Updated: Sep 18, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1 & 2) Tony Stark continues to build his Iron Man armors, and eventually heads to Afghanistan to take down terrorist Raza and his Ten Rings soldiers.
4K frame shots courtesy of Marvel Studios
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2008; PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and brief suggestive content; streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “I Am Iron Man” making-of (Digital at Vudu)
MARVEL STUDIOS pushes its 22 Cinematic Universe movies into the 4K format, with “Iron Man” (2008) the first in the series, released in August along with “Iron Man 2” (2010), “Iron Man 3” (2013), “Thor” (2011) and “Thor: The Dark War” (2013).
Unpacking the five 4K sets, we quickly discovered the original seven-part making-of documentary for “Iron Man,” included in the old Blu-ray set, was sadly MIA. Don’t be dismayed; it’s not a complete loss.
The original making-of, running nearly two hours, can still be accessed through the enclosed digital code onto Movies Anywhere. From there, go to Vudu to unlock an expanded version that’s three hours and twenty-three minutes long. Viewers can do the same with the 4K UltraHD version on Vudu, which has the more refined Dolby Vision/HDR toning, plus the enveloping Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The six other digital platforms – from Apple to YouTube – also connect to Movies Anywhere, but don’t include the documentary. Those who use physical discs can pull the special features disc from the old Blu-ray set and place it within the 4K case set.
The documentary – considered one of the best with its straightforward interviews – explores nearly everything involved in making “Iron Man.” Executive producer/director Jon Favreau, who helmed the first MCU film, and also plays Tony Stark’s driver Hogan, was unsure of its impact. Favreau had only directed two films at this point – the holiday classic “Elf” and family-friendly sci-fi tale “Zathura: A Space Adventure.”
(1 & 2) Stark gives a military weapons demonstration in Afghanistan, and afterwards his convoy heads back to the U.S. airbase. (3) The convoy is hit by insurgents. The scene was filmed in Lone Pine, California, one of Hollywood's favorite on location spots along the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. (4) Stark is nearly killed by shrapnel from one of his own weapons that the terrorist used against the convoy. (5 & 6) Stark is held hostage by the Ten Rings terrorist group.
“Boy, you don’t know what’s going to happen. This could be anything from a flop to a moderate single or it could beyond people expectations. Honestly, I don’t know… I’m in the worst seat in the house and I’m in the thick of things. I don’t know where we are.” — Jon Favreau, director
The director was extremely nervous. “Iron Man” was assembled in a nonlinear way. After two years of pre-production and filming, “We [were] at a fever pitch,” Favreau says. The sound mix was still being finalized, while a number of visual effects shots were missing, and final picture changes were being replaced only weeks before its scheduled release. “We’re dancing as fast as we could,” he says.
An unfinished version of “Iron Man” had been shown to Paramount’s foreign distributors and a scene was shown at the annual San Diego Comic-Con. “People close to me seem to like it … but this is a Marvel movie. We don’t test these movies. It’s a very secret process. I don’t know how people are going to react,” Favreau said.
With all of its uncertainties, he still had confidence in his actors’ performances. “I know many scenes are funny and have a lot of heart,” Favreau said. He could not have been happier with the final results of the Iron Man suit. Industrial Light & Magic had a mammoth job producing the visual effects, which turned out great. He was also quite pleased with the score and sound effects.
But “Iron Man’s” biggest fan was producer Kevin Feige, mastermind of Marvel Studios. “As our first film out of the gate ... I’m proud of the film and the team we’ve put together,” he said.
The documentary is a tour of a massive old airplane hangar near LAX airport in Los Angeles, where Howard Hughes built the 320-foot wingspan “Spruce Goose.” The majority of the interiors for “Iron Man” were filmed inside the seven-story-tall hangar. There’s a short hop up the road to a small building in Venice, Calif., home of Prologue Films, who developed the J.A.R.V.I.S. Interface for the movie, a key computer tool for billionaire industrialist Tony Stark. Everyone associated with the film was delighted with Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man, who delivers just the right balance of humor and pathos. A decade later, it’s impossible to imagine any other actor in the part.
“I’ve never made a movie this size before or of this genre. I’ve always been a fan, but it’s a daunting undertaking. The day I knew it was going to be okay, was the day Robert Downey Jr. was attached to play Iron Man.” — Jon Favreau
(1 & 2) "Iron Man" inter-cuts between a flashback and present time during the first act. Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) second-in-command at Stark Industries accepts the Apogee Award from Colonel James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), during a ceremony to honor Tony Stark in Las Vegas. Stark's would rather gamble than accept the award at Caesar's Casino. (3) After taken hostage Tony agrees to build a Jericho missile, with the promise he would be released once it was completed. (4) Stark and Ho Yinsen begin the work, but Tony has different plans.
“Iron Man” began as a project at Fox, then went to New Line before finally landing at Paramount and Marvel. Today, Disney owns the complete Marvel Cinematic Universe except for Spider-Man. It was recently announced the Peter Parker teenage character would no longer interact within the MCU and the Avengers. The roadblock between Sony and Marvel remains unresolved.
Favreau also gives a tour of the Marvel Studio office of 2006, six-months before principal photography began within the Hughes hanger and the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that subbed for Afghanistan. There’s an interview with Iron Man suit artist/consultant Adi Granov, who spent months adapting it from his comic book art to a workable suit for a real person. There are storyboards from artists Stephen Platt and David Lowery, which were scanned into a computer to create an animatic version. This is viewed just like a movie for camera angles and pacing. It was shown to the crew and actors so they could fully understand the complexity of the scene.
“The reason I’m Tom Stark and playing Iron Man is because I’m crazy for movies. I’m a sucker for this stuff.” — Robert Downey Jr.
Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada, along with other editors, gets a first-hand tour of the movie set and meets Favreau. They were concerned over the storyline, and how close it came to the original source material. Quesada avoids naming the previous Marvel movie comic book fans didn't like. “This is really our movie [and] how can we make it the best possible?” Quesada asks.
Favreau decided early to use Hollywood’s top practical effects expert Stan Winston to help create the Iron Man suits. “The minute we heard Iron Man was being made, we went after it,” Winston says. “We’re all Iron Man fans and it was the perfect thing for our studio.” The journey began with drawings and images, which were then transferred into a 3D model. Another artist sculptured the suit out of clay – the first tangible piece. “This is when you get a real sense of the movie coming together,” Favreau says. The final step was the mold made from Downey’s legs, arms and bare chest, which he developed into a decent six-pack. The final suit has 450 different parts. It’s still a challenge to put Downey – or anyone – into that armor.
Find rehearsal footage with Downey and Jeff Bridges, who plays Stark’s business partner Obadiah Stane, as well as a dozen more interviews, and back-stage highlights in the making-of.
(1) Instead of making a missile for the terrorists Tony creates a secret Iron Man armor suit, which included several flamethrowers. (2) After destroying the Ten Rings' base, he escapes via the suits jetpacks. (3 & 4) He crashes in the desert and later rescued by Special Forces and Col. James Rhodes.
The original 35mm camera negative (2.35:1 aspect ratio) formatted in Super 35, was not rescanned and remastered in 4K. That’s a shame, especially when compared to Sony’s Oscar winner “Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon,” which was rescanned for its 4K premiere, also from a Super 35 source. The cost would have been substantial, but doesn’t Hollywood’s most successful franchise and its fans deserve the best?
Marvel Studio used the original 2K master from 2008, forced to the lower resolution because of special effects rendering. The natural film grain is nearly gone, digitally scrubbed away. Some grain is still intact and overall sharpness is passable, but it doesn’t compare to “Crouching Tiger.”
So, who’s at fault? Clearly the folks at Marvel and Disney could have started from scratch. That would have fixed the inherent problems with the old master. But, the folks at Disney are notorious for removing film grain in its animated classics, so perhaps they thought it was acceptable. Who knows?
The recent 4K release of “Aladdin” (1993) saw the film grain magically removed – almost as if it by one of the genie’s three wishes. The same grain-free filtering was applied to the 4K of “The Lion King” (1994). “The Little Mermaid” (1989) exhibited some film grain on the 4K, but not at the expected level.
(1-3) Tony arrives stateside and his assistant Pepper Potts is waiting on the airport apron. (4) Tony surprises everyone during a press conference that Stark Industries would now, and for the foreseeable future, no longer manufacture military weapons.
Surprisingly, the overall sharpness and clarity in the 4K UltraHD is up a click or two over the 1080p version even with the DNR applied. It’s most evident the closer you get to the screen. For example, the readability on several of Stark’s computer screens in his home lab, and facial details have increased.
HDR toning from the HDR10 (disc) and Dolby Vision (digital) using Matthew Libatique’s cinematography (“Black Swan” “A Star is Born”) gives “Iron Man” a nice upgrade with expansive contrast levels, from explosive bright highlights to deeper and darker shadows, and natural facial toning. That's where "Iron Man" shines.
The Dolby Atmos track is used sporadically, mostly in scenes where Iron Man soars overhead, and with helicopters, missiles and gunfire. It also arrives through ambient environmental sounds. Bass response is intense especially during the battle between Iron Man and Obadiah Stane, who is outfitted in the massive Iron Monger Armor suit. The music score from Ramin Djawadi (“Game of Thrones”) features some thunderous percussion and towering strings balanced nicely throughout the soundstage.
“Iron Man” could’ve been so much more with a new 4K scan, just to restore the natural film grain. It’s still worth adding to your MCU collection. The final three 4K movies from the franchise will be coming Oct. 1 with “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Ant Man” (2015) and “Doctor Strange” (2016).
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Pepper gives Tony a helping hand with his expired Arc Reactor in his chest. (2 & 3) Tony gives the silver Mark II suit a first test flight. (4) Pepper gives Tony a gift of his original Arc Rector.
(1) Stark weaponized his Iron Man suit and flew to Gulmira, Afghanistan to take down the terrorist who've overrun Ho Yinsen's village. (2) Women and children are forced out of their homes to become slaves. Stark takes aim at the hostiles. (4) Stark destroys a Ten Rings' tank. (4) Iron Man is targeted by two F-22 Raptors after his actions in Afghanistan.
(1) Obadiah Stane leaves Tony to die, after confusing he was the one who planned his kidnapping by the terrorists. (2) Stane built his own Iron Monger Armor. (3) Tony Stark prepares to address the media.
"It is one thing to question the official story, and another entirely to make wild accusations or insinuate that I'm a superhero. I never said you're a superhero. You didn't? Well, good, because that would be outlandish and, uh... fantastic. I'm just not the hero type. Clearly. With this laundry list of character defects, all the mistakes I've made, largely public. Just stick to the cards, man. Yeah, okay. Yeah. The truth is... I am Iron Man." — Tony Stark