Marvel Animation has tried many things to attract the attention of both children and fanboys alike over the last few years, with varying degrees of success. One of the more interesting ideas they’ve tried has been their anime line, with Iron Man at the center, but that show never really worked for me even though it was certainly an unexplored route for comic book animated properties. In the days leading up to the release of Iron Man 3, Marvel Animation is releasing Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, a loose continuation of the anime Iron Man series combined with the Iron Man cinematic universe.
Overall the film was a disappointment to me, because there are a lot of cool elements at work in this piece that never really make up for the lack of soul in the story. The animation style is detailed and gorgeous, and you’d expect no less coming from animation giant Madhouse. The cast also includes many favorites designed specifically after their cinematic movie counterparts i.e. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, War Machine not to mention The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus voicing The Punisher.
After Rhodey/War Machine is gravely injured during an attack on a new satellite Tony Stark was launching into orbit, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. suspect Iron Man may have had a part in the attack and take him in for questioning. As expected, Tony is none too pleased with this prospect and goes on the run where he is hunted by Black Widow and Hawkeye and encounters and then teams up with The Punisher. All of that stuff works great, making up the strongest points of the film, but what doesn’t work so great is the rest of the movie, which centers around a weird anime-style version of Ezekiel Stane, who takes on the moniker here of the villian Technovore, for whom he has created a partially organic armor that gives him unchartable power.
For the comic book uneducated, Stane is the son of Jeff Bridges character Obadiah Stane in the Iron Man live action movie, but here in Iron Man: Rise of Technovore he’s a silly androgynous stock anime villain that would feel more at home in Akira (especially in the finale of this movie) than a Marvel film. And unfortunately his emo-pouting and pondering of the universe scenes get far more screen time than the fun pursuit scenes involving S.H.I.E.L.D in the middle of the film.
The special features are pretty bare bones and include two 8-minute featurettes. Tale of Technovore focuses on the creation of Technovore and the animation studio that created the film and S.H.I.E.L.D.: Protecting the Marvel Universe breaks down the aforementioned agents that appear in this one. Both featurettes include interviews with Marvel bigwig Joe Quesada and other supporting Marvel creative forces and are interesting enough but don’t provide all that much insight.
If you’re a hardcore Marvel fan and into anime-style weirdness and carnage you could possibly get a kick out of Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. But while being pretty to look, at this movie is dead behind the eyes and never hits a point that really grabbed me, and the lack of any hefty special features doesn’t really do much in the way of redeeming a disappointing effort from Marvel Animation.
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore has a very violent and dark feel to it, going places that they would probably never go in the theatrical movies. Lots of people are shot, impaled, and blown up in the first twenty minutes of action alone. In fact, almost the entire 88 minutes is nothing but action, and there are plenty of references to previous Iron Man adventures, particularly the first film that really makes this feel like it is part of the larger Marvel movie mythos.
Perhaps the biggest plus going for this “chapter” is Norman Reedus as the Punisher. He is absolutely spot on, and it felt like they were teasing at how well Frank Castle would fit in with the Marvel Movie-verse. Maybe Marvel Studios can get the rights back from Lionsgate and finally put out a real Punisher movie in Phase Three!
The only real complaint I’ve got is things sort of went off the track toward then end with the Technovore villain. Most of the cartoon felt very realistic until the very end when all hell breaks loose. Then again, maybe that is one of the bigger pluses with animated films – to tell stories that would never work in a big budget type movie. Either way, it’s an enjoyable film, and a nice way to whet the appetite for Iron Man 3.