disc. Iron Man definitely looks sharp on the inside and out.
Overall, both the disc and the movie itself is incredibly solid, providing a wealth of extras to back up a great movie. Iron Man: Ultimate Two-Disc Edition is a Must Own for any DVD enthusiast and fans of the character and movie. The audio and video is great and the extras really give a solid look into the character’s history, both the comic book roots and the history of movie itself. While Iron Man is a great action film, the character work is where it shines, particularly when it comes to Downey’s performance of Tony Stark. Probably one of the best bits of casting from Marvel Studios in some time (since Hugh Jackman as “Wolverine” in the X-Men franchise, actually), this movie has definitely put the kick back into Marvel’s kick-ass character catalog. Iron Man is a spectacular movie that deserves a space in anyone’s DVD collection.
Iron Man hits one-disc and two-disc DVD and Blu-ray on September 30th, 2008.