Friday, October 11, 2013

Iron Man 3 Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
IronMan3BlurayComboPlusDigitalCopyMarvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle.  With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him.  As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?  Robert Downey Jr. (The AvengersIron ManSherlock Holmes) stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7enIron Man 2Iron Man) is Pepper Potts, Don Cheadle (CrashIron Man 2Hotel Rwanda) returns as Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes/ War Machine along with Jon Favreau (Iron Man franchise) as Happy Hogan.  Newcomers to the franchise include Guy Pearce (MementoL.A. ConfidentialThe Hurt Locker) as Aldrich Killian, Rebecca Hall (The PrestigeVicky Cristina BarcelonaThe Town) as Maya Hansen, Stephanie Szostak (The Devil Wears Prada, Dinner for Schmucks) as Ellen Brandt, James Badge Dale (The DepartedShame) as Eric Savin, and Ben Kingsley (Schindler’s List, Hugo, Shutter Island ) as The Mandarin.


Film (5 out of 5 stars) 

The Iron Man franchise ushered in a new Marvel renaissance and launched a whole new universe that served as the foundation for all of the movies that followed it.  Iron Man not only set up all the rest of the Marvel movies, but it also made the entire gamble feasible when it became a commercial and critical hit.  Looking back on just how important that movie was to Marvel, it’s amazing that they had the fortitude to trust in Jon Favreau’s decision to cast Robert Downey Jr. to play Tony Stark considering his earlier issues that almost sidelined his career.  Their faith has paid off more than they could have possibly imagined as each Iron Man movie has been a huge success, culminating with The Avengers which is now the third biggest movie of all time.  In each case, Downey’s Stark has been the linchpin to that blockbuster success and with Iron Man 3, Tony Stark’s arc over all of the movies has come to not only a satisfying close, but also an exciting look into a possible new future for the character.
While most third chapters of a trilogy are the weakest of the bunch, Iron Man 3 avoids those pitfalls by taking chances with the story and the character of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).   Another smart decision was to bring in writer/director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) who along with Drew Pearce decided to strip away all of the material things that made Tony Stark be Tony Stark, and return him back to same kind of conditions that led to him creating an Iron Man suit in the first place.  Another aspect that I love about the Marvel movies is that they all build onto each other and it’s a continuing shared story so in Iron Man 3, Tony is still dealing with the fallout from fighting aliens in New York City that took place in The Avengers.  Tony’s relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is another story element that’s been carried over from movie to movie and it plays a huge role in this movie.
When the movie opens, Tony’s insecurity has gotten so bad that he’s been building a ton of various Iron Man suits so he’s prepared for every eventuality.  That obsession has started to affect his relationship with Pepper who is now living with him in his Malibu mansion.  Tony’s self-imposed isolation in his workshop isn’t helped by the fact that his buddy and former bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is now working and protecting Pepper which leaves Tony alone most of the time with his robots and Iron Man suits.  But as Happy points out, people laugh at you when you say that you’re Iron Man’s bodyguard so he’s now happily enforcing Stark Industries personnel to wear their security badges.
When Happy is injured in one of a series of bombings caused by The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and his terrorist group, it finally forces Tony out of his workshop.  Angry, Tony issues a direct challenge to The Mandarin, which inadvertently starts a chain reaction that changes his life.  It starts when the Mandarin’s men attack Tony’s house with Tony, Pepper, and Tony’s blast from the past one night stand friend, Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) who had come to warn Tony.  Tony is presumed dead by the public but in actuality, Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany) took him to Tennessee as that flight-plan had already been locked in as Tony was planning to go there to investigate the Mandarin.  After a rough crash landing that breaks the suit and renders Jarvis temporarily non-functional, Tony is left without his usual support for the first time in a long time.  
With his best friend Rhodey (Don Cheadle) being sent all over the world in search of the elusive Mandarin in his newly rechristened Iron Patriot armor, the only help Tony can count on is a smart teenage boy named Harley (Ty Simkins) who helps him fix his Iron Man armor.  Unfortunately for Tony, The Mandarin has no such limitations as he has his own army and allies that include Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) a man whose previous encounter with Tony years ago changed his life and gave him the passion to build up his company Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM).  There’s also Killian’s surly henchman Eric Savin (James Badge Dale) who turns out to be much tougher than he appears thanks to a mysterious substance called Extremis that has regenerative and other properties.
Between losing the capability of his armor, the absence of his support team, and being encouraged to improvise on his feet like he once did by Harley, Tony is offered a new lease on life.  The movie does an excellent job showing how his past attitudes and mistakes have come back to haunt his present life.  Because of those challenges, they also end up providing him a new future and outlook that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  Out of all of the Marvel characters we’ve seen so far, none of them have had as great of a character arc than Tony Stark has.  With each movie, he’s grown as a person and evolved every time with Iron Man 3 being the culmination of all of those experiences.
One of the amazing things about this film is how much it feels like it’s come full circle and how it has something of a finality to it.  That’s emphasized by the final line of dialogue in the movie and the following clips from all three Iron Man movies during the end credits.  The fact that the film ends the way it does by leaving you wondering how it could continue after this ending is a testament to the brilliance of the script and the fact that Marvel is willing to trust in Black’s instincts. Not to mention their absolute faith in Joss Whedon to be able to still find a way to integrate Iron Man into The Avengers: The Age of Ultron.  I can’t say enough good things about this film as I think it was one of the best of the year and one of Robert Downey Jr.’s best performances.  The more I watch the film, the more I appreciate it and I think that will be the case for everyone else as well.  I really hope we get to see more of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in more than just the next two Avengers films as I believe he is indispensable to the Marvel Universe.

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

One of the overlooked benefits to Disney buying Marvel is the fact that they are now responsible for putting out the Blu-rays which is is awesome news when it comes to video and audio quality. Disney has a long track record for putting out high quality presentations and Iron Man 3 continues that trend.  This 1080p (2.40:1) transfer is reference quality as you’d expect for one of the biggest movies of the year.  It’s full of vibrant colors, sharp detail, realistic flesh-tones, and without any kind of flaws.  The black levels are solid and inky and even during the darker scenes noise isn’t an issue.  This is a fantastic transfer that looks incredible on Blu-ray.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Iron Man 3′s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is just as amazing as the video quality.  Every one-liner, witticism, and put-down comes across clearly and cleanly.  The rear channels deliver a constant wave of sound with super accurate cross channel directionality that really makes the movie a fantastic immersive experience.  Every repulsor blast, explosion, rocket boost, and more are delivered with a lot of power from the LFE channel.  This lossless mix is absolutely flawless with no issues to complain about.  

Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

While I liked the extras that have been included, I know that there has to be a better version coming at some point that has a lot more extras.  There’s plenty of cool stuff here like the Agent Carter One-Shot and they’ve also tried to do something new with the Jarvis app.  Here’s what you will get with this version:
  • Restore the Database Second Screen Experience - Those easy days of kicking back and watching the second screen experience are over because now you have to work for it.  Now you have to download the Iron Man 3: Jarvis App (which is pretty cool by the way) and then try to find images to scan with the app while you watch the extras.  Some of them can be found at the end of some of the featurettes, and others can be found hidden within the menu.  I’m ashamed to say that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find them all so I can see Joss Whedon talk about the next Avengers movie but I’m still missing one of them.  While it’s a cool idea and a good app, it would have been better to limit it to a handful of images and to not make it the only way to unlock the full second screen experience.  Another plus for the app is that they’ve gotten Paul Bettany to voice Jarvis again for the app.
  • Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter - If you wondered what happened to Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger like me, then you will be happy yo see this short film that gives us those answers.  Life doesn’t seem to be going too well for Carter as she works for a chauvinistic boss (played by Bradley Whitford) who takes pleasure making her do paperwork while her male colleagues get all of the missions. One night Carter gets her chance at a mission and to show everyone how awesome she is. This was a lot of fun to watch and I’ve heard that  Marvel is thinking about creating a television show all about Agent Carter because of the positive response to this short film. I also like the two surprise cameos included towards the end of the film which offers a nice tie-in to what happened before in Captain America.
  • Audio Commentary - Director and co-writer Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce join together to offer a funny and informative commentary that really covers their intentions for the movie instead of just commenting on what’s on the screen.  I’ve always liked Shane Black and his kind of humor so I really enjoyed listening to him on this track.  Drew Pearce was also interesting to listen to and I liked his sardonically British comments especially when he insults Black.  This is a fun commentary that I recommend everyone to listen to.
  • Iron Man 3 Unmasked - The behind the scenes extras are usually my favorite part of the special features so this is the best part of that kind of extra on this disc.  The good news is that it’s very good but the bad news is that it’s about eleven minutes long.  I know there has to be a ton more footage out there, so I’m pretty sure that there will be a deluxe edition version coming out at some point.  Hopefully all of that won’t be limited to another briefcase set that makes you buy all of the movies all over again.  A double dip is bad enough but it’s even worse if you have to repurchase an entire collection just to get some extras. 
  • Deconstructing the Scene: Attack on Air Force One - For all of those people who keep complaining about how many film’s rely on CG too much, they should watch this extra which shows just how much of this stunt was done practically.  It’s pretty impressive and they show what was real (which was most of it) and where they did insert CG effects.  It’s a nice detailed look at one of the film’s coolest sequences. 
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes - Sixteen minutes of scenes that includes more media coverage from Bill Maher, Joan Rivers, alternate cuts of the film that were removed, and some extended scenes.  Most of these wouldn’t have improved the film but some of the alternate cuts would have changed some of the film.
  • Exclusive Look at Thor: The Dark World - Any look at the sequel to Thor is a good thing in my book.  Most of this footage has already been seen in other trailers but it’s still cool to see.
  • Gag Reel - Five minutes of the cast having fun, messing up, green screen filming, and more. 

Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Iron Man 3 is a fantastic film that’s full of humor, action, and smart character development that really builds on the previous Iron Man movies.  The Blu-ray is almost as good as the movie, as it has flawless video and audio quality, but it drops the ball on the special features.  For a movie this big, there’s no excuse for that as it’s obvious that they are saving the other extras for a second future release which I don’t like.  It’s not as bad as what Paramount is doing with Star Trek Into Darkness as they’re splitting the extras up by retailers, but I think they should put it all out at once or at least tells fans that a second one is coming so those that want to wait can save their money until the deluxe edition comes out. Despite that, I still recommend this Blu-ray unreservedly as the movie is awesome and you can’t beat the video and audio quality on this disc!
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