Iron Man kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a highly-engaging plot and Robert Downey Jr.'s excellent performance as the arrogant, wisecracking Tony Stark. The superhero actioner lands on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a gorgeous HDR10 presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Highly Recommended for MCU and 4K enthusiasts.
At first glance, the idea of Robert Downey, Jr. playing the wealthy playboy and industrialist Tony Stark, whose superhero alter ego is essentially a weaponized metal suit, seems like an improbable match. But much like how the public initially shrugged off Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's Batman thirty years ago, moviegoers and comic book fans everywhere were pleasantly surprised by the actor. Of course, part of the movie's success comes from Downey and the filmmakers tailoring the character to better fit his talents. As an arrogant and boastful billionaire with a witty, snarky tongue to match, the adaptation is both a departure from the source material and amazingly faithful. Specifically, the story retains the character's troubled and estranged relationship with his father as a major part of his personality. And the filmmakers take advantage of this when seeing Stark change his worldview.
For me, this is the key reason why Iron Man works so well. Beneath the sarcasm, conceited irreverence and swollen-headed confidence, there is a fragile, self-deprecating and insecure man. His progression to becoming a superhero is not only the result of a terrifying experience where he escaped his terrorist kidnappers, but it's also a personal odyssey of self-discovery and realizing one's actions have real-world, no matter how unintentional, consequences. As Stan Lee intended it, the steel armor suit is a metaphor for Stark hiding and protecting his vulnerable self. And like any true hero's journey, Tony is accompanied by a few allies where Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has emotional impact and Rhodes (Terrence Howard) plays the ethical, conscience voice. Given all this, it seems only natural and appropriate to see Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) serve as Iron Man's first villain, exposing the repercussions of Stark's narcissistic apathy. And with Jon Favreau in the director's chair, Iron Man was a surprise indeed.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out Peter Bracke's review of the 2008 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment and Marvel Studios bring Iron Man to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy. When redeeming said code via RedeemDigitalMovie.com or MoviesAnywhere, owners unlock the 4K UHD digital version in Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc that's identical to the previous Blu-ray. Both discs are housed inside a black, eco-vortex case with an embossed, glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The charmingly pompous, arrogant billionaire turned superhero lands on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a beautiful and often striking HEVC H.265 encode, offering several noteworthy upgrades over its Blu-ray predecessor.
Shot on traditional 35mm film and later mastered to 2K digital intermediate, the upscaled transfer shows a welcomed uptick in overall definition with sharper detailing and better clarity. Every pockmark and crevice inside the caves and on the rock formations are observable, and the smallest gadget and instrument decorating Stark's garage is plainly visible. The unique features, tiny rivets, minute scratches and trivial imperfections in the iron suits are distinct while the stitching and threading in clothes are discrete. Facial complexions are highly revealing with lifelike textures, exposing pores, individual whiskers, and negligible blemishes. Praises aside, there are few scenes softer than others with slightly poor resolution quality and the sharpest edges in the background can occasionally waver, but thankfully, it's nothing too egregious. Also, the CGI can also be more apparent and possibly distracting, but again, it's not too terrible or bothersome to ruin the movie's enjoyment.
But where this 4K video really shines is the improved contrast and brightness, making the action brighter overall while remaining true to Matthew Libatique's lightly toned-down photography. The boosted contrast delivers some intensely brilliant whites in the clothing, the various light fixtures, and the many explosions. Best moments exemplifying this are those at the beginning when Tony is held captive in the desert and in the final climactic battle against Iron Monger. Those same scenes also display dramatically improved specular highlights, as the brightest spots are tight and radiant while in other areas, the sun reflects off metal surfaces with a realistic, radiant glow. Blacks, too, enjoy a significant upgrade, as seen in the silky clothes or Stark's oily slick hair. Inky, velvety shadows never ruin the finer details and penetrate deep into the screen, providing the 2.39:1 image with an appreciable cinematic quality.
Interestingly, the palette doesn't exhibit as dramatic a jump as other areas, but the colors nonetheless show a welcomed upgrade. The difference is just more nuanced and subtle with primaries arguably enjoying the biggest boost. Not surprisingly, reds are fuller and richer with excellent differences in the candy reds of the Iron Man suit at the start versus a darker crimson and scarlet in the battle-worn second half. Pepper Potts' hair is also a more vibrant shade of tiger orange, and scenes with fire ignite the screen with a mix of marigold and rich orange. The Iron Man suit also comes with deeper golden highlights, and blues are electrifyingly brilliant. Most impressive are the rosier, peachier skin tones of the entire cast, making this HDR10 presentation a fantastic improvement over its HD SDR counterpart. (HDR10 Video Rating: 86/100)
Iron Man crashes into home theaters with a reference-quality Dolby Atmos mix makes for a marvelous upgrade over the previous the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.
The surrounds are often employed with the boisterous chatter of large crowds, the screams of people running in fear, and music bleeding into the sides. This alone, along with the many action sequences, are enough to envelop the listener and place them in the middle of the mayhem. But those same scenes are now intensified with noises elevated overhead for a good portion of the time. Occasionally, other atmospherics echo across ceiling channels, with the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S., in particular, booming as though from the sky. Better still is when the action suddenly erupts on screen with Iron Man flawlessly sweeping through the air from one side of the room to the other or when helicopters and jet planes smoothly pan overhead, creating an immersive hemispheric soundfield.
Likewise, quieter, dialogue-driven scenes come with various ambient effects in the background that lightly bleed into the top heights and across the three front channels, generating a highly engaging, half-dome soundstage. Imaging continuously feels spacious and expansive, exhibiting superb detailing and clarity in the mid-range during the loudest, ear-piercing moments and in the clashing crunch and pings of metal on metal fights. The score also enjoys outstanding fidelity and warmth, and the vocals are very well-prioritized and crystal-clear.
Adding to the visuals is a fantastically powerful and robust low-end, supplying the Iron Man suit's sonic boom with a room-energizing presence and a heavy, palpable rumble in the gunfire and explosions. The final climactic battle between Iron Man and Iron Monger is without a doubt one of the track's best, demo-worthy moments, sure to have neighbors complaining while giving the subs and the entire system a vigorous workout. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)
For this Ultra HD edition, the same bonuses from the previous release are ported over and available only on the accompanying Blu-ray disc.
Despite not being as popular or recognizable as other Marvel Comics properties back in 2008, Iron Man became a box-office hit, essentially kickstarting the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and igniting mainstream moviegoers' love affair for everything superhero. Much of that is due to Robert Downey Jr.'s excellent performance as the snarky, wisecracking Tony Stark and a story that made the character into someone audiences can root for, in spite of his many humanizing flaws.
The first movie in the trilogy upgrades to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a beautiful HDR10 presentation and a stunning, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, delivering a striking improvement over its Blu-ray counterpart. Although the same set of supplements are ported over for this UHD edition, the overall package is Highly Recommended and deserves to be in every MCU or 4K enthusiast's library.