“Who? Or What is the newest, most breath-taking, most sensational super-hero of all?”
That was the question asked on the cover of Marvel’s Tales Of Suspense issue number 39. Pictured with that buildup was a character quite different from the Iron Man that we would come to know and love over the next 40 plus years. He was all silver and appeared to be wearing combat boots. He was not very slender, and you could almost hear the clunking as he moved. By the next issue he was gold colored. By Issue number 48 of that same series, the new and improved Iron Man look would appear for the first time. He was sporting the red and gold colors that would be relatively unchanged for decades. Certainly the suit evolved over the years, but Iron Man’s basic design was born. It was December, 1963. In issue 53 the book would begin to incorporate the name of Iron Man into its front page header. Finally in May of 1968 Tales Of Suspense gave way to The Invincible
The man inside the suit would also continue to evolve over those years. Marvel would break a milestone in comics by having Tony Stark fighting alcoholism. What made Marvel’s characters so popular in the 60’s and 70’s was this human quality each of them had. They were all flawed human beings who were not always able to overcome their personal struggles in one story. He was a lot like Batman’s Bruce Wayne. He was rich, somewhat of a playboy, and inventive. Stark didn’t have as many ghosts from the past haunting him. It was more often his conscience about what his weapons did to the world that led him to his dark areas.
Iron Man, the movie, marks yet another milestone for the Marvel Group. For decades they have basically franchised their characters out to the major studios to turn them into films. For the first time, Marvel produced the film themselves.
Tony Stark runs Stark Industries, the world’s premier weapons designer and manufacturer. His father started the company, and now Tony and his partner Obadiah Stone run the operation. Tony has inherited his father’s knack for invention and is the brains behind the outfit. They develop weapons systems, often for the American government. On his way to a weapons demonstration for the military brass, Stark’s convoy is attacked and he is taken prisoner. Shrapnel from the attack hovers perilously close to his heart, and a magnetic ring inserted by a local doctor is the only thing keeping it from penetrating his heart. His captors want him to build his latest super weapons system. Stark agrees, but his first project is a better heart protection system based on a miniature power device he once created on a larger scale. From then he begins to construct a mechanical suit or armor that will enable his escape. Once free, he decides to take the company into more peaceful pursuits. All the while he is perfecting his mechanical suit. Once finished, he uses the suit to go after the bad guys and their weapons, only to discover that his true enemy, as Michael Corleone used to say, has yet to reveal himself. Now Stark must fight another creation spawned by his own suit designs. And there’s this maybe saving the world stuff to do.
Iron Man is an absolutely wonderful comic film. There’s plenty of adventure and huge f/x battles to make the most demanding fan revel in its entire running time. The final battle is awesome. The CG works well with the real action. The banter is solid gold 1960’s era Marvel comics. The supporting cast doesn’t have a weak link in the bunch. Jeff Bridges is almost unrecognizable as Obadiah Stone, Stark’s partner and nemesis. It wasn’t until he spoke that I really saw the actor under the character. Gwyneth Paltrow is equally good as the infatuated Pepper Potts. Where was she when someone was casting for MJ back in Spider-Man’s beginnings? She adds depth to a character that honestly doesn’t have so much in the comic. Terrence Howard is Stark’s military buddy Col. Rhodes. If you know Iron Man lore, you know that
Finally, what about the suit itself? I know there are some purists who were somewhat unhappy with the suit design. I thought it was the perfect blend of the various comic versions and yet original enough for a film. I love the idea that Favreau decided to pay homage to the earlier versions of the comic suit. We get to see the suit evolve from its Mark I design to the final more recognizable version. There are some moments where the character is in obvious CG mode, but it blends well enough and integrates smoothly enough that the entire thing looks pretty good. The colors took a little time for me to get used to, but I do really like the design.
Portions of this review also appear in my Blu-ray review for Intotheblu.com
Iron Man is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There’s a little too much blue at times for my taste in Stark’s lab, but it’s mostly the CG computer screen material. Much of the interior is pretty dark, and the black levels hold up enough that you can really pick out some of the detail of these interior sets. That’s not to say black levels are always solid. I ran into moments when things literally disappear into the shadows. There’s a small grain element that only gives the film the look of a good film. It’s never excessive and makes the image look more alive. Colors are solid, and the texture of the suit really comes out. I will say that having watched the film in HD, I was looking for the detail on the suit that wasn’t quite here. Certainly you can see the texture and scratches and scuffs, just not to the same degree of realism. Favreau resisted the temptation to add too much gloss to the suit, and so detail is more solid. Still, the suit’s overall realism wasn’t as strong here. Otherwise, colors are pretty much reference.
The Dolby Digital 5. audio delivers on just about every level. The surrounds go from subtle to very aggressive, in keeping with the mood of the film at the time. When Iron Man flies, the swooshes and sonics erupt across your room. Subs are given plenty to do during the action scenes, but here’s where the Blu-ray was superior. I didn’t get the same boom for my buck. There were times I thought the amp was applying some form of compression to the lows. Dialog is perfect. My only minor complaint comes in the score. I didn’t really like it, so I admit it might have annoyed me more than if I had liked it. To me it stood out too often and distracted me from the action. One of the best things you can say for a score is you never really noticed it. This one stood out too often, at least for me. There wasn’t anything dynamically wrong with the sound. It was just too much for me.
This is a 2 disc collection. The first disc offers the film and the following extras:
Deleted Scenes: How about 23 minutes of extra footage? Most of it is extended stuff, but I liked the extra moments between Stark and Rhodes most of all. There is also what appears to be an extended/alternative ending that drags on and should have been cut. Some of the f/x are unfinished, implying they were cut early in the process.
Disc 2 contains the biggest features:
The Invincible Iron Man: This is a 6 part feature that runs about 48 minutes in total. You can watch it as one long feature, as I did, or break it up into the following categories: Origins, Friends And Foes, The Definitive
I Am Iron Man: Again you can break up this almost 2 hour feature into smaller segments dealing with the following: The Journey Begins, The Suit That Makes The Iron Man, The Walk Of Destruction, Grounded In Reality, Beneath The Armor, It’s All In The Details, A Good Story Well Told. Just about every aspect of the production of Iron Man is found here in incredible detail. Cast and crew add their own thoughts and information on the material. This was Stan Winston’s last film, and there’s a really good look at his facilities here. This might be the final footage of Stan and is worth a look to anyone who has admired his wonderful contributions to our lives. Stan Lee is having a blast with plenty of good looking women on his arms. I found Favreau unusually candid about his struggles with this his first big budget film. This is one of the best behind the scenes feature to come along.
Wired – Inside The F/X Of Iron Man: It took 3 studios to work out the f/x shots for the film. This 25 minute feature looks at the work and the logistics to get it all done.
Robert Downey, Jr. Screen Test: Here’s 6 minutes of
The Actor’s Process: This is a 4 minute rehearsal with Jeff Bridges.
The Onion Report: A very short little promo for the film from The Onion Report.
This is just the beginning for Marvel. There are recently released major plans, and