Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Sayed Badreya, Bill Smitrovich
Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Stan Lee (characters), Don Heck (characters), Larry Lieber (characters), Jack Kirby (characters)
Suit up for action with Robert Downey, Jr. in the ultimate adventure movie you've been waiting for, Iron Man! When jet-setting genius-industrialist Tony Stark is captured in enemy territory, he builds a high-tech suit of armor to escape. Now, he's on a mission to save the world as a hero who's built, not born, to be unlike any other. Co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges, it's a fantastic, high-flying journey that is "hugely entertaining" (Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal).
$102.118 million on 4105 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 125 min.
Release Date: 9/30/2008
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• “I Am Iron Man” 7-Part “Making Of” Documentary
• “The Invincible Iron Man” 6-Part Character History Documentary
• “Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man” Featurette
• Robert Downey, Jr. Screen Test
• “The Actor’s Process” Featurette
• “The Onion” Clip
• Still Galleries
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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
Iron Man: Ultimate Edition (2008)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 15, 2008)
With a huge budget and a prime early May release date, it came as no surprise that 2008’s Iron Man did well. However, few expected it to soar as high as it did. The film dominated at the box office and ended up with a US gross of $317 million, a number strong enough to allow it to end up as the second-biggest flick of 2008 behind The Dark Knight.
That meant its take surpassed another high-profile Paramount release, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and it even allowed the often self-destructive Robert Downey, Jr., to threaten to become an “A”-list star. The flick launched a new franchise that might compete with Spider-Man and Batman for box office dominance, though The Dark Knight may have taken Batman to a different level.
Downey plays Tony Stark, a massively wealthy industrialist who specializes in military hardware. On a trip to Afghanistan to sell a new weapon called the Jericho, Stark’s convoy comes under attack and he ends up in enemy hands. He also suffers from severe heart damage due to shrapnel and needs to improvise to stay alive.
Another prisoner named Yinsen (Shaun Toub) assists in these efforts and also helps when the terrorists command Stark to build the Jericho for them. While he pretends to do so, Stark and Yinsen actually construct a large metal suit. Stark wears this weapon-laden outfit to escape and take down much of the terrorist camp.
Led by Stark’s friend and military liaison Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard), the US military finally finds Stark and what’s left of his suit and they rescue him. When he returns to the States, Stark declares that he’ll dismantle his weapons unit, a statement that both stuns mentor/long-time partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) and sends Stark Industries stock into a tizzy. Thus begins Stark’s quest to reinvent himself as a superhero called “Iron Man”. The flick follows his path and related concerns.
As regular readers will know, I’m a sucker for superhero movies. I grew up as a major comic book fan; heck, as a teen, I even finagled some interviews with Marvel artists in New York. While I don’t follow comics like I did back in my youth, I maintain a soft spot for the material, and I continue to dig movies based on those characters.
Though I never counted Iron Man as one of my all-time faves, I liked that series and I looked forward to the film. Given the movie’s consistently positive reviews, I went into it with pretty high expectations and thought this could be one of the great superhero films.
It’s not. It’s good, to be sure, and it comes with many strengths. In Downey, Iron Man boasts an uncommonly talented actor for a genre flick. Actually, I hate to say that, as I feel it slightly besmirches some other fine performers; after all, folks like Christian Bale, Tobey Maguire, Edward Norton and Hugh Jackman are more than able. This means that Downey isn’t without peer when compared to his superhero competition, but he remains high on the list of the best actors to play a comic book lead.
Downey finds a lot of company here, as Iron Man provides arguably the best cast ever assembled for a superhero flick. In addition to Downey, we find fellow Oscar nominees Howard and Bridges along with actual Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s long-time assistant Pepper Potts. Strong supporting casts certainly aren’t unheard of; for instance, Dark Knight featured Morgan Freeman, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine, among others. Still, the actors of Iron Man provide real depth, and all of the performers do quite well for themselves.
In particular, Downey excels. The drunken, glib, woman-chasing Stark isn’t exactly a stretch for him; the part almost seems autobiographical at times. Nonetheless, Downey doesn’t just go on cruise control, and he needs to tap deeper when the character changes paths as the movie progresses. Downey does well with Stark’s superficial nature but he also gives the role heart and soul.
Iron Man comes with excellent production values, some very good action pieces, and enough humor to give it its own personality. And yet… I like the movie, but I just don’t love it. As I watch, I continually wait for it to crank into that higher gear achieved by classics like Dark Knight and Spider-Man. It just doesn’t happen.
As I mentioned, there’s a lot to like about Iron Man, but it simply fails to dazzle. Director Jon Favreau comes from a comedy background, and that remains his strength. He infuses the film with some funny moments, and they seem less self-conscious than usual. Normally action flicks integrate laughs in an awkward manner, but Favreau fits the gags into Iron Man with ease.
The director feels a bit less at home with the action scenes. Perhaps that’s why Iron Man seems a bit light in that regard. Actually, the movie includes more slam-bang material than I recalled from my theatrical screening, but those scenes don’t become as significant as I would expect from a flick of this sort. After all, we go to superhero movies for big battle/action scenes, so they go noticed when they fail to materialize.
The absence of a real villain also hurts. No, Iron Man doesn’t need a personality as dynamic as the Joker or the Green Goblin to soar, but it suffers from a void in that domain. While Iron Man has foes, the film includes no dominant antagonist, and that makes it less focused than usual. It’s certainly not a fatal flaw, but it creates less dramatic tension than I’d like.
I really wanted to love Iron Man, just like I really wanted to love Superman Returns and X-Men. I think Iron Man outdoes those flicks, but it simply never coalesces into a truly great superhero movie. This is a consistently professional and enjoyable experience, though.
End credits footnote: stick around to the very finish for an intriguing coda.
The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-
Iron Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though good, the transfer lacked the stellar qualities I expected.
Sharpness usually appeared acceptably accurate and detailed. At times, however, I found the image to come across as a little fuzzy and soft, with lesser definition seen in some of the wide shots. Nonetheless, most of the movie appeared clear and appropriately focused. No shimmering occurred, but I noticed some mild blockiness and jaggies at times, and I also witnessed a bit of edge enhancement in some shots. No print flaws materialized; despite some grain, the film remained clean and fresh.
In terms of colors, the flick went with a moderately stylized set of tones. Hues tended to favor either cool blues or subdued ambers. Within those parameters, the tones looked fine. Blacks were dark and firm, but shadows could be a bit dense at times. Though most of the low-light shots seemed positive, a few were a little too opaque. Overall, this was a decent transfer, but it lacked the consistency I expected from an “A”-list release like Iron Man.
Less equivocal pleasures came from the movie’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield appeared broad and engaging throughout the movie. All five speakers got a strong workout as they displayed a lot of discrete audio. This made for a convincing environment as we heard plenty of atmosphere and objects swirl actively and appropriately about us. Of course, the action scenes worked the best, but pretty much anything that featured Stark and his Iron Man suit brought out a good sense of place.
Sound quality also appeared solid. Dialogue was crisp and distinct. Speech showed no signs of edginess or any problems related to intelligibility. Effects were always clear and dynamic, plus they displayed virtually no signs of distortion even when the volume level jumped fairly high; throughout explosions, crashes, and various engines, the track stayed clean. Music sounded appropriately bright and accurate and portrayed the score appropriately. The mix featured some pretty solid bass at times as the entire affair seemed nicely deep. All in all, the soundtrack worked well for the material and didn’t disappoint me.
This two-disc release of Iron Man comes packed with supplements. On DVD One, we start with 11 Deleted/Extended Scenes. All together, these last a total of 24 minutes. They include “Convoy Ambush” (3:27), “Craps Table with Tony and Rhodey” (1:51), “Tony and Rhodey on Stark Jet and Military Ceremony” (4:21), “Rhodey and General Gabriel” (0:52), “Tony Comes Home” (1:31), “Tony Begins Mark II” (0:51), “Dubai Party” (3:32), “Pepper Discovers Tony as Iron Man” (0:51), “Obadiah Addresses Scientists” (1:54), “Rhodey Saves Iron Man on Freeway” (1:25) and “Rooftop Battle” (3:22).
Don’t expect any lost gold here. Most offer extensions to existing scenes, and those aren’t particularly valuable. Even totally new sequences don’t have a ton to offer. For instance, “Dubai” just shows more of Stark’s womanizing and little else. I like “Freeway” since it pays off Rhodey’s efforts at the end of the film – he kind of vanishes otherwise – and “Rooftop” gives a bit more dimension to Obadiah, but overall, the scenes remain inessential.
A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Star Trek XI, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Incredible Hulk. These also appear in the Previews area, and the disc tosses in an ad for Iron Man: The Animated Series as well. No trailer for Iron Man appears in the package.
Over on DVD Two, we launch with a seven-part “making of” documentary entitled I Am Iron Man. The one-hour, 48-minute and 55-second show mixes behind the scenes shots and comments. We hear from director Jon Favreau, suit consultant Adi Granov, illustrators Phil Saunders and Ryan Meinerding, storyboard artists Stephen Platt and David Lowery, production designer J. Michael Riva, actor/executive producer Peter Billingsley, producers Avi Arad and Kevin Feige, Marvel Comics executive editor Tom Brevoort, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, co-writer Mark Fergus, Stan Winston Studio founder Stan Winston, physical suit effects supervisor Shane Patrick Mahan, stunt doubles Mike Justus, Greg Fitzpatrick and Oakley Lehman, stunt coordinator Thomas Robinson Harper, military technical advisor Harry Humphries, Air Force DOD project officer Christian Hodge, Prologue Films founder Kyle Cooper, title designer Danny Yount, and actors Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaun Toub, Leslie Bibb, and Terrence Howard.
The show starts with pre-production topics like suit design and construction, storyboards, animatics, and pre-viz, sets, working in the suit, casting, rehearsals, and preparation, and the start of the shoot. From there we look at performances, locations and production design, stunts, hardware and practical effects, and various sequence specifics. Finally, the program goes through post-production at Skywalker Ranch, the titles and a few visual elements, and wrapping up the flick.
I certainly can’t fault the documentary for brevity; at nearly two hours, it provides an extended view of the production. It manages to mix information with behind the scenes elements well. I must admit that some parts of the details mentioned aren’t terribly revealing, but the shots from the production are quite good. The show moves surprisingly briskly as it gives us a nice take on various aspects of the movie.
For a look at the movie’s comic book origins, we head to the six-part The Invincible Iron Man. It fills 47 minutes and three seconds with notes from Brevoort, Quesada, creator Stan Lee, writers Gerry Conway, Joe Casey, Dan Knauf, Charles Knauf and Warren Ellis, writer/artist Bob Layton, and artists Gene Colan, John Romita, Jr., Patrick Zircher and Adi Granov. The piece examines the origins of Iron Man as well as aspects of the character, supporting roles and villains. We also learn about the series’ development, various story lines it pursued over the years, and challenges.
“Invincible” bears a strong resemblance to a similar piece for Fantastic Four. My biggest complaint there remains my main gripe here: the show doesn’t cover the series’ history very well. It tosses out some notes about the earlier years and skims over the majority of its life before it spends most of its time on recent depictions. I suppose that’s somewhat inevitable since modern artists/writers will be more accessible, but the emphasis on newer work leaves the program unbalanced. It’s still informative and interesting, but it doesn’t offer a great history of Iron Man.
Next comes the 27-minute Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man. It features Favreau, visual effects supervisor John Nelson, Embassy VFS supervisor Winston Helgason, 3D artist Paul Copeland, lead 3D artist Michael Blackburn, Orphanage VFX supervisor Jonathan Rothbart, visualization/HUD effects supervisor Kent Seki, HUD design supervisor Dav Rauch, ILM VFX supervisor Ben Snow, animation director Hal Hickel, viewpainter Ron Woodall, model supervisor Bruce Holcomb, VFX art director Aaron McBride, compositing supervisor Jeff Sutherland, and technical director Philippe Rebours. “Wired” visits the three effects studios that handled Iron Man - The Embassy, The Orphanage, and ILM – and examines what each one did for the film. It zips through the appropriate effects topics in a solid manner that gives us a good idea of the challenges and their solutions. I especially like some of the test footage that shows early work.
A Robert Downey, Jr. Screen Test lasts six minutes. Actually, it provides three screen tests. We see Downey with the reporter at the party, chatting with troops on the Humvee, and discussing Iron Man with Rhodey. All are interesting, though the one with the soldiers is the best since it includes alternative – improvised? – dialogue. I’d have liked a test of Downey as Iron Man, but this is still a cool collection.
More about performances arrives via the four-minute and 10-second The Actor’s Process. It shows raw footage of rehearsals with Favreau, Downey and Bridges. It provides another good piece of behind the scenes footage.
Some wackiness comes to us next with a clip from The Onion. Entitled “Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to Be Adapted Into Full-Length Film”, the two-minute and 39-second segment follows the gag presented in its title. The concept seems more inventive than the actual snippet, but it’s mildly amusing.
Finally, we get four Galleries. These cover “Concept Art” (90 stills across 10 domains), “Tech” (27), “Unit Photography” (50) and “Posters” (3). Some good material arrives here, though the interface can become frustrating. That’s especially true in the “Concept Art” area, mainly because some of the domains include only a few images; it gets tedious to sort through them all. Still, the elements themselves are worth a look.
Although I’d like to refer to Iron Man as one of the great superhero movies, I can’t do that. It provides an enjoyable, well-produced effort with more strengths than weaknesses, but it just doesn’t hit the heights of the best comic book flicks. The DVD offers acceptable picture, excellent audio, and a very nice collection of extras. While the erratic visual quality disappoints, the rest of the set works well enough to merit a recommendation.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars|| Number of Votes: 34|