The Invincible Iron Man (2007) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and some sensuality
Running Time: 83 min.
Cast (voices): Marc Worden, Gwendoline Yeo, Rodney Saulsberry, John McCook, Fred Tatasciore, Elisa Gabrielli
Director: Frank Paur, Patrick Archibald, Jay Oliva
Screenplay: Greg Johnson (based on the Marvel comic book character created by Stan Lee and popularized by Steve Ditko)
Review published January 24, 2007
Tony Stark is an inventor who has made billions for his corporation, Stark Enterprises, especially in making advanced weaponry for the military. His latest venture is an effort to raise the ruins of an ancient city in China, but some locals are dead set against this, as it brings forth an ancient curse. Prophecy has foretold the resurrection of the powerful and evil sorcerer-emperor named Mandarin, an act that has the potential to bring about a dark era to the world once again. In an effort to combat the powerful forces he has unleashed, Tony crafts a high-tech battle suit of armor, but even he finds that his suit may not be much of a match for the Elementals, not to mention Mandarin himself, should he come to life.
Marvel's third feature-length straight-to-video entry in their Ultimate Avengers series is a spin-off telling the origin of one of their most long-running characters, Iron Man. You don't have to see either of the "Ultimate Avengers" films in order to understand The Invincible Iron Man, as it takes place sometime in the character's past. Both projects feature the voice work of Marc Worden, as well as the combination of standard 2D animation mixed with CG elements during the action scenes. Although animated, the overall thrust of the project is to try to capture a cinematic feel, complete with opening montage, a vibrant score, and an emphasis on spectacle and effects over characterizations.
While staunch Iron Man fans may be ecstatic to see a full-length feature film surrounding their favorite character, for those who aren't fans, or are just unfamiliar, this is likely to induce more boredom than thrills. Although there is some modest character development in seeing Tony Stark's background as an inventor, womanizer and corporate maverick, we really don't identify with him much before he dons his Iron Man costume in an effort to save the world. The origin of the suit(s) is skimpy, and the tie-in of the Iron Knight to the Chinese mythology is a bit difficult to swallow.
However, the real problem with The Invincible Iron Man happens to be that his enemy is The Mandarin, who, to be quite honest, has never really been that memorable as an arch-nemesis, even when it was more fashionable for Iron Man to battle mystical forces and Communist villains. The Chinese sorcery angle isn't particularly appealing to most superhero fans these days, but since the character of Iron Man was born from the supernatural anthology "Tales of Suspense", most of his long-standing enemies tend to fit into this other-wordly archetype.
With decent animation and good scoring, the production values are certainly there, as they have been thus far in the Marvel direct-to-video animation line. If Iron Man is to continue as its own spin-off series for Marvel, it would probably be a better idea to try to bring the character up to date with current comic book preferences in terms of villains and storylines, instead of getting stuck in the same rut that has caused the character's popularity to wane to the point of near-cancellation every few years. Until then, I can only recommend The Invincible Iron Man to Iron Man fans who aren't picky about retconned origins or cosmetic changes in his traditional armor. Everyone else is better off waiting for the live-action film slated to be released in 2008.
-- Iron Man also appears in Ultimate Avengers 2 and Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow.
©2007 Vince Leo