Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

There’s something missing in these Animated Marvel Direct-To-Video films that is keeping them from being ‘good’.  I didn’t quite figure out what the problem was until I viewed the Marvel produced ‘Mosaic’, an animated feature that was absolutely no good.  Upon further review, ‘The Ultimate Avenger’ series and ‘The Invincible Iron Man’ aren’t much better, but those animated films have the luxury of riding on their history.  You already familiar with Captain America, The Wasp, Thor and Iron Man even before you watch a single frame, and you’re basically just pleased to see them in motion.  ‘Mosaic’ on the other hand is a new story, based on new characters and it MUST stand on its own and it simply doesn’t measure up.

But on to the ‘Invincible Iron Man’.  For those who don’t know, Tony Stark is a callous playboy industrialist and head of  the Stark Enterprises Technology division, as the company itself is run by his old man, Howard Stark.  Off in China somewhere, long time Stark confidant and chief engineer Jim Rhodes is heading an operation to raise an ancient city against the wishes of a violent terrorist group.  So while these terrorist and are blowing up stuff and shooting people, and Rhodes is running around scared for his life begging Tony for help, Mr. Stark is far too busy hottubbing it with the lovelies and drinking cognac. 

As rotten luck would have it, Rhodes is kidnapped, but not before they raise the ancient city.  Seems it’s been written in a prophecy that the raising of the ancient city would bring to cause a chain of events that would resurrect the evil Mandarin.  Tony finally makes it to China only to have his humvee blown up and a big piece of shrapnel embed itself into his heart.  Fortunately for Tony, his boy Rhodes, being an ex Army

medic and all, manages to make a pacemaker out of some spare parts and paper towels he has lying around.  As impressive as that may be, Tony Stark manages to create a flying, impenetrable, repulsor firing suit of armor out the same stuff.  Now it’s up to the invincible Iron Man to stop the Mandarin's evil henchman, the Elementals, before they collect all five rings and raise the Mandarin from his long sleep.

The animation in the ‘Invincible Iron Man’ is definitely a step above from a lot of the animation we’re seeing coming from this side of the pond, but still lags behind in style and quality to a lot of the anime coming out of Japan.  Basilisk, in particular comes to mind, but nonetheless, the mix of traditional cel, and 3D works fairly well here.  There’s quite a bit of action in the story too with explosions, fights, deaths, mayhem and total chaos competently filling the screen.  But the action wasn’t very involving for whatever reason.  You just sat there watching the fireworks go off, but it didn’t give one any sense of thrill or danger.  The main issue that I had with ‘Iron Man’ was in the story elements of the tale.  They took some time developing the story to start, which can be a good thing, and Iron Man doesn’t show up until about 40 minutes into the production, but it’s as if the creators looked at their watch, and said ‘Damn, we need to get Iron Man in this thing’ and boom, there he is.  Complete with every conceivable Iron Man armor that Tony Stark has ever built.  At first we thought we were watching the beginnings of the Iron Man legend, but then we’re pretty much told that Iron Man existed all along.  It was just a secret project that Tony Stark was working on.

There were some amusing inconsistencies as well.  For instance, when the evil Chinese terrorist open fire with automatic machine guns on the armor Tony built from sewage pipe and paper towels and whatnot, the bullet bounce off, as one would expect.  However when the resurrected soldiers of the Mandarin fire their wooden arrows at the ‘Invincible’ Iron Man, they knock Iron Man out the sky and then start kicking his ass.  There was also an interesting little scenario where the character of Lei Mei was fighting in the nude, and the shenanigans with animated smoke, mud and dust they had to go through to cover her up plumpy bits was just silly.  Why make her naked in the first place? 

I think my biggest disappointment, being fairly knowledgeable of the Iron Man Universe, was that it strayed too much from the original story line.  Instead making a great, cohesive, faithful first film, it would seem they made this as if there will never be another and tried to shove as much stuff into it as they could.

All in all, ‘The Invincible Iron Man’ was a mildly entertaining, if somewhat disconnected animated romp through the Marvel Universe.  Unfortunately, I can’t see these getting much better down the line, but there is always hope I suppose.

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