Iron Man 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review: A Flawed, Yet Solid Remaster
The original MCU movie just got a new upgrade. Is the Iron Man 4K a worthwhile new model, or just a fresh coat of paint?
It’s easy to forget this nowadays, but when Iron Man was first released back in 2008, it was perceived as the underdog. It’s hard to fathom a world where this was the case, and yet the film still manages to blow expectations out of the water. Right from the first frame of Iron Man, it becomes clear that you’re in for something special. The movie is filled with great setups and payoffs, especially on a character level. Although there are undoubtedly some dated elements to the plot, the filmmaking and storytelling ultimately remain top-notch.
Director Jon Favreau is a vital creative force for the storytelling in Iron Man, and his film holds up over eleven years after its release. From the iconic use of AC/DC music to the heavy use of practical effects, everything about Favreau’s approach works. Similarly, Robert Downey Jr.’s star-making performance is still an absolute delight. The comedy is effective, but more importantly, it’s also infused with a great deal of heart. Especially in the scenes between Pepper and Tony, the film still manages to make you care about these characters.
If you’re interested in learning more about the production of Iron Man, check out our retrospective on the film here.
As one of only five MCU films to be shoot on 35mm film, Iron Man features a warmer, more natural image than its more recent 4K counterparts. While the film’s 2.40:1 aspect ratio is preserved on this disc, the transfer itself is a 2K upconvert. Instead of scanning the original camera negative, a 2K digital intermediate has been used to upscale the film to 4K resolution. Consequently, the increase in resolution from its 1080p counterpart is noticeable, but minimal at best. There’s a lack of real detail in the image, which seems like a waste considering that is was shot photochemically.
Unfortunately, it seems the resolution isn’t the only issue on this disc. As with the original Blu-ray release of the film, this transfer features heavy use of DNR (digital noise reduction). The image is relatively free of film grain and imperfections, ultimately making it feel more like the recent digitally-shot MCU 4K re-masters. Because of this, slight artifacts can be found throughout this transfer. Aside from these, however, there’s no aliasing or banding to be found on this disc.
Aside from these stylistic changes, the HDR-10 color grade adds a significant improvement to the contrast of the image. Blacks are more vibrant, and highlights are bolder, especially during the daylight sequences. Shadows are well represented, and even Tony’s arc reactor sees a noticeable boost in brightness. Moreover, skin tones are excellent throughout, and the dynamic range naturally offers an improvement. While not particularly colorful, this 4K transfer of Iron Man utilizes a deeper and more natural color spectrum than its predecessor. Although it features a lack of notable improvements to the overall image resolution, the HDR pass in this new transfer is solid.
Presented in 4K UHD with a brand-new Dolby Atoms track, the robust audio mix for Iron Man is a highlight of this release. It naturally reverts to 7.1 for those without the capabilities, but right from jump, the mix features firm low frequencies, with many of the sound effects passing through the subwoofer. It’s not fair to call it bass-heavy, but it certainly carries a sense of weight with the low ends. As a result, no volume calibration is necessary – unless you want to make the walls rumble.
Dialogue comes firmly through the front channels, while channel separation is excellent, especially in the action sequences. The environmental ambiance is also a highlight of this track, which makes for an active and dynamic aural experience. The rock guitar-driven score by Ramin Djawadi perfectly integrates into the mix, while the film’s now-iconic soundtrack is also a given its due. Overall, this sonically-superior audio mix improves on the old 5.1 track in just about every way.
The Special Features
As per usual, the 4K UHD disc of Iron Man contains no supplemental material. Instead, the special features appear on the accompanying Blu-ray disc. Unfortunately, this 4K UHD release doesn’t contain Disc 2 of the for the 2008 Ultimate Edition of the Iron Man Blu-ray. Consequently, the supplemental material on this release feels barebones at best.
Mainly, the amazing feature-length making-of documentary, I Am Iron Man, is nowhere to be found in its entirety. It was one of the best filmmaking documentaries of the past decade, and we only see a piece in the film’s digital supplements. It’s a shame that this release doesn’t contain this incredible feature, a new commentary track or even a new retrospective featurette. As a result, the extras on this release are sorely lacking.
Disc 2 – Blu-ray Feature Film + Bonus
Hall of Armor (1080p): An interactive gallery that lets you explore 3D models of the various armors showcased in the film. Includes, small technical details about each version of the armor.
The Invincible Iron Man (47:04; 1080p): Another port from the 2008 version that includes a play-all function. It offers an in-depth look at the origins and evolution of Iron Man in the comics. While this naturally doesn’t cover the last decade of books, these are a relatively informative and entertaining series of featurettes.
- Friends & Foes
- The Definitive Iron Man
- Demon in a Bottle
- Extremis and Beyond
- Ultimate Iron Man
Deleted/Extended Scenes (23:56; 1080p): A collection of deleted scenes also sourced from the original 2008 Blu-ray release. It’s easy to see why these sequences were either trimmed down or excised completely, especially Terrence Howard’s scenes. With that said, however, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how any of these expanded sequences could have drastically altered the tone and characterization of Iron Man.
- Convoy Ambush
- Craps Table with Tony & Rhodey
- Tony & Rhodey on Stark Jet and Military Convoy
- Rhodey and General Gabriel
- Tony Comes Home
- Tony Begins Mark II
- Dubai Party
- Pepper Discovers Tony as Iron Man
- Obadiah Addresses Scientists
- Rhodey Saves Iron Man on Freeway
- Rooftop Battle
The Suit That Makes The Man (10:00; 1080p): One piece of the fantastic seven-part I Am Iron Man documentary. This part of the documentary focuses on the creation of practical suits for production. Additionally, it also covers Jeff Bridges’ involvement with the film, how Downey Jr. prepared for the role, as well as footage of early rehearsals. Features tons of B-roll footage, including retro interviews Downey Jr., Favreau, Shaun Toub, Practical Effects Supervisor Shane Mahan, Producer Peter Billingsly, and more.
I Am Iron Man – MCU 10th (2:39; 1080p): Not to be confused with the previously mentioned feature-length documentary, this short featurette guides viewers through Tony’s arc in the MCU. Light and fluffy, this contains nothing of real weight.
Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test (6:01; 1080p): As the title implies, this video features the actor’s famous screen test. It includes tests of the Vegas reporter scene, in addition to early versions of the convoy scene, as well as Rhodey’s confrontation with Tony after the dogfight.
In summation, this 4K Blu-ray release of Iron Man is solid, while also being nothing to gush over. Despite being a flawed 4K transfer, it’s certainly also the best Iron Man has looked since its theatrical run. Although it features a lack of notable improvements to the overall image resolution, the HDR pass in this new transfer is solid. The brand-new Dolby Atmos mix is easily a highlight of this disc, presenting a thunderous soundscape. Unfortunately, the recycled supplements and lack of the second special features disc from the previous release doesn’t help this 4K version out much. While it’s sure to please average fans and technical nerds, there’s not much here to justify upgrading from the 1080p version for those who already own it. As a result, this release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment comes recommended with a grain of salt.