STUDIO: Paramount
MSRP: $39.95
RUNNING TIME: 125 Minutes

  • Deleted & Extended Scenes
  • I Am Iron man Documentary
  • The Invincible Iron Man Documentary
  • Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man
  • Robert Downey, Jr.’s Screen test
  • The Actor’s Process
  • Still Galleries
  • And More!

The Pitch

Tony Stark is a brilliant, hard-living industrialist who upon being captured creates a metal suit that, if used correctly, can be used as a weapon to help mankind… or destroy it.

The Humans

Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Bridges. Terrence Howard. Gwyneth Paltrow. Shawn Toub. Jon Favreau. Voice of Jude Law.

Director: John Favreau.

Writers: Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway.

The Nutshell

Robert Downey, Jr. delivers the most compelling mainstream performance since Jack Sparrow was born and carries an immense FX-laden film on his shoulders effortlessly. Coupled with an impeccably executed armored suit design and a no-nonsense directorial effort from Jon Favreau, Iron Man avoids any comparisons to ol’ Icarus.

The Lowdown

Iron Man is a truly unique film, in some ways the antidote to the glut of comic book movies. It’s also superficially built on the most generic superhero movie template there is, which is odd considering the previous sentence. By staying in the middle of the road and doing the expected things but doing them really well, Jon Favreau and his team of craftsmen have made what may possibly be my favorite superhero film. As in EVER. Utterly rewatchable and with pitch perfect performances, it’s one of those films that can run in the background on a permanent loop and still suck you in. Sneakily brilliant.

If that’s too outrageous for you, just click to the sex forum of the message boards or hunt for Stephen Geoffreys gay porn pictures.

Though many of the films being released based on comic books are quite good, there’s still that undercurrent of opportunism and sameness that threatens to keep them from truly having their own identity. Iron Man isn’t concerned with competing with anything else out there, nor does it have an agenda about upping the ante in the visual effects department or twisting the material to its whims. Under the insanely assured direction of Jon Favreau it’s a film that brings virtually nothing new to the table but does what it does so well that it ends up being one of the best genre films to come out in a long time.

Four things keep Iron Man from being a generic summer movie. All four are obvious, but some folks maybe have been caught up in hype or expecting something life-changing and missed the boat, so here’s the ingredients for this film’s success:

1. Favreau. As if the material onscreen isn’t enough, watching him do his job seals the deal. There’s an amazing lucidity in the way this film is conceived and executed, with very little fat and just enough of the implied debauchery of Tony Stark’s life to keep it from being too kid friendly. Not a director fond of CGI, he balances the practical and digital work like a seasoned pro and allows his phenomenal cast to shine. Add to this a firm understanding of the comic books and the determination to stay as faithful as possible [aside from the Iron Monger/Mandarin/Crimson Dynamo stuff] and you have a director as well matched with his material as Peter Jackson with hobbits and Sam Raimi with arachnids.

2. Downey.
Not only is the always reliable Robert Downey, Jr. at the top of his game here, he does a good portion of his best work while working with special effects. He’s not an actor we’ve seen do a lot of wire work or greenscreen work, so there’s always that fear that the the skill set of of performer will be hamstrung when working in the FX environment. Not the case here as his charisma is cranked to ten and he wears Tony Stark like a second skin. I’d put this performance right up against Heath Ledger’s in a heartbeat.

3. The Suit.
It’s a shame we lost Stan Winston this year, but there is consolation that his crew went above and beyond in realizing all three incarnations of Iron Man’s armor as well as the terrific Iron Monger suit. Form and function married with coolness and an actual sense of realism makes this better than the comics and truly an astounding bit of work. When in the hands of the digital artists, Iron Man moves and performs like a functioning part of the real world and there’s not of that hyper-real nonsense that sometimes crept into the Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four films. Though there’s not a lot of show-stopping scenes that can compete with say… the desert battle in the first Hulk film, this is exemplary work and a very level-headed way to approach a second-tier [though not in my mind] character.

4. Bridges/Howard/Paltrow.
Though sometimes saddled with arch dialogue, Jeff Bridges is a great foil for Downey as a father figure and eventual adversary. Their moments carry a nice undercurrent of warmth and there’s a genuine feeling of years of time spent together, something which is rewarding to see after the somewhat cold interplay present in the special feature devoted to the actor’s process. Bridges is one of our most reliable and underrated actors and seeing him in the role of Obi Stane is a blast. Gwyneth Paltrow is as cute as she’s ever been as Pepper Potts and though she’s not given much to do and her involment in the film’s climax is a mistake, she makes the role her own and makes her moments with Downey special. The same goes for Terrence Howard, especially if he gets to really shine in the sequel.

The pace is brisk enough so that the origin aspect of the story isn’t annoying, which is saying something because, aside from Batman Begins the origin portion of a comic book film is just plain annoying to sit through. Because this is grounded in a reality a little closer to our own, it allows the film to successfully function as a drama before men take to the skies and fire repulsor rays. It also informs that portion of the film and grounds it. The special effects are phenomenal but they’re made exponentially better by the material that preceded it.

That’s the secret of the film. It’s a very muscular movie with a narrow set of goals. Hollywood could stand to learn from this.

Iron Man isn’t perfect but it’s as solid and reliable a piece of entertainment as there is and it does its job with faith towards the comics, respect to the genre, and a true sense of wonder that just isn’t present all that often in today’s angst-ridden and cynical new media saturated world. I’ll take this over damn near anything the Hollywood machine can dish out.

The Package

There is no reason a forty dollar, two disc so-called “Ultimate Edition” wouldn’t have a commentary track. Or three. Since this is the flagship feature from the new Marvel Studios you’d think they’d do everything in their power to ensure that they set themselves up as a force to be reckoned with from soup to nuts in the process. Especially with how well the film was marketed and shared by the filmmakers from the get-go.

But alas there is no commentary track. Or a text trivia track, which would have also been amazing, what with all the references [I spotted a Roxxon Building this last time around] and the seeds of Marvel crossovers being planted.

But instead of dwelling on what isn’t there, let’s look at the really good stuff that is…

All of the documentaries on this disc are terrific and some of them actually showcase some aspects of the process you don’t often see on DVD anymore. Little nuances of the process. Lately the supplements of DVDs are too micromanaged and massaged for promotional purposes so that they’re less about telling the behind-the-scenes story and more about selling product. Nothing bothers me quite like seeing someplace like Yahoo or Amazon debuting one of the featurettes from a DVD as part of the onslaught of marketing for a DVD release. These features are, at their best, the curtain being pulled back to showcase the magic and artistry involved in the movie business.

Though this is a very polished affair, there’s a lot of really good material here and it really showcases how much ownership Jon Favreau had over the project. It also shows an amazing child-like fascination with making the movie from Robert Downey Jr., who seems to be having the time of his life.

Though the special features don’t take up as much time as I’d wished, they are quite robust and justify this fancy pants DVD package. It’s a really effective DVD release made better by seeing just how much passion went into it. This is the gold standard fromMarvel movies from here forward. Not Spider-Man. Not Hulk. Not even Morbius.

Plus, Robert Downey Jr. talks lovingly about the film C.H.U.D., which obviously warms my heart.  I’ve been a huge Downey supporter since the mid 80’s and a Favreau apologist since Swingers first hit theaters and I love it when I align my heartstrings with the right people and they deliver beyond my wildest dreams. Makes me feel smart for a change.

Iron Man is great. This DVD is better.

Now where’s my fucking commentary tracks?

9.3 out of 10