Iron Man 3 (Combo Pack)
- Street Date:
- September 24th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Michael S. Palmer
- Review Date: 1
- September 21st, 2013
- Movie Release Year:
- Disney/Buena Vista
- 140 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG-13
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review appear in our coverage of 'Iron Man 3 - 3D' (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Music Download).
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
After the box office and critical success of 'The Avengers', 'Iron Man 3' is the first entry of Marvel's Cinematic Universe Phase Two. Or, the first stand alone adventure that will keep audiences happy until 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron'.
Picking up after "the events in New York City", we find ex-military industrialist turned self-made superhero, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) a shell of his former self. Sure, he's still acerbic and brilliant and snarky, but Tony's suffering from superhero PTSD. He can't sleep, thanks to recurring nightmares of falling through an inter-dimensional wormhole, and any brief mention of New York is enough to give him an extreme anxiety attack.
Tony, being who he is, knows he needs help, but instead spends time tinkering, creating and building an entire fleet of new Iron Man suits.
While Tony is close to cracking, two events threaten to send him all the way over the edge. First, an international terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsly) is bombing US targets around the world. There have been nine attacks thus far, and the weird part is investigators have been unable to find any trace of the bombs, or The Mandarin. Second, a man named Aldrige Killian (Guy Pearce) returns from Tony's past to pitch Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) -- who is not only Tony's girlfriend, but the President of Stark Industries -- on a new technology that will allow them to hack and unlock the full potential of the mind. Tony's long time bodyguard, Happy (Jon Favreau), thinks Killian has romantic eyes for Pepper.
When Happy is nearly killed in the next Mandarin attack, Tony, in complete denial of his current capabilities, publicly invites The Mandarin to bring his jihad right to Tony's literal front door where upon Iron Man gets his ass fully kicked and left for dead.
Here begins the true struggle of 'Iron Man 3'.
An Iron Man adventure where Tony Stark is all alone and stripped of his super-suit. What a terrific challenge. A man who, in previous adventures, flies around the world to blow up his enemies, must rely on wits and MacGyver-style creativity to solve a series of mysterious bombings before The Mandarin can attack on America's highest office.
'Iron Man 3' was co-written and directed by Shane Black, who helped resurrect Robert Downey Jr's career with the hilarious and hard-boiled 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang', created 'The Lethal Weapon' franchise, and was on and off the top of Hollywood's highest paid screenwriters list during the spec script boom of the 90s. If you're familiar with Black's work, you'll see a lot of fun parallels in 'Iron Man 3' -- the Christmas time setting, a man teetering on the edge of insanity who usually works alone but must find a way to team with a partner, helicopters destroying a beach front home etc. Black is the king of using genre conventions to subvert expectations, something he does quite well in this film. The other co-writer is Drew Pearce, who wrote and produced the British television series 'Lip Service and 'Damage Control' -- he also penned drafts of a couple big movies in development, Downey's 'Sherlock Holmes 3' and 'Mission Impossible 5'.
What a fantastic choice to liven up the franchise that seemed a little stalled in its second entry. Not to say 'Iron Man 2' is terrible, it just falls prey to the idea that the sequel adventures must involve Iron Man fighting bigger, badder Iron Man style suits and/or robots. Sadly, CGI v. CGI fist fights are less important than personal character stakes.
And that's what 'Iron Man 3' does so well. It's character-centric and plays more like a detective or, at times, a '90s action buddy cop movie when Tony has scenes with Col. Rhodes (Don Cheedle). It's funny; I think most of us keep a soft spot for whatever cinematic era in which we come of age. For me, that's 80s and 90s action movies. Here we have a movie that, tonally, feels like 'The Last Boy Scout', but is actually a superhero flick. What fun. 'IM3' manages to feel epic, with mansions rolling off of cliffs and planes exploding in the sky, but very intimate. And I love all the human and personal challenges, which I think ground the film when we're dealing with potentially supernatural or superhuman antagonists.
The action scenes themselves are also well paced and framed, with a clear sense of geography. Having seen the film a couple times now, it's still a pretty exciting thrill ride. Brian Tyler's score is great too, really upping the emotional connection to the story as well as the suspense and tension.
Finally, while the special effects are perfect, my only real issues with the movie is that it eventually succumbs to the need for a overly long CGI-climax firestorm, and I'm not sure Tony earned the final choice he makes in the film. We obviously can't get too in depth here without spoiling the climax or the film's conclusion, but let me try to skirt around things. One, having seen the climax a couple times now, I think it's a cut above the normal CGI-slog fest. I really enjoyed the way they made this personal with Pepper, but also that she wasn't simply a damsel in distress. But I wonder if the climax is, after a movie of human-sized struggles, a little too easy at times. Further, I wonder if Tony's final moments are a bit of false jeopardy given the forthcoming 'The Avengers 2'. Speaking of those guys, where are the other Avengers?
The more I watch 'Iron Man 3', the more I like it. The nitpicks listed above aren't even terrible problems, or boring scenes. I'm just wondering if one undercuts tension and the other feels a little forced. And, while I think Tony Stark/Iron Man works best when balanced out by the entire team, there are so many ambitious, bold, and smart choices going on with this movie, it's not hard to rank 'Iron Man 3' as one of the better Marvel features.
If you're a little tired of the same old superhero movie, or of the 'Iron Man' franchise, you might just want to give this one another look.
9.24.2013 UPDATE: The original version of this review has been revised to reduce the number of first act plot points described in the summary portion.
Also, some of you will note that the 2D and 3D movie review ratings are slightly different -- 4.5 stars for the 2D and 4.0 stars for the 3D. These may seem odd, or confusing, but I made this choice for two reasons. First, watching 'IM3' in 3D does negate some of the film's overall enjoyability. Second -- and this is more important -- I'm still a little torn by the 4.5 rating I gave the first version of the 2D review. Honestly, slapping a definite number on a motion picture is my least favorite part of the review process. Movies are too subjective. As much as we want to talk about structure and logic and special effects and definable qualities, movies connect with us on a gut level for thousands of reasons, large and small. As such, when I first sat down to review 'IM3', I expected to give it a 3.5 or a 4.0 star rating. In my second and third viewings for the HDD review, I was surprised to find my enthusiasm increasing. Honestly, I was stuck between 4.0 and 4.5 stars, and simply rounded up. By keeping the 2D review at 4.5 and the 3D review at 4.0, I hope this -- despite the potential confusion for those who only look at star ratings or aren't reading these words -- allows the combined averaged rating to equal 4.25 stars. Probably still be too high for some, but that's okay. For me, having thought more about it and seen the film a fourth time, 4.25 is most accurate. Thank you for understanding, reading, and commenting.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-Ray
The 'Iron Man 3' debuts on Blu-ray as a 2-Disc Combo pack. The Blu-ray is a 50GB disc and is compatible with Regions A, B, and C, though at this time we have only tested Region A. After a Marvel logo, previews include 'Thor: The Dark World', 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.', 'LEGO Marvel Super Heroes', 'The Lone Ranger', and 'Iron Man Hulk Heroes United'.
There is also a 3-Disc edition of 'Iron Man 3', which includes all of the above plus a Blu-ray 3D version of the movie, an HD Digital Copy, and a code to download the film's soundtrack. Click here to read that review.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'Iron Man Three' blasts onto Blu-ray with an ever-just-so-shy of perfect MPEG 4 AVC transfer, framed at the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
As we expect from modern, digitally shot blockbusters, 'Iron Man 3' excels at resolution and fine details. Everything is sharp and crisp and in focus, even things in darker areas of the frame. The film's color palette ranges from golden sunsets to cool winter exteriors to lush and vibrant tropical Miami; all render well. Skin tones are even. Visual Effects integration is seamless.
The only minor (minor!) flaws are a couple quick moments of banding in night, or underwater shots, and some slightly gray black levels. Blink and you miss it type stuff. If HDD gave out 4.75 or 4.90 star ratings, I would score 'IM3' thusly.
Overall 'Iron Man 3' is a fantastic high definition presentation that is, for 99.9 percent of the time, clearly demo material.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The only thing better than the video on 'Iron Man 3', is the highly detailed 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
To be fair, I do have one huge complaint, though I can't knock off any points for this. You see, I was extremely lucky, thanks to my work here at HDD, to see 'Iron Man 3' at the very same ToddAO mixing stage in Hollywood where the filmmakers mixed the film in Dolby ATMOS. Meaning, I experienced 'IM3' in one of the world's best sounding cinemas in something like 42.4 surround sound -- complete with subwoofers bigger than my couch at home and the dual overhead arrays.
I say all of that not to brag (again, just lucky), but to point out there's no way my 7.1 home system can compete with my new favorite theatrical sound format...
But it's damn close.
I'm not sure if they went in and did a near-field or home cinema specific mix, but 'Iron Man 3' is a reference quality surround experience. Sure, there's all the stuff you'd expect from an Iron Man movie -- thunderous and robust and deep LFE, extremely articulate panning effects, and extreme rear channel activity during the action sequences. But the filmmakers are very smart to not overuse the mix. There are plenty of quiet moments in the film -- even in the normally deafening action sequences -- which really highlight the track's clarity and precision. You can hear wind in the trees outside, or even little pieces of glass pinging around the room. And Brian Tyler's excellent music really shines.
So, while it may not compare to the theatrical Atmos mix, this 7.1 home cinema mix is a stunner all around. No complaints.
In addition to English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Video Service, Francais 7.1 DTS-HD High Resolution, and Espanol 5.1 Dolby Digital.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
These special features are in HD, but can also be found on the film's DVD-only release.
- Deconstructing the Scene: Attack on Air Force One (HD, 8:43). The filmmakers first thought they were going to have to do this all on a green screens. But then the stunt coordinator called the Red Bull skydiving team. If you thought this sequence was exhilarating before. Watch again when you realize a lot of it is real.
- Exclusive Look at 'Thor: The Dark World' (HD, 1:53). A very short EPK of what we can expect from the next 'Thor' film. "Ask yourself... What will you sacrifice for what you believe?"
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
The remainder of the film's special features are HD exclusives. As an entire package, there's not really much in-depth here save for the commentary. Perhaps there will be more in the inevitable Phase Two collector's edition boxed set.
- Marvel'sIron Man 3: JARVIS - A Second Screen Experience (HD). Didn't have time to do this one myself, but here are the instructions: 1. Download Marvel's Iron Man 3 JARVIS: A Second Screen Experience from the App Store. 2. Launch the app and follow the instructions to locate the encrypted files. 3. Scan the displayed files with your iOS device using the JARVUS Second Screen App to retrieve lost data. 4. Once all files have been recovered and decrypted, JARVIS will then have access to the central database.
- Audio Commentary with director/co-writer Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce. A fun and fact-filled tour through the genesis and making of 'Iron Man Three'. Also, Drew Pearce could be J.A.R.V.I.S. if Paul Bettany ever quits.
- Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (HD, 15:29). A short film that will bridge Agent Carter's time between 'Captain America' and the show they currently have in development at ABC.
- 'Iron Man 3' Unmasked (HD, 10:59). A short EPK about making the movie, but a cut above the normal talking head / movie footage piece.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 16:20). A lot of fun stuff in here.
- Gag Reel (HD, 5;07). It was clearly a blast making this film, though my guess is this reel is much funnier for those who were there. And, yeah, I totally wish I was there.
Thanks to "Captain Simian", here's a guide to finding and unlocking the Encrypted Files for the JARVIS Second Screen Experience:
- Highlight play, press left to highlight Iron Man logo. Press select to bring up a menu. Select intro to begin the JARVIS second screen experience. This will give you one encrypted file.
- Press right while highlighting "Deconstructing the scene: attack on Air Force one"
- Press right while highlighting the deleted scene "Hey is that Thor?"
- Press up on the scene selection of chapter 11
- Press right while highlighting "Espanol 5.1 Dolby Digital" under languages
- Press right while highlighting "Francais" under subtitles.
- Press left while highlighting "Subtitles"
- Watch "Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter" (or load the video, then go back to the main menu once it starts playing)
- Press up while highlighting "Sneak Peaks"
- Watch the featurette "Iron Man 3 Unmasked"
- Watch the Gag Reel I have been unable to locate the last two.
- Press up while highlighting "On" under Audio Commentary
- After watching (or fast forwarding through) the entire movie, let the disc cycle through the various FBI warnings at the end. When the disc returns to the Main Menu, the final code will appear. You may now, on the JARVIS app, unlock 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' teaser seen at the 2013 Comic-Con. (Thanks to G, Jayson, Ryan Flynn, and David Gautreau for the final tip!)
Thanks to a series of smart and subversive choices by the filmmakers, 'Iron Man 3' is a character-based thriller that harkens back to the 90s action movies where co-writer/director Shane Black came of age. Not only is it a fun blockbuster, but the picture and audio are outstanding. The special features are a little light, but otherwise this is a nice package. Recommended.
- Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio
- English, French and Spanish
- Deconstructing The Scene: Attack On Air Force One: Jump into action with the stunt-team
- Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Look – Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World—Experience the spectacular new worlds, unforgettable characters, and pulse-pounding thrills of the upcoming blockbuster movie.
- Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Unmasked—Join cast and crew for a crash course in epic movie-making, Marvel style.
- Gag Reel
- Deleted & Extended Scenes
- Audio Commentary—With Drew Pearce & Shane Black
- And more…
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