Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Blu-ray Review: ‘Iron Man 3’
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘Iron Man 3’ on Blogcritics.
When Iron Man 3 kicked off the summer movie season back in May, a key plot twist got a whole lot of panties in a bunch. Whatever you think about how co-writer/director Shane Black handled his big twist for The Mandarin (hilariously played by Ben Kingsley), it didn’t stop it from becoming the first Marvel film to blast past the $1 billion mark at the box office. People may have cried foul, but they sure seemed to be eating it up regardless. I have complete faith in whatever Marvel has up their sleeve. You’re crazy if you think these things weren’t cleared with Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige. My full review from Iron Man 3’s theatrical release can be found here.
Another thing people complained about was Black’s Christmas setting and giving Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) a pint-sized sidekick in Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins) — both a Shane Black trademark. What Black also managed to do was keep Iron Man 3 from suffering of a case of “Post Traumatic Avengers Syndrome.” Packed with more one-liners, and heart, than either of the first two Iron Man films, 3 is a spectacular kick-off for “Phase Two” and with Thor: The Dark World opening in November, I can’t wait to see how things start to add up. We all know that events from each film will culminate in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. And even with the upcoming slate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — including sequels to Thor and Captain America, and the interstellar shenanigans of the Guardians of the Galaxy — that wait is still going to be unbearable.
Iron Man 3 blasts onto Blu-ray in typical Disney fashion, with a nearly perfect transfer. Arriving on a 50GB disc in a MGEG-4 encode, the 2.40:1 aspect ratio pretty much writes its own review. Contrast is spot on with flesh tones amazingly accurate. Detail is precision sharp with no edge enhancement or artificial sharpening. DNR is never applied even if there’s no film grain on hand considering it was shot digitally with Arri Alexa and Phantom Flex cameras. A few elements seem almost out of place in 2D, such as some smoke elements that clearly come from the 3D conversion. But blacks are kept nice and inky with no crush on hand, resulting in some lighter shadows which only help with delineation. Does banding count if it only appears in the end credits? Because that’s the only place I found any. You’ll also find a complete lack of aliasing, ringing, or any other anomalies. Iron Man 3 looks as spectacular as a newly minted big budget transfer is expected to.
As good as the picture looks, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is one for the books. Featuring stellar LFE that’ll leave anything hanging on your walls shaking, you’ll swear Stark’s army of suits is rampaging right through whatever room you’re watching it in. Directionality is spot on as every explosion, clanking armor, piece of breaking wood, or smashing glass comes falling around you from every direction. Dialogue is delivered crystal clear, never drowned out — no matter how loud the action — with Tyler Brian’s score even making use of every speaker in your set up as well. This is one of the best Blu-ray sound mixes, which should come as no surprise.
The Special Features for Iron Man 3 are fun, if a little on the wayside, for anyone holding out hope for more extras upon the arrival of the “Phase Two” set, remember that there are actually fewer special features than were on the original Blu-ray releases. I have a feeling that the single disc I received will be one of two (the other being the 3D version of the film) included. First up is an audio commentary featuring Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce. The two have tremendous rapport which no doubt helped with the writing process. Black jokes that when he walked in a saw Pearce he threatened to quit, but the two work together very well. I was hoping for a little more insight into their decision of how to handle The Mandarin, but all we find out is that Pearce came up with the twist while using the toilet and Black told him to run with the idea.
A 15-minute “Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter” arrives just in time for the announcement of the new ABC show starting development. Here we find Hayley Atwell returning to her Captain America character Peggy Carter, under the scrutiny of her boss Tim Trobec (Bradley Whitford). Peggy heads off on a dangerous mission against orders, winding up taking down a formidable foe with only promotional consequences. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and “Dum Dum” Dugan (Neal McDonough) make a hilarious cameo. “Deleted and Extended Scenes” run 16 minutes full of improve, outtakes, and extended/alternate sequences. Some are hilarious, some are informative, but all are rather expendable, even if entertaining in this form; a 5-minute “Gag Reel” makes a great companion piece to these.
The 2-minute “Exclusive Look at Thor: The Dark World” featurette measures up to not much more than a truncated trailer, which is silly since the actual trailer plays before the main menu. There are also trailers for Lego Marvel Superheroes, The Lone Ranger, The Avengers Initiative, and ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, which coincidentally starts this Tuesday, September 24, day-and-date to this release. “Iron Man 3 Unmasked” runs 11 minutes and shows how much of the film was actually made with practical effects and sets. Even the interior of Stark’s house was built on a pivoting set; it’s very cool to see it in action. The most exciting featurette is “Deconstructing the Scene: Attack on Air Force One” which runs nine minutes. Here we get to see how they filmed the scene using the Red Bull skydiving team. Knowing that the scene was filmed with real skydivers just makes the scene even cooler to re-watch.
The world has already made it clear that they think Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man film as far as the box office is concerned and I wholeheartedly agree. The Blu-ray for Iron Man 3 features an impeccable transfer and a window blasting audio 7.1 audio track. The special features are scant but fun, especially the audio commentary and the skydiving featurette alone. Chances are you already know whether you’re adding this to your Blu-ray collection, but at least now you know you’re in for a blazing home theater experience.
Cover art and photos courtesy Marvel Studios