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When it comes to superhero movies, it's easy to find someone to be the faceless ace inside the costume. The trick is fleshing out the regular joe outside the suit.
That's why Robert Downey Jr.'s casting as Tony Stark in "Iron Man" was a brilliant move by director Jon Favreau. The actor embodies all that defines the wealthy arms dealer -- cavalier demeanor, impulsive charm, disarming confidence.
Favreau saw those qualities in Downey, but the studio wasn't convinced that the actor, who has had off-set turmoil in the past, was right for the part. So screen tests were done.
Lucky for us, the test footage is included on the film's two-disc DVD and Blu-ray disc (Paramount, $40 each), which come out Tuesday. Even when Downey is obviously joking and improvising his way through the demo scenes, he never loses his grip on Stark. It's a keen extra, even at only six minutes, on a release filled with engaging supplements.
The longest extra is the pithy making-of documentary "I Am Iron Man," which runs nearly two hours. Involving all the major players, the documentary covers every aspect of the film's production, including the creation of Stark's armored suit by the effects wizards at Stan Winston Studio.
But there's much more: the 50-minute "The Invincible Iron Man," about the evolution of the Marvel comic-book character; a half-hour look at the movie's digital effects; 10 minutes' worth of rehearsal footage; a photo gallery; trailers; and 25 minutes of deleted scenes. (A low-frills single-disc edition, $30, contains only the deleted scenes.) There's also a hilarious faux news clip from the jokesters at the Onion about how the blockbuster movie was adapted from its popular teaser trailer.
The Blu-ray disc adds a 3-D gallery that will have fanboys quaking in their armchairs. It allows the viewer to zoom in on Stark's three Iron Man suits, as well as that of the villain, and examine them in high-def detail. That disc also has Web-enabled interactive features that were not available before Tuesday's release date.
One notable feature of the DVD isn't really an extra at all. It's the end scene, featuring a surprise cameo by a well-known actor, that sets up the next "Iron Man" movie. Most viewers missed it in theaters, because it comes after eight minutes of end credits, but you can zoom right to it on the disc.
There's only one glaring omission among all the extras: a commentary track. Throughout the other supplements, Favreau and Downey have loads to say about Iron Man, a character they clearly love, so the lack of commentary is a disappointment. An eventual "ultimate edition" to add this would seem inevitable. But we still have a fine package in Tuesday's release.
In "I Am Iron Man," Downey says that as he walked around the legendary Stan Winston Studio's workshop and saw evidence of its Oscar-winning work on other superhero movies, such as "Spider-Man," he thought, "God, it would be really great if I could be one of these."
Now, he is. He is Iron Man.
Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542.