Following the first Iron Man movie, Marvel Comics rebooted the Invincible Iron Man comic book series where he faced the son of his major film villain, Ezekiel Stane. This direct to video animé adaptation of that comic book storyline continues Marvel’s foray and dalliance with Japanese animation studio Mad House. Sony who seems to have a license for several Marvel Comics animated characters was also keen on releasing this movie just before the Iron Man 3 premiere. But is Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore good?
In 2011/2012, Marvel partnered with Mad House on four adaptations of its comic books properties to animé and the result was mitigated at best and poor at worst. The problem with this direct to home release is that its sole purpose is to cash in on the release of Iron Man 3. Just like past Marvel animé adaptations, the Blu-Ray starts by the default with the Japanese track with English subtitles. Someone at Marvel and Sony must think hardcore animé fans will enjoy this geeky touch. I find it annoying. If this disc is marketed mainly to North American audiences, it should run in English by default.
Speaking of English, the voice-over was deplorable. It felt like something recorded in a booth months after the animation was produced using cheap actors to provide the voices and a stilted script. The animators did not even add varied lip sync mouth animation, relying on generic mouth open, mid open, full open mouth positions which made the actors look like they were not synchronized with the speech given by characters. As for the “rock and roll” soundtrack vaguely imitating the 1960s cartoon, it was as poor.
The plot was dumb and missed out on many of the plot points established by the comic book series that inspired this animated film. Who were the men recruited by Ezekiel? How did Ezekiel develop his technology? How was Jarvis, the operating system and intelligence running the Stark Iron Men armour and more, able to crack and disrupt the viruses created by Ezekiel? Who was the mysterious woman next to Ezekiel? In the comic book, she was the daughter of the Mandarin.
Some of the problems I had with the animation were the mix of both 3D-generated animation for Iron Man and War Machine’s armours which felt stiff, yet was replaced with actual hand-drawn animations from time to time. The hand-drawn animation used typical animé gestures which made the characters more dynamic, but ignored the fact that armoured characters should not move so non-mechanically. It was tough for the animators to find the right middle.
This film was a cliché about Japanese animation in that it contained a big nuclear-like blast within the first ten minutes of the film and an Akira-like transformation by the main villain. Oh, it also had the double narration of one man and one woman speaking at the same time. Seems to me someone at Marvel and Mad House loves Akira a lot. The Punisher was annoying because he sounded more like Wolverine than himself. I’m also tired of seeing Hawkeye and Black Widow play the S.H.I.E.L.D. lap dog routine. They used that in Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers’ film, the Ultimates comics and now this. I’ll concede Black Widow as Black Nick Fury’s pet enforcer, but there was a time when Hawkeye, notwithstanding what we are told in the extra interview by Marvel Animation and Comics executives, was an Avenger, and that’s it.