The Invincible Iron Man
Studio: Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Marvel Animation
Release Date: January 23rd, 2007

Synopsis: Past and present collide in this epic adventure that reveals the origin of Iron Man. While raising the ruins of a long buried Chinese kingdom, billionaire inventor Tony Stark digs up far more than he bargained for. He unleashes an age-old prophecy that foretells the resurrection of the Mandarin, the emperor of China's darkest and most violent dynasty. In order to confront the destructive force, Tony creates an armored suit infused with high-tech weaponry. To stop the evil that he himself has raised from the earth, Tony must become his greatest invention ever -- Iron Man! The newly born champion must travel to the four corners of the earth to battle the Mandarin's henchmen, the Elementals -- four magical warriors who harness the power of the elements -- earth, water, wind, and fire -- with deadly chemistry. But is the Iron Knight, as he his known in the prophecy, strong enough to defy fate and turn back the malevolent forces hell-bent on earth's destruction?

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The Invincible Iron Man Feature Review
By Stu

When Marvel that Iron Man was the character that would be star of it’s third direct to DVD features in their collaboration with Lions Gate, I was ecstatic. Being a pretty big fan of the comic book character and an even bigger fan of his previous animated exploits; I couldn’t wait to see him back on the small screen. It’s a DTV too, which means no annoying Broadcast Standards and Practises or stupid network requests/rulings. The stage was set, with previous Iron Man scribe Greg Johnson from Iron Man season two and The Ultimate Avengers handling the script and directing veteran Frank Paur (X-Men: Evolution, Batman: The Animated Series, Spawn) overseeing the project.

Iron Man’s origin is a story that simply put, needs updating when told in the modern day. They did a pretty lousy job last time I saw it on the small screen (reflecting glass…what?!) so I was looking forward to seeing… well… a good writer’s take on it. It’s something I’ve always loved seeing – how they translate a story from the comics into another medium. What do they keep, what do they update, what do they improve upon, it’s all fascinating stuff to me. Given just how many superhero films we’ve seen as of late, it’s surprising just how strong a great number of them are. There’s the odd stinker (hi there, Fantastic Four) but some of them have managed to become even more entertaining than the comic characters they were based upon and ‘fix’ or improve upon their comic book counterparts. (Wasn’t it nice to see an interesting version of Bruce Wayne again in Batman Begins compared to his really dull, almost pointless character in the comics?)

When these ‘changes’ are made, a lot of fans usually get upset. They also complain when they keep everything the same, stating that they’ve already seen it before – there really isn’t any way to win with these things and the only way to truly judge it is to sit down for yourself and watch it with an open mind. Which is what I did. I actually sat down and watched it a few times before compiling this review. The majority of these changes made perfect sense in the context of the story, and proved to actually be very good ideas – I actually thought that having Tony previously created the armours before he was imprisoned as a master stroke, rather than the somewhat impossible scenario that Stan and Jack depicted back in the day. They’ve managed to capture an interesting version of Tony Stark to boot – I’d daresay that this version of Tony is more interesting than his armoured alter-ego. You do question if there’s any reason for him to continue being Iron Man other than personal kicks once he’s defeated The Mandarin, but other than that, they’ve got a pretty solid version of Iron Man, one I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing again. Marc Worden once again returns to voice the Iron Knight and does a stellar job of it. Design wise, Iron Man was looking very cool. Given that Iron Man can’t emote due to his helmet, the creative team opted to created Iron Man in a full 3D model which I actually really like. I loved the original design they did – for reasons I can’t even begin to explain I like Kirby’s robot design and seeing it revamped in 3D was a site to behold! I especially loved the overall clunkiness of it and the scale of it – I thought having it be a few limbs bigger than Tony worked wonderfully. I especially liked the look of it in the final fight scene after Earth Mover and the hordes of The Mandarin’s goons kicked the crap out of him. It was nice to see a variety of armours, both in cameo and the suits he actually wore in the film. Let’s face it – no matter what the occasion, it’s always cool to see the Hulkbuster suit. It’s science.

I thought the animation was constantly well done throughout the film, in both 2D and 3D. There was the odd dodgy shot from the CG here and there – Iron Man’s fight with Fake Fang Foom at the end had a shot was simply terrible – I don’t know if it’s right to say it looked “fake” but if this was a live action movie, that’s probably the term I’d use. One minor complaint though – the colouring seemed a little too light for my liking, everyone seemed to be really, really pale depending on the lighting. Some shots it looked great (see screen grab 44.jpg), whilst others, you wonder when was the last time Tony saw sunlight.

The score on the other hand, needed a lot of work. As Jim Harvey said in his review, some of the scenes seemed very reminiscent of Batman Begins, which I personally liked, as I thought BB had a good score (Mollosus being the best on the soundtrack, for those of you who picked it up). Unfortunately, when it came time for the score to do something original, it fell flat just about every single time. I’ve usually liked most of the music Marvel did in their animated series, but these DTVs all felt like they needed a lot of work. Music does wonders to help building an epic feel and emphasising the tone of the piece and this score really needed a kick up its arse in my opinion.

Overall, I found it to be an interesting film but one thing really let it down in my opinion – the villains. Once again, we get these new, speechless villains working for a bigger main villain, just like the Chitauri in the Ultimate Avengers movie. They practically have no character – just cool powers. Sure, they starred in some great fights scenes but I was hoping to see a little more than that. It also doesn’t help that we had the entire movie hyping up what a bad ass The Mandarin is and he was beaten, rather easily, in the space of five or ten minutes. I’ve got to admit – I didn’t see the twist about the bracelet coming, kudos on that. Whilst I’d have loved to see the likes of Crynsom Dynamo, MODOK or Blizzard as a villain in the movie rather than these character-less Elementals, one can’t deny that it did make for some good fight scenes.

So, as with the previous Ultimate Avengers movies we end up with a very good movie, but I was personally hoping this would be the DTV that really kicked it up a notch. It looks like we’ll have to wait until Dr. Strange to see finally come to fruition!