As any regular reader of the site knows, I’m very much “in the tank” as far as Iron Man is concerned. My affinity for the character and his history have fascinated me most of my life. When the movie came roaring out of the gate at the start of the blockbuster season in May, it was (to my relief) a solidly executed, fantastically detailed, humorous and exciting exploration into the birth of Iron Man and his inventor Tony Stark.

My opinion of the film has not changed since I reviewed the theatrical release in May. If anything, my opinion of it has only grown stronger. True, The Dark Knight may have bested Iron Man in box office, fan and critical approval – but was it fun? Could you sit down and watch the grim and gritty tale of Gotham’s protector over and over again or would it be too exhausting. For my money, Iron Man was the movie of 2008.

To that end, what can be said about the release of Iron Man on DVD? Plenty, as it turns out.

If you’re thinking about buying the standard wide screen edition of the film (and if you were planning on buying the full-screen edition, you can leave right now), shell out the extra bucks and get the ultimate 2-disc edition. When they call it “ultimate,” they’re not kidding. There are nearly 4 hours of extras on this bad boy and hardly any of them disappoint.

There are your boilerplate deleted or expanded scenes, and, for the most part, you can see why they were cut. There are more than a few extended scenes that take place at Andrews Air Force Base that don’t add much to the narrative. You kind of get the feeling that they were just appreciative to the Department of Defense for giving them access and they wanted to capture as much as possible before they were kicked off the base.

There are other scenes that were filmed that put a different spin on things. For example, a scene where Tony organizes a party in Dubai to put him closer to the insurgents who captured him when he flies in with the Mark III suit and destroys their weapons depot. Returning from his encounter with the two jets, badly damaged from battle, Pepper discovers Tony in the armor helmet off and enjoying a scotch while the other party-goers sleep it off. Not as funny as the “Admit it – this isn’t the worst thing you’ve caught me doing” line from the original movie, and it’s easy to see why these scenes were cut.

On the second disc, there is an an exhaustive 7-part documentary called “I Am Iron Man” the reveals the making-of process with more detail than I can seem to recall from a full-scale Hollywood action movie. They show nearly everything from concept to competition. They show a great deal of the pre-production work, the concept art, story pitch sessions with the Marvel editorial brain trust, the body casting sessions for star Robert Downey Jr., the effects development, sound development, putting the suit on, taking the suit off… everything. Some might find this amount of depth grueling. I loved every minute of it. I never been this happy watching DVD extras in my life. Admittedly, it’s a lot to process in one sitting. I had to step away from it and come back at a few different points. But for anyone who is interested in the movie-making process even in a general sense, this documentary will be of value to them.

Fun fact: Director Jon Favreau lost over 70-pounds during production on the film to play the part of Happy Hogan. Most telling, he talked about adjustments that needed to be made to his wardrobe as well as his wigs! He basically admits he was a fat head at the start of production.

But I digress.

Additional features on the disc include a second 6-part documentary called “History of the Hero” which chronicles the evolution of the character in the comic books over the last 45 years. It not only does a good job of bringing viewers unfamiliar with the comics up to speed, but it puts some of the larger story points of the movie into context as well as set the stage for areas of the character’s history that are sure to be covered in subsequent movie sequels.

The featurette “Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man” does an excellent job of highlighting the artists behind Iron Man’s near-seamless digital effects work. There’s even an extended portion of the piece dedicated to the development of Tony Stark’s inside-the-helmet view or HUD – Head’s Up Display.

The filmmakers had a considerable challenge showcasing Robert Downey Jr. in the armor when his face and expressions can’t be seen. The development of the HUD was a brilliant solution. Not only did it bring you inside the armor, but it lent emotional weight to all of the armor sequences by allowing us to feel what Tony feels, his exhilaration, his fear, his struggle. The amount of detail that went into the tactical display of information inside the HUD will astound you. Most of those scenes only show up for a fraction of a second in the movie. But every piece of information you see has a purpose and it is a great example of the love and attention to detail all of the crew members put in on this film.

The producers aren’t without a sense of humor, though. They also included The Onion’s parody news clip “Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to be Adapted into Full Length Film,” which was a welcome surprise.

There are still more extras to be found on the disc, including Robert Downey Jr’s screen test, a scene breakdown between Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges and still galleries containing over 175 photos. But going into it at this point would be overkill.

Obviously I’m recommending this DVD as highly as I can. There are a few different bonus editions of the film floating around depending on where you shop. Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy all have collector’s editions of the ultimate 2-disc set with bonuses including the pilot to the upcoming animated Iron Man: Armored Avengers, a helmet-shaped DVD case and mini-bust of Iron Man respectively. Whichever one you choose to go with is totally up to you. What counts is the DVD inside – and this is one of the biggest bangs for you buck that you’re likely to get all year.

↓ Transcript
Theater Hopper reviews the 2-disc Iron Man Ultimate Edition on DVD.