Friday, December 19, 2008

[DVD] The Invincible Iron Man (2007)

The only reason why I picked this up was because it's on cheap sale, and it doesn't hurt to see how Marvel would have envisioned their hero way before the live action feature film starring Robert Downey Jr hit the big screens, right?

The Invincible Iron Man is an origin story, but as far as origins are concerned, they are open to updates and reinterpretation. The original Stan Lee version had Tony Stark develop his suit of armor during the Vietnam War, since this character was developed in the 60s. With the movie version, it got updated to reflect some Middle East sentiments. For this animated version, since they wanted to fuse his origins to that of chief villain The Mandarin, we have it set in the Orient, where Stark Enterprises got itself a project to lift an aged old monument from the buried underground, only to unleash some prophecy which involves the second coming of The Mandarin.

There are a couple of changes to how Tony got his heart injured and had to rely on an oversized pacemaker, but this time he got help from good friend Rhodes, since he's now an employee of Tony, and has nothing to do with the Air Force. I suppose purists would already foam at the mouth by now. Nonetheless you know the drill as plot elements are kept quite consistent - they build a crude suit of armour, and break away from imprisonment. But to speed things up to meet run time requirements, it turns out that Tony Stark already has a whole array of suits back in his penthouse, and can call upon the fancy variations to do battle with the Elementals who are in the quest to recover the Mandarin's power rings to resurrect him.

The action sequences do look a bit lacklustre, because the Elementals are basically one-trick ponies, and it doesn't take much effort for our hero to dispatch them one by one. Then again of course this is Tony Stark's first foray as a hero utilizing his suits for good, so he's not all that versed with battling enemies, and magical ones at that too. But in an effort to build up to the climatic finale, there are a couple of missteps. First, it's actually an antique armour that he uses - for one I would like him to have used his most powerful suit available, but no thanks to SHIELD. And if you think the finale battle would be something like the image on the back cover of the DVD sleeve, it's not! In fact while there's an interesting twist on The Mandarin which you could see coming from a mile away, alas the battle is nothing but a big letdown.

There are also a couple of recurring characters to complete the animated universe, such as Tony's dad Howard, where the plot follows that of Batman Begins involving some major boardroom struggle, as well as faithful secretary Pepper Potts, who had a lot more to do here than Gywneth Paltrow's version in the feature film. But they don't add much value to the film here. The pace moves quite hurriedly, and coupled with the disappointing lack of a proper finale, this is one animated flick that could have been much better if it provided some more exciting action sequences, since after all, an animated feature opens up the imagination to unlimited boundaries, just like how a page on a comic book does the same.

The Code 3 DVD by Alliance Entertainment is presented in anamorphic widescreen format and 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. No subtitles available, but closed captioning is provided. A 20 chapter scene selection also allows you to skip the boring parts and zoom in straight to the action.

Special features wise, there's an Alternate Opening Sequence which lasts for 3 minutes, which is actually a long prologue about the Mandarin and the prophecy in which he will return one day to wreck havoc. Would have made for a cool introduction before the Marvel opening credits rolled. The Origin of Iron Man documentary is the money shot in this Special Features section, where for 12 minutes you get to hear from both the filmmakers and the comic writers and artists on what the appeal of Iron Man is, which includes head honchos like Joe Quesada. We get to learn of Iron Man's comic book origins, as well as see some comic book panels both classic and contemporary. Spoilers are abound, so watch the animated film first before launching this feature.

Other than that, the rest of the extras included didn't surmount to anything. There's a gallery titled The Hall of Iron Man Armor where a total of 15 armors and their descriptions are placed in gallery styled presentation, which includes which issue in the comics they first appeared in. Iron Man Concept Art runs for 3 minutes and shows off some storyboards, character designs, raw set layouts, and both 2D and 3D computer modelling and rendering. No commentary to go along unfortunately, so it's just an exercise for the eyes.

Lastly, for those who want to take a look at more Marvel Animated Films, then there's A Look At Doctor Strange which consists of 7 minutes worth of the opening scene from the new animated film focused on the titular character, which is also an origin film.

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