- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen Marvel first announced they would be opening their own movie studio to produce films based on pre-existing properties, it was a given that their first project – a big-screen adaptation of “Iron Man” – would be viewed under a very large microscope. There was a lot riding on the success of the film, and though news of director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr.’s involvement initially worried financers and fanboys alike, “Iron Man” has since become one of the most buzzed-about releases of the year.
It will come as a great relief to many that the movie not only lives up to the hype, but is also one of the best superhero films ever made. Second only to “Batman Begins” and “Spider-Man 2” in quality, “Iron Man” integrates the perfect balance of drama, comedy and action to deliver the first must-see movie of the summer season.
Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy president of a tech-based arms manufacturer that supplies the U.S. military with groundbreaking weaponry. While on a business trip to Afghanistan, Stark is badly wounded when he’s kidnapped by a terrorist group hell-bent on harboring a new missile system nicknamed the Jericho. Saved by a fellow captive (Shaun Toub) and a little science (an electromagnet is attached to his chest to prevent shrapnel from entering his heart), Stark ignores the terrorists’ demands to build them a weapon and instead designs a clunky armored suit for his escape. Upon his return back home, Stark makes a promise to reform by discontinuing the manufacture of weapons by his company, much to the surprise of second-in-command Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). But when he discovers that they're still being sold to the bad guys behind his back, Stark jumps into his newly upgraded armored suit to finish the fight.
Though the movie is arguably slower than expected, it’s ultimately better because of it. Starting out as a slow-boiling espionage thriller, “Iron Man” eventually becomes the action blockbuster that the trailers hinted at, but not until all of the pieces are in place. The last thing we needed was two hours of a computer-generated Iron Man blowing shit up, and while some might complain that there isn’t enough action spread throughout its 110-minute runtime, the story is so electric that most won’t even notice. In fact, the big finale is probably the tamest part of the entire film, and though Favreau uses practical effects as often as possible (which in turn helps keep the story grounded in reality), the CG-fueled sequences still need a little work.
Downey Jr. is near flawless in the lead role – every bit as charming and narcissistic as he needs to be – and despite early criticism about the actor’s inability to carry a big event movie, he does so as if Stan Lee created Tony Stark specifically with him in mind. He’s the soul of the entire film, and though Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect as his ever-reliable assistant Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges has some fun playing the film’s villain, “Iron Man” wouldn’t be as good without his involvement. Terrence Howard doesn’t get as much to do as his fellow co-stars, but if the actor’s 11th hour wink to fanboys is any indication, he’ll play a much larger part in the sequels.
For all the talk about how origin movies can sometimes be the deadly knockout to comic book franchises, the story behind “Iron Man” is so rich and complex that Favreau is going to have a near-impossible task of outdoing himself with the inevitable sequel. And there will be a sequel, because much like “Batman Begins,” “Iron Man” delivers such an amazing first chapter that the story practically demands to be continued. Iron Man may be considered second-tier in the Marvel universe, but he has a wealth of stories that can be used to fuel an entire trilogy of films and more. And if future installments are even remotely as entertaining as the first outing, you can count on “Iron Man” becoming the next comic book king of the box office.
Ultimate Two-Disc Edition Blu-Ray Review:
The Blu-ray release of “Iron Man” is everything you could have ever hoped for and more. The first disc alone includes the movie (in all its HD glory), 24 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, a lengthy featurette on the history of the character (“The Invincible Iron Man”), and an interactive tour of all four suits (“Hall of Armor”). Disc two is where things really heat up, however, with an extensive making-of featurette that runs nearly two hours long. No, that wasn’t a misprint. “I Am Iron Man” features just about every imaginable detail of making the movie, from pre-production elements like casting and building the suits, to filming and sound mixing. Heck, there’s even a look at the many different end credit sequences that were created, while the film’s three visual effects teams get a featurette (“Wired”) of their own.
Rounding out the two-disc set is a screen test with Robert Downey Jr., a behind-the-scenes look at the actor rehearsing a scene with Jeff Bridges (“The Actor’s Process”), the Onion news spoof about the trailer being made into a full-length feature, and trailers and photo galleries galore. Though the lack of an audio commentary may seem like a bummer at first, once you dive into this collection of extras, you’ll realize why there wasn’t one included. There simply isn’t enough room. This is by far the best Blu-ray (and by default, DVD) release of the year, and it’s exactly the kind of treatment that ever major blockbuster deserves going forward.