|Iron Man - Reviewed||3 out of 3 users found this review helpful.|
The Marvel Anime project had me intrigued when I first heard about it. The success of Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight had my hopes high, where an Eastern lens was used to interpret these popular Western franchises. But we know Tony Stark right, he's a bit more blunt than that.
Helmed by the acclaimed Madhouse Studios, responsible for Ninja Scroll and Trigun, four series have been planned for the current year drawing from various parts of the expansive Marvel Universe. With his recent explosion in popularity its no surprise Iron Man was first on the slate. But can Tony make a home for himself in Japan?
Flying high over the Land of the Rising Sun, Mr.Stark dreams of creating an arc reactor. An almost magical device that could provide the entire country with waste-less energy... For free. (How could oil tycoons not be trying to assassinate Tony at all times?) But why Japan you ask? Well it's lack of military makes it an ideal location, knowing that none of this energy would be used as a giant battery for a Weapon of Ultimate Destruction (WUD™). It's a novel premise, even if it is a bit far-fetched, but hey this is Marvel right. Stranger things have happened for less understandable reasons.
Iron Man has a serialized feel for the first two-thirds. Every week offers a new 'boss' that Tony has to conquer to set Japan right. The final section of this series is tightly paced and cohesive, culminating in the climax the earlier episodes hinted at. While this structure does work, there are liberties taken with the narrative that create gaping holes of logic. Most explanations range from very vague reverse engineering, to some random research that someone just happened to do a few years ago, or the sheer force of will (What Tony calls the 'Frontier Spirit'). The producers realized early on that the best technology to implement was the deus ex machina.
What irritates the most is the script, where the B-Movie quality of writing is the least offending criminal. Aside from the one-liners and the brazen exclamations of free will and never giving up, the script goes out of its way to have a discourse on the difference between Eastern philosophy and Western thought. Instead of these creating moments of character growth, it feels like class room video for Japanese Ethics 101. And yes, these scenes are as exciting as that sounds.
Tony Stark is the star of the show and his personality, if anything, is visible. He's the hero and comedic relief, carrying the series on his back. He's entertaining, but isn't dynamic making him far too predictable. It would be nice if he got a little help from the supporting cast. They're likable enough but fall in to typical tropes: the sexy but cold scientist, the modern day samurai and the annoying but determined reporter. Most don't show much evolution except for our scientist, who falls in love with Stark's aforementioned 'Frontier Spirit' and do-good attitude (How come they never say it's his money and uncommonly handsome good-looks?).
I have to commend Iron Man for developing a villain that has a strong emotional connection to Tony. His motives and relationship with the protagonist make him a credible enemy. But when this adversary is replace by the 'greater evil' it removes the gravity of the struggle between Iron Man and forces against him. The shades of grey of the conflict are replaced by a stark black and white deflating the impact of the final episodes.
Production is top-notch, with all the stops pulled for the first Marvel Anime. The animation is smooth and the action sequences are big, filled with explosions. The CGI is done tastefully, never being much a distraction. It's a technicolor sight to behold. The inspired character and robot designs are a bit deflated by the poor voice acting. Keiji Fujiwara, of Eureka Seven fame, seems uncomfortable in his roles, as if the shoes he was wearing were a bit too big for him. It's shame because of all the screen time and dialogue he gets creating a sort of extended awkward moment.
I expected more from Marvel. I put my faith in Madhouse. But the lazy writing, the hackneyed characters and the poor casting are not redeemed by the Iron Man brand. What we get is not really the Armored Avenger, but a hollow but shiny piece of red and yellow plastic.