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Film Review: The Invincible Iron Man DVD

Just to show how up to date and topical I am not, here are my thoughts on the made-for-DVD cartoon film of Iron Man in the week in which the much-hyped Iron Man film reaches our screens. I would say this is irony, but that would be an awful pun …

Tony Stark is trying to raise an ancient Chinese city from beneath the ground; when he goes to investigate the kidnapping of his friend, Jim ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, by the terrorist group the Jade Dragons, he is injured and is saved by a local doctor and Rhodey’s army medic training, leaving him with a piece of shrapnel in his heart. He is forced to create a weapon to destroy the city, but he makes a suit of technological armour and they flee the encampment. Meanwhile, the reason behind the city is revealed to be the return of the Mandarin, a long-dead rule of the city, and four elementals are woke to recover his rings to return him to power.

Having been framed by his father, head of Stark Enterprises, to make it look like he and Rhodey were selling weapons to the Jade Dragons, he goes to his secret office to reveal that he has been making lots of different Iron Man armours before the one in China. He takes one to fight the Elementals, which he is able to defeat, before returning to the city to stop the Mandarin, who will rise in spirit via the vessel of Li Mei, one of the Jade Dragons who befriended Tony during his capture. Tony fights off an army of terracotta warriors (which are no doubt legally different to the Xi’an Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang-di) and then a huge dragon, before confronting Li Mei, now possessed by the spirit of Mandarin and devoid of any clothes, necessitating a lot of swirling smoke and shadows to hide any hint of nudity. Rather than actually fighting or making a conscious choice in the final process, Tony doesn’t do anything apart from ask Li Mei not to be bad – a spectacularly uninteresting climax to a story. Back in the US, he buys up all available shares in Stark Enterprises so that he can have complete control and make up with his father after their friction earlier, because father–son relationships are so important.

If my slightly sarcastic tone hasn’t come through, I should state that I didn’t particularly enjoy this. I’m not slavish to the origins, but why change so much of Iron Man’s for this? Not only forcing it to tie into the story of the Mandarin plot just to be part of the narrative, but also having Tony already making lots of armour rather than having to come up with it to save his life – surely that was one of the great parts of the origin? The need for the father–son friction just seemed so cheap and melodramatic (in the comics, Tony’s parents have been dead for some time in his life, and this need for boardroom family tussles came off as really bland), and the denouement in which he plays no real part (much like Indiana Jones doesn’t do anything at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark) seemed weak. Even the action aspect didn’t really liven things up – animation should be the perfect medium for Iron Man but the fight scenes were rather dull. It just seems that the makers of the film didn’t really get the point of the character – surely somebody could have pointed that out at some stage? I really hope the live-action Iron Man film does it better …

Rating: DA

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