Before Batman and the Joker came along, "Iron Man" stood as this summer's big comic book movie success story. After landing in theaters in early May, it emerged as the first mega-blockbuster of the season, earning more than $318 million in North America and immediately prompting the elated heads of Marvel Studios to sign off on a sequel.
Given its popularity, "Iron Man" is practically guaranteed to dominate the home video scene with its arrival today on DVD. To underscore that domination, the movie is releasing in three versions: A standard DVD ($29.99) with scant extras, the two-disc Ultimate Edition ($39.99) and the Ultimate Edition on Blu-ray disc (also $39.99). Anyone anxious to geek out on every minute detail in hero Tony Stark's universe should snag one of those latter options, which tell the story behind "Iron Man" in exceedingly specific detail. How specific? Honestly, after watching the nearly two-hour "I Am Iron Man" documentary -- which takes a you-are-there approach to almost every aspect of the production, from casting to post-production editing -- I am almost convinced that I worked, in some capacity, as director Jon Favreau's assistant.
But that exceptional doc is only the beginning. Once that two hours has elapsed, prepare to spend: 47 minutes watching "The Invincible Iron Man," a history of the comic's evolution as told by numerous authors, from creator Stan Lee to Warren Ellis; 27 minutes with "Wired: The Visual Effects of 'Iron Man'," which breaks down the painstaking work done by three different effects houses; and 24 minutes on a series of deleted and extended scenes, one of which takes us to a party at Stark's previously unseen Dubai mansion. And that doesn't even mention some additional featurettes, a series of photo galleries and Blu-ray extras like "Iron Man IQ," a Web-based application that allows viewers to answer and share trivia questions about the film. The casual movie fan will undoubtedly consider this overkill of the highest order. But DVD-philes -- the sort of people who imagine a heaven filled with angels, unconditional forgiveness and unlimited commentary tracks -- will be thrilled.
As interactive and gadget-centric as "Iron Man" is, some of the finest moments in both the movie and the DVD material come from a most traditional Hollywood source: the leading man. Robert Downey, Jr., who pumps all the passion into Stark's battery-powered heart, is what makes "Iron Man" soar. For proof, all one needs to do is watch some of his screen tests, included on disc two of the Ultimate Edition. Even while in try-out mode, Downey's face, right down to the slightest tic, tells an entire story. Frankly, "Iron Man" could have been just as entertaining if it had consisted of nothing more than a two-hour close-up on the Academy Award-nominated actor. But without all the fancy visual effects and intense action sequences, there wouldn't be nearly enough fodder for the DVD's extras, would there?
Hidden Bonus Point: Click around on the disc one menu screen to uncover an Easter egg that treats viewers to a meeting of the Stan Lee and Robert Downey, Jr. Mutual Admiration Society. In the brief clip, captured while Lee was on set making his usual comic book movie cameo appearance, Downey thanks Lee for agreeing to cast him as Iron Man and Lee gives Downey acting tips. Yeah, you heard me. Acting tips.
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PHOTOS: 'Iron Man' -- Marvel Entertainment and Paramount Pictures