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The Invincible
Iron Man

In the mainstream Marvel Universe right now, "invincible" isn't the adjective fans apply to Iron Man. The "Civil War" has made the character quite unlikable. But Marvel isn't just for reading anymore, and fans wanting Iron Man back as a hero need look no further than their latest animated offering, The Invincible Iron Man.

Better directed than the Ultimate Avengers offerings, the movie helmed by Frank Paur accomplishes two things. It restores Tony Stark's reputation as a hero by going back to the beginning (even if it's a brand new beginning) and delivers plenty of action.

Let's face it; superhero fans love seeing their favorite characters beat up the bad guys. We can talk about nuance and characterization, but if we don't buy the fights, the movie's a waste. Though the movie sets up a big showdown between Iron Man and the Mandarin, the real battles come between the armored Avenger and five "elementals."

During those sequences, the animation switches from standard 2D to computer generated, and they're very satisfying. Well-choreographed, they're also cleverly plotted, moving the story along fairly well and picking up on threads seeded throughout the movie. Plus, I've got a soft spot in my heart for the use of a Marvel villain whose name rhymes with Bin Bang Boom. (The character design isn't quite right, likely because Paur wanted some sort of visual complementing, but production notes say that's who it is.)

The story placing Tony Stark (Marc Worden) in peril isn't half-bad, either. Greg Johnson constructs a scenario that the upcoming live-action film would do well to borrow from. It pays enough homage to the original comics origin without too much of that pesky political mire.

Johnson also relies on a newly standard storytelling trope, that "the Iron Warrior" has been prophesied to stand against the Mandarin. In the movie as edited on the DVD, this gets revealed slowly, but an alternate opening lays it out clearly.

I'm not sure which way would have made it more palatable, but it does make for a more thoughtful climax than just beating the crap out of the villain. Well, that and Worden's performance as the strangely sincere playboy that Stark has been off and on over the years.

The other conflict in the movie comes from boardroom drama, and that fell flat. Yes, the father/son strife between Howard and Tony Stark has potential, but it seems too patly resolved. For that matter, so does the issue of Tony's bad heart, which originally is the whole raison d'etre for building the armor. Instead, here it seems more like he needs a plate until a skin graft could be made, because he's been secretly creating a variety of Iron Man suits for a long time.

So the script inexplicably cuts down on the melodrama of the heart problem, yet leaves mystical warriors and a dragon to fight?

As entertaining as the movie is at times, it still suffers from a problem that the previous two offerings had - it doesn't sit comfortably as adult or children's fare. Instead, it's just at that awkward in-between phase. Which probably means that teens would love it if they would deign to watch a cartoon.

Derek McCaw


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