As a character, Tony Stark/Iron
Man has always been a little too much for me to swallow. Fine,
Superman's from another planet and has a catch-all array of superpowers.
Batman is "just a man," but a very wealthy one with a memorable
dark streak. But Tony Stark? Well, he's basically Howard
Hughes - if Howard Hughes had an atomic heart implant keeping him
alive, a superhuman command of the practical applications of physics,
and of course enormous wealth and a king-like command of immeasurable
corporate resources. Oh, and plus: Stark flies around in a rocket-powered
exoskeleton that gives him the strength of ten men and access to every
piece of technical data in existence.
So he's a superhero.
But that's a lot of "special powers." Still, the 2008 blockbuster
feature version of Iron Man with Robert Downey, Jr., was a hell
of a lot of fun, and I'll certainly see the sequel. The disc
in question here collects the first six episodes of the animated Nicktoons
series Iron Man: Armored Adventures, which was produced and timed
to capitalize on the feature's success. Whereas Bruce Timm's
animated superhero adventures are meant to be largely canonical in nature,
tying into DC characters' established histories, this series deviates
from Stark's "biography" by recasting him as a teenager.
As if Stark's many talents and gifts weren't hard enough to choke
down, they are now attributed to a sixteen-year-old. I applaud
this show on some levels (see below), but its premise is ridiculous.
Iron Man is a weak superhero - too glossy, too fancy, with too many
privileges, which makes it hard to empathize with him. Making
him a teenager just adds to the absurdity.
Taking its lead from the 2008
film, the two-part pilot episode, titled "Iron, Forged in Fire,"
has Tony Stark taking over his father's company when Stark, Sr., dies
in a plane crash. Believing his father's associate Obadiah Stane
to be behind the crash, Tony suits up and uncovers a plot by the Mandarin
to reclaim the powerful Makluan rings. In subsequent episodes,
with the help of his friends and schoolmates Rhodey and Pepper Potts,
Iron Man faces down the Mandarin again, along with Blizzard and the
The stories of the episodes
are largely predictable and offer a generic level of narrative suspense.
Unsurprisingly, character development is scant. However, what
does set this series apart is its interesting (if not entirely successful)
visual style. I don't know the technical details of the animation
process or processes used, but it's a computer-generated approach
that incorporates a significant nod to a classic 2D look. The
overall design is lovely and more refined than the average television
cartoon show. Backgrounds look especially good, and lighting effects
are well-rendered. On the other hand, character design gets short
shrift. Bodies in motion look jerky and stiff, and mouths move
without regard to dialogue - it's like watching a poorly dubbed
film in that regard. The lack of attention to character detail
is especially distracting because backgrounds and the overall design
- particularly during action sequences - are so strong.
These six episodes are generally
fun, despite the caveats I've enumerated above. Stark is appealing
as a personality, even if totally implausible as a high-schooler.
His curiosity motivates him, and a self-taught genius can't be too
bad of a role-model, I guess. I think it's a great show for
kids. While Iron Man: Armored Adventures doesn't have
the sophistication or grasp of the epic shared by Justice League
or Batman: The Animated Series, it's an enjoyable show that
indulges in some pretty visuals and maintains just enough brains about
Iron Man: Armored Adventures is a pretty fun show that kids should enjoy quite a bit. It stretches credulity - even for the genre - but serves up some engaging action in a visually-interesting package. For the general audience, rent it.