What we have here is the creation of one of Marvel’s classic characters. Starring in The Invincible Iron Man, the classic Marvel character finally has an animated movie to call his own. And guess what? Both the DVD and the movie are pretty good.
How does the synopsis go? 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 is known in the prophecy, strong enough to defy fate and turn back the malevolent forces hell-bent on earth’s destruction?
Can I say I enjoyed the movie? Yes. I thought it was relatively well done with some great voice acting and some pretty superb action sequences. Was I blown away by it? No, not really. I was engaged in the film from the get-go, but found that some scenes dragged on a bit too long. The film goes back and forth between more ‘adult’ drama and action sequences without ever finding a good balance between them. I found they didn’t achieve this until the big climactic fight at the end (which I’ll get to in a little bit). It’s a good character study on Tony Stark, providing us with a full character arc with an opening left for further adventures, which I would gladly welcome with open. In short, I do think Iron Man fans will be split down the middle, most enjoying the movie and others lets down at the liberties the movie takes.
This movie basically acts as Iron Man Begins, updating the classic origin for a whole new generation of viewers. We watch Tony Stark go from self-absorbed, skirt chasing inventor millionaire to selfless hero in the span of eighty minutes. He’s given an updated origin as we see his humble beginnings in the Iron Man suit, both as a life-saving measure and as selfless superhero. With sidekick Rhodey by his side, he’s able to help save the day from magical warriors unleashed after he tries to raise an ancient Chinese city.
Personally, I wasn’t too crazy about the Elementals being the first major battle for the hero, though the initial skepticism and then “I can’t explain it” attitude from Tony does help the story. I would have preferred a more realistic and technology-based opponent, but pitting futuristic technology against ancient mysticism does provide a nice counter-balance for the movie. It throws Iron Man completely out of his element (pun intended), forcing him to think on his feet and go up against something that money can’t fix.
Facing off against the four creatures does get a bit repetitive, with each fight scene feeling a bit reminiscent of the one before. It’s not until the big showdown at the end that we really get something different. The movie does seem to struggle with trying to the balance the more down-to-earth business and terrorist subplots with the more mystical monster-fighting aspect the movie indulges in from time to time. I think a more grounded villain would have done wonders in providing an even tone for the movie. The more mindless action does provide a sense of relief from the movie heavy subplots, but it would have been great to have those action sequences boost the actual adult dilemmas in the feature.
As for the big climactic battle, it’s handed pretty well. Not only does Tony Stark have to do battle with these mystical forces, but another character (who I won’t mention to keep this review somewhat spoiler-free) also has to do battle to do what’s right in the end. Many viewers will see the big twist at the end coming, but others should be pleasantly surprised with how it works. However, I do have a problem or two with the final battle itself, namely how it’s presented. Again, I’ll try not to spoil it, but I thought it could have been handled a bit better, and possibly really push the PG-13 rating, if they opted to go all out with it, instead of playing it safe with shading certain body parts. I don’t want to say any more, but viewers will know what I mean upon seeing it.
The character designs, for the most part, seem to play it safe. They’re not edgy in any sense, nor bland. I will say that the design of Tony Stark himself isn’t the best. I prefer the design used in the Ultimate Avengers movies, as I though that suited a modern take on the character better than the somewhat outdated pencil mustache and wavy hair. Still, the design, lifted straight from the comics, seems to give a classic touch to the character. The remaining supporting cast, such as Rhodey, Howard Stark, etc, seem to be direct translations of their comic book counterparts. The Mandarin, however, is given a great makeover, coming off as more creepy than he ever has before.
Overall, I’d say this was a good, not great, movie. While not as good as Marvel’s Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, I found it better than Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther. The animation was a bit uneven, being great in some parts and sloppy in others. The mesh of 2D and 3D isn’t seamless, but there are some instances where it looks great, and others where it could have used some extra attention. I do want to note both the background paintings and the scores are remarkable for this feature, making the movie both look and sound gorgeous. It’s a welcome addition to the growing animated Marvel library, but shows that there are still some chinks in the armor that need to be worked out.
The Invincible Iron Man is given a pretty standard DVD, with a small collection of extra and a serviceable presentation. Released through Lionsgate in the US and Maple Pictures in Canada, we’re treated to a nice looking widescreen transfer of the feature.
The audio and video for the movie isn’t perfect mind you, I found there to be some issues with the transfer, especially with the interlacing found mostly on the 2D animation, specifically with the animation on the character’s mouths. There were a few times where I found myself perplexed at the odd mouth movement, only to realize the interlacing made it sometimes difficult to clearly see the facial movements. It’s not a problem that plagues the entire movie, but it does pop up on occasion. The sound design, however, is sharp.
The action scenes sound great, and the detail used to bring the world of Iron Man alive is staggering. Even the tiniest of sound effects comes out loud and clear. The DVD handles the balance between music and action perfectly, as well. Never too soft, or never too overbearing. And I hate to use this comparison, as I’ve seen it noted in a few other reviews for this movie, but I want to make a quick note of the score. While I found the movie score to be simply excellent, I found it a bit reminiscent of the score from Batman Begins. Perhaps that’s why I find this movie so easily comparable to the 2005 big-budget blockbuster, but I could swear I heard some similar music cues. That’s not a negative thing, mind you, but there were times when I thought I was listening a completely different movie. Still, the audio on this disc is top-notch.
The extras are on par with the previous animated Marvel releases. We get a nice featurette discussing the origins of the character and the movie. The creative team explain why they went the route they did, starting at the basics with the character and using a rather surprising approach for their the hero’s adversary. It’s not as thorough as I’d like, but it right in line with the extras seen previously. Everyone from Craig Kyle to Joe Quesada share their two cents on the classic character and why they thought he was the perfect choice for an animated feature.
Also on tap are a couple galleries, one of Iron Man’s armor and another of model sheets and 3D characters. The armor gallery is a great treat for fans. We get a look at the various armor Iron Man has worn throughout his comic history, though it feels slightly incomplete. I may have overlooked it, but I saw nothing of his current armor or status anywhere in the gallery. The 3D models and character sheets give us a look at some of the behind the scenes production of the movie.
We have an alternate opening which was dropped for the movie. The alternate opening proves a brief history of The Mandarin and actually would have added to the film, but at the same time would also make some of the twists at the end predictable. It’s great to watch after the film, though, and looks great. Obviously incomplete, it still looks pretty sharp.
And definitely worth mentioning is the Doctor Strange previous, offering the first eight minutes of so of the next animated feature. In short, it looks spectacular and I can’t wait. I’m not even a Doctor Strange fan, but this movie already has my undivided attention.
Overall, it’s a fine disc. Nothing too jam-packed, but on par with what the Lionsgate/Marvel films have been providing. A nice bit of a fluff with a peek into what went on behind the scenes and a nod to the comic origins of the character. The discs themselves look nice, with solid menu and a great presentations. If you’re a Marvel fan, it’s a no-brainer to pick up. If you’re on the fence, I’d say give a rental before opting to pay the full price. Regardless, The Invincible Iron Man (both the DVD and movie) come Recommended.
For a more detailed review, please visit Marvel Movie Age’s The Invincible Iron Man website.