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Old April 25 2009, 05:11 PM   #1
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IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES: "Iron Forged in Fire" (Spoilers)

Anyone else watch this? It's not brilliant, but it's not bad. The series reinterprets Tony Stark, Jim Rhodes, and Pepper Potts as teenagers, in a highly revisionist take on the Iron Man premise. Tony is the sheltered supergenius son of genius inventor/billionaire Howard Stark, and his heart is damaged in the explosion that kills his father, presumably engineered by Obadiah Stane, who wanted Howard out of the way so he could weaponize Stark's inventions and get rich. Tony is saved by the super-armor suit he apparently invented on a lark, and later, he begins using the armor to investigate his father's death (like there's any mystery there), incidentally discovering he can use it to save lives and stuff, like his dad always wanted him to do with his inventions. Meanwhile, he has to cope with going to school for the first time, where he and his friend/tech support guy Rhodey encounter the eccentric, fast-talking conspiracy nut Pepper. They try to keep their superheroics secret from the nosy Pepper while taking on Stane and a mysterious figure calling himself the Mandarin, who turns out to be a teenage boy, Gene Khan (Gene short for Genghis, I wonder?), who overthrows his stepfather to reclaim the Mandarin ring that is his family's by right.

Some of it is cliche -- maybe a lot of it. The scene where Stane comes in and argues with Howard about wanting to adapt his technology to lucrative military uses was pure cliche, and telegraphed what was going to happen to Howard a couple of scenes later. The hero motivated to avenge his father's death is pretty boilerplate too, as is the high school setting (right down to Happy Hogan being reimagined as the standard dumb jock character, though not quite a Flash Thompson-style antagonist for Tony).

And Tony Stark here is oddly characterized. He's a supergenius who memorizes his textbooks in a day and shows off his brilliance at every turn; how is this supposed to make him sympathetic to the young viewers? True, the adult Tony's always been something of an antihero in the comics, but a drinking, womanizing, obscenely rich antihero is easier for audiences to like because his bad behavior is something they can fantasize about. I doubt many people in the target audience of this show fantasize about memorizing their textbooks and solving ultracomplex equations on the dry-erase board.

Still, for all its cliches and oddities, it's fairly watchable. The dialogue isn't bad, and the acting is okay, though Pepper's voice is a bit annoying. Rhodey is okay but a bit of a nondescript sidekick character; I kind of think it would've been better to make him an older mentor figure, maybe Howard's best friend who's taking care of Tony and helping him investigate Stane. I mean, it's a bit hard to believe that a 16-year-old orphan who's presumably living off a trust fund would have the resources to build the super-duper high-tech lab Tony somehow constructed on his own in under six months. It would make more sense if he had adult help, particularly from someone within Stark Industries.

The cel-shaded 3D animation is, well, let's call it mixed. The character motion and expression aren't as annoying as they are on some 3D-animated shows, the designs are okay, and there's a pretty impressive virtual cityscape. But the cel-shading on the characters' upper lips is kind of odd -- too heavy a shadow right above the mouth. Also, it's clear that their budget for character animation is limited. There was a scene where Iron Man rescued a runaway train that was said to have hundreds of people aboard, but we didn't see a single one of the passengers, even when IM actually entered the first car. And when he then stopped the car from crashing into traffic, we heard cheers from a large crowd, but only saw three people. That's going to be limiting.
Written Worlds -- Christopher L. Bennett's blog and webpage

Last edited by Christopher; April 25 2009 at 05:12 PM. Reason: Got the episode title wrong
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