Release Date(s)2008 (August 13, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios/Fairview Entertainment (Paramount Pictures/Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
When a billionaire weapons maker and industrialist, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), is badly injured in the Afghan desert during a weapons test, he’s forced to confront the sins of his past by a terrorist group called Ten Rings. Their leader wants Tony to make weapons for him. Instead, in a cave and with primitive tools, he makes an advanced suit of “Iron Man” armor to defeat the group and free himself. Upon returning to civilization, Tony uses every resource at his disposal to perfect the armor and give it the ability to fly. He also creates an advanced fusion reactor to power the suit… and keep himself alive. It’s technology that could change the world and make Stark Industries wildly profitable. But Tony knows the world’s not ready for it. What it needs instead is a hero… Iron Man.
Marvel Studios went all in and rolled the dice on its first Marvel Cinematic Universe film, hiring a then-untested director in Jon Favreau (fresh off Elf and Zathura) and a completely unexpected star in Robert Downey Jr., who plays Stark as a playboy combination of Howard Hughes and Elon Musk. Favreau and producer Kevin Feige surrounded him with additionally unexpected supporting cast in Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg (his first appearance as Phil Coulson), Paul Bettany (as the voice of Tony’s computer JARVIS), and Samuel L. Jackson (his first appearance as SHIELD director Nick Fury in a cameo). All of these gambles paid off handsomely with a surprisingly gritty and grounded superhero film. Composer Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones, Pacific Rim) adds a terrific score, his first for a feature film.
Iron Man was shot on photochemical film in Super 35 format, using Arriflex and Panavision cameras and Panavision Primo lenses, and was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, rather than going back to the original camera negative, it looks like that 2K DI was simply upsampled for this 4K presentation and graded for high dynamic range in HDR10. That grade does enrich the colors, deepen the shadows, and make the highlights almost eye-reactive. So there’s that. But there are a couple of problems here right off the bat. First, mastering from the 2K DI rather than scanning the OCN (at least for the live action scenes) means there’s an unfortunate lack of fine detail. But the other problem is that this was still a time when it was pretty common to apply a little Digital Noise Reduction to “smooth out” imperfections and give DIs a uniform look. And such is the case here. I wouldn’t say this presentation looks bad; it’s certainly a modest improvement over the existing Blu-ray image, especially with the HDR. But I would say it could look a lot better (and it should). So here we are.
Audio-wise, the new Dolby Atmos mix, at least, is outstanding. The soundstage is big and wide, with lovely vertical extension in the height channels, not just during action scenes but also for atmospheric immersion. Dialogue is clear, while surround panning and movement are smooth and lively. Bass is nicely firm, adding a real sense of weight and richness to the mix. If you liked the sound of this film on Blu-ray, I think it’s only improved here. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio and 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus in French, Spanish, and Italian, with subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, and Swedish.
There are no extras whatsoever on the 4K disc, but the set includes the previous Blu-ray edition, which offers the film in 1080p HD and adds the following (all in HD):
- Hall of Armor (Interactive Gallery)
- The Invincible Iron Man: Origins (7:49)
- The Invincible Iron Man: Friends and Foes (2:52)
- The Invincible Iron Man: The Definitive Iron Man (5:28)
- The Invincible Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle (:59)
- The Invincible Iron Man: Extremis and Beyond (25:28)
- The Invincible Iron Man: Ultimate Iron Man (3:59)
- Deleted/Extended Scenes (11 scenes – 23:56 with a Play All option)
The Hall of Armor lets you look at 3D fly-arounds of the various Iron Man suits in the film with little tech explainers. The Invincible Iron Man is basically a look back at the history of the character in the comics. The Deleted/Extended scenes are pretty good, and actually substantial – they’re the best bonus on the disc. But otherwise, there’s not much here. The problem is that Disc 2 of the previous 2-disc Ultimate Edition Blu-ray is missing. That means you’re not getting the 7-part I Am Iron Man documentary, the screen tests, the VFX featurettes, and more. So you’ll definitely want to keep your previous Blu-ray too. Naturally, you do get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
Iron Man is a great film, and a terrific start to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But while 4K fans will certainly want to add this title to their MCU Ultra HD collections, be sure to get it on sale. Because if you pay full price for this, given its below par 4K video quality, run-of-the-mill extras, and missing ones, you’re not getting a great deal of value.
- Bill Hunt