Count me among those blown out of the water and completely amazed by the live action film iteration of the Iron Man comic books. No comic film before it ever had such a serious, dark tone, or made such a commentary on war and politics, while maintaining a grasp on reality (as real as any movie featuring a flying tin can could be). The lack of penguins with rocket launchers, battles on other planets, secret mutant academies, or giant mutated green men gave 'Iron Man' a wider audience, and along with 'The Dark Knight,' greatly altered the landscape of comic cinema (before 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' screwed things up by taking a giant evolutionary step backwards).
In 'Spider-Man,' we learned that "with great power comes great responsibility," but with 'Iron Man,' the lesson to be learned is "with great movies come many spin offs and tie-ins," one of which is the Nicktoons Network cartoon series 'Iron Man: Armored Adventures,' that, much like 'The Batman,' gives the show a much younger audience, and like 'X-Men: Evolution,' puts the characters back in high school.
Ignore the previous animated feature ('The Invincible Iron Man'), both because it sucked horribly, and also because it bears no relevance in continuity to this new program.
Tony Stark is a teenager who's got it all: a family business (Stark Industries) run by his father Howard, money beyond his wildest dreams, and a brilliant scientific mind that has created countless patents, including the Earth Mover archeological renovator machine, and his newest creation, a metal suit loaded with advanced technology. Before Tony can show his father his creation, though, the elder Stark is killed in a plane accident, an accident which only Tony survives.
Now Tony is forced to live with his friend James Rhodes (Rhodey), and go to public school, where he meets Pepper Potts, the daughter of an FBI agent. He has two years to age before he can run Stark Industries, and intends to use that time to find out the truth behind the death of his father. Tony is dubbed Iron Man by the media as he saves many lives from a runaway train. Soon, villains' schemes begin to threaten Stark Industries and the rest of the city, and Tony must rely on his friends and his armor to save the day, again and again.
Yes, this show is likely to throw hardcore fans into tizzies by rewriting origin stories and continuity, by making Tony so young when he builds his suit, and for all the technology at his hands when it is first created. But much like the Ultimate series of Marvel Comics, the show is aimed at capturing a new audience rather than appeasing lifelong fans of the almost fifty year old character.
None of that is to say we have to ignore logic. Tony is supposed to be so brilliant, yet he keeps encountering villains who have their own various suits, all of which are very technologically advanced, some even further than what is in his possession. Additionally, Tony shows no signs of being able to hide his secret identity, as in just six episodes he completely gives it away once, and makes so many poor choices in judgement at school that those around him must think he's up to something, or seriously hooked on crack.
Still, there are many strong positives to this new iteration of Iron Man. I enjoyed the fact that the first episode featured Tony acting a bit green behind the ears when it came to controlling his creation, having trouble grasping all the abilities, especially flight. It's unfortunate he's already a pro by the second episode, but it's still nice to have some bit of believability, if even brief. Obadiah Stane is back, obviously influenced by the film in terms of his role in the show, so as to not confuse children. Tony may be a bit of a pain in the ass to us adults, but he reflects modern children far more than we realize, with his inability to grasp previous generations' technology, like books, and his scatter brained tendencies and love for his gadgets and gizmos affecting his personal skills at times.
'Iron Man: Armored Adventures' may not be a perfect Marvel cartoon adaptation (the closest I'd say to perfection came with the short-lived 'Spider-Man: The New Animated Series' on, dare I say, MTV), but it easily trumps the majority of the animated films put out recently by Lionsgate.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Iron Man: Armored Adventures' Volume 1 was initially announced back in July for release on October 20, 2009, but it quickly fell off the map, disappearing from online retailers release schedules. The title popped back up on the radar when it was announced it would be a Best Buy exclusive, available online or in stores on the original release date.
This release features the first six episodes ('Iron Forged in Fire part 1,' 'Iron Forged in Fire part 2,' 'Secrets and Lies,' 'Cold War,' 'Whiplash,' and 'Iron Man vs the Crimson Dynamo') of the show on a single layer BD25 disc. There is, as of yet, no announced release date for any further episodes, and, as such, no indication if volume 2 will arrive on Blu-ray in all stores, just Best Buy, or even at all. Oddly enough, the release of this title in the UK on DVD includes thirteen episodes. Also worth noting, there are no chapter breaks inside of episodes. Each episode is one full chapter.
'Iron Man: Armored Adventures' Volume 1 is presented in 1080p with an AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1.78:1. If this transfer were a character from the Marvel universe, it would surely be Magneto, because it just tore the holy hell out of Iron Man like no one else could. Not Mandarin, nor the Iron Monger or Crimson Dynamo could ever do this much damage to the hero in a tin can.
I no longer am upset that this release, once thought canceled, became a store exclusive, because this means fewer people will be exposed to such a poor quality video.
While colors are strong and bright, and the picture is never bland or dull in any fashion, with clean whites, no matter how bright, nothing could save this transfer. Nothing.
Color banding is constant, egregious, and completely noticeable, from backgrounds, no matter how far off, or close up objects like the color of a shirt or even Tony's hair. Never worry, as macroblocking and other artifacts are also ever present, particularly in blacks and shots with a large solid colored object.
Aliasing is ever present as well, with tons of shimmering and disappearing lines mixed in with some of the nastiest jaggies I've seen in some time. At times, a shoulder or arm can look like a striped barber's pole, present then gone, present then gone. It's shameful. Straight lines whittle down in solid objects, and come back again, constantly making a mockery of the outlines around characters and lines that define depth in objects. Tony's father is a mess in his short time on screen, with the pleat on his shirt or his cuffs playing a veritable game of peekaboo.
A few shots have frames that don't align properly, making the show look even worse, something like a photographic double exposure when played at full speed. There are very few sequences in the entire runtime that don't sport some kind of technical deficiency. It's a two hour display of ineptitude, of a show that really shouldn't have been put on Blu-ray if it were to look this bad. While no 'Gulliver's Travels' in terms of ugliness, this release is just flat abysmal.
Perhaps it would be best to compare this release to '28 Days Later,' in that the video just can't be helped, but the audio included in the release is something special. Presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (with no other audio options, be it in language or subtitles, as there isn't even a menu option for set-up), 'Iron Man Armored Adventures' Volume 1 sounds as good as the video looks bad, and that's saying something.
Dialogue is clear, never muffled, never ringing, with no feedback noise or hollow pop, though it got overpowered a few times by the score, which can seriously get bumping through every channel. Bass is properly utilized, especially for a children's show, with a heavy presence in the theme songs, and in emphatic moments in fights, or in appropriate environmental spots like those around flying planes or choppers. There's even some good localized sound usage, though the effect doesn't stay as frequent in the later episodes as it was early on, and motion is present, though not often on display.
Background ambience and environment match what is on screen, so while it sounds nowhere near as busy as one would expect, there really isn't that much car traffic or crowded rooms to speak of in the program. A solid and respectable high range is on display a few times, with some wonderful high pitched squeals coming from the suit of armor.
My biggest gripe about the audio has more to do with the video, in that lip movements never match up to spoken word, as it looks amazingly awkward due to how mouths were animated. It's very distracting, making one pay attention to how bad the movement is rather than the actual words being spoken, creating the rare effect of the video overpowering the audio. Kids won't really notice, or care, while adults can put that blame on the cheap animation alone if they so choose.
There really isn't much to speak of in the extras department for this release. We get four Suit Profiles (SD) that are actually commercials for the program, a Music Video (SD, 2 min) from the band Rooney for the theme song for the show, and Previews (SD) that are also found before the menu, including 'Wolverine and the X-Men,' 'Superhero Squad World Tour,' a Marvelkids.com promo, and one not found before the menu, for the 'Iron Man: Animated Adventures' cartoon itself. Real deep stuff.
'Iron Man: Armored Adventures' isn't the best Marvel animated television program, but that doesn't prevent it from being completely enjoyable, and good fun for adults and children alike. Hardcore fans may not enjoy the amount of changes made to the history of the characters, but there is no better point to jump in on for newcomers to the character. This store exclusive Blu-ray isn't worth seeking out, though, due to a seriously flawed transfer that shows off far more wrongs than rights. Since this one looks like utter hell, it's best left for the fans only.