Overall verdict: 8/10
The Good: favors character centered drama over action, excellent 2D artwork and 3D animation when viewed separately, evenly paced, easy for people not familiar with the Iron Man franchise to "jump in"
The Bad: clash of 2D art and 3D CGI, less action packed than one might have hoped, short running time.
Current Availability Status: on discount priced local DVD release
DVD Grade: B
In 2007, Marvel Animation released their third direct-to-video animated OVA entitled "The Invincible Iron Man". No doubt this move was to generate publicity for Marvel's Iron Man movie scheduled to be released the following year.
Instead of merely doing a tie-in piece, Marvel animation deciced to create a whole other origin story for Iron Man, this time set in China (a move most likely influenced by China's popularity as host of the 2008 Olympics)
With a greater focus on character drama over brainless action, the story of "The Invincible Iron Man" opens with a violent terrorist attack on an archeological dig run by Tony Stark. The terrorists, calling themselves "The Jade dragons" intend to disrupt Stark's attempts at excavating an ancient city that once belonged to a fearsome Chinese warlord called "The Mandarin". As if those problems were not enough, Tony Stark has to contend with an attempt by Stark Enterprises' board of directors, led by his own father, to oust him from his company.
Facing this increasing pressure, Tony travels to china but is ambushed and suffers a fatal injury to his heart in a raid on his armored convoy. The survivors including Tony and his friend, Jim Rhodes are taken captive by the Jade dragons and forced to make weapons for them. During his time as a prisoner, Stark befriends a member of the Jade Dragons, Li Mei and learns that by bringing the ancient city to the surface, he had fulfilled a dark prophecy that resulted in the release of four elemental demons whose mission is to gather five magical rings in order to resurrect The Mandarin. Hoping to set things right, Rhodes outfits Tony with an artificial heart to keep him mobile and together they secretly build a massive powered armor which Tony dons to pull off a daring escape from their captors. Now with the forces of Darkness gathering, Tony must become the prophesied "Iron Man" who is destined to send the Mandarin back to the grave. As Iron Man tracks the Elemental demons across the globe, a more sinister threat arises in the form of someone close to Tony's heart.
The Invincible Iron Man is possibly the most complex animated portrayal of this famous comic book icon ever. The script plays out more like a live action drama than a cartoon as characters genuinely grow and change over the course of the story. Though he lacks the sarcastic charm of Robert Downey Jr's portrayal, Marc Worden's Tony Stark is comparatively subdued and more of a "could not care less" person than a straight out rich jerk. As the show progresses, he goes from being a happy go lucky, self serving womanizer to a responsible, mature and self sacrificing individual. Ironic that he had to lose a heart to gain one. The voice acting is restrained at times but fits in with the somber mood of the whole show. Only a couple of characters' voice seem off, particularly Li Mei's. Her supposedly genuine Chinese accent(she was voiced by a actress of Chinese decent) seemed inconsistent and her emotional range was rather limited. If Marc Worden had not done such a good job of acting on his part, the whole romance sub plot and interplay between Tony and Li Mei would have fallen flat.
The Animation pulls no punches either. Japanese anime company "The Answer Studio" renders this tale of Western technology VS eastern mythology in a mixture of 2D artwork and CGI(computer generated image) animation. The painted backgrounds are really a sight to behold and the character designs have a distinct Asian flavor to them. Despite the impressive level of art detail, the on screen movements of the characters were always very smooth. Sadly, while both 2D and 3D cel shaded CGI animation used for the Elementals and the Iron Man suits are on par with many big budget anime movies there was a jarring clash between the CGI and 2D animation when both are present on screen or made to interact(eg: CGI Iron Man smashing into a 2D painted wall).
Overall, Invincible Iron Man was a very refreshing new take on the origin of a well loved Marvel superhero, although it is recommended that children do not watch this as there is a fair bit of bloody violence, nudity and sexual innuendo. Favoring complex character drama and a couple of deeper themes over action was a good move, though the general lack of big battles might be going against some people's expectations of what an animated Iron Man show should be.(that and the limited screen time of Iron Man's signature red and gold suit).
Go For it: if you want to see the most "mature" portrayal of Iron Man in animation.
Avoid it: if you miss the witty stylishness of the live action movie or the action packed stories of other Iron Man animated shows
Voice work (english): B
Replay Value: A-
I'm in the middle of my sixth porno shoot Rhodes, can i call you back?
Tony Stark the womaniser
Soldier, did the driver in front of us just give me the finger?
Art detail on he characters. this scene takes place moments before the fatal ambush.
Meet "WindBag", "Hot stuff", "Piss head" and "Grrrr".
The four elemental demons of Wind, Fire, Water and Earth(the teeth baring one)
Oh Crap, here i am, the great Iron Man, cornered by a couple of lunatic cosplayers.
Iron Man faces off with the Elemental demons in a live volcano
"I WILL SHOOT AT HIM" said the cyberdemon.
Iron Man's clunkier "first" armor that he made in captivity