At its best, anime can be a vehicle for exciting new ideas and exploring complex philosophical concepts. At its worst, it's just girls in little to no clothing running around with insecure boys. Somewhere in the middle lies some very boring animation. Sophomore attempts at philosophy mix with busty girls who aren't being shown off all the time, but whose assets aren't exactly hidden either. 'Iron Man: Rise of Technovore' falls into this middle category. It pays lip service to Marvel's brand of over the top action, but ultimately, it's just another bland anime.
Tony Stark (Matthew Mercer) is launching a new satellite named Howard, an ode to his father. The purpose of the satellite is to watch the entire planet for suspected criminal behavior, so the appropriate authorities can take action. However, a mysterious super villain interrupts the launch. Like Tony, he's got a suit of armor, but this one is biomechanical in nature, and easily bests both Iron Man and War Machine. The resulting battle draws the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D., who want to detain Iron Man while they figure out what's going on. Not willing to listen, Iron Man must now face the Technovore while keeping the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. off his back. Oh and somewhere in there he gets help from The Punisher (Norman Reedus) as well.
'Rise of Technovore' sounds like it could be exciting on paper, but in reality it's a far cry from what we've come to expect from Marvel. Technovore, as depicted here is very different from his appearance in the comics, anchored to Ezekiel Stane, the son of former Iron Man villain Obadiah Stane. Like many things in the movie, though, nothing interesting is done with this wrinkle. The younger Stane even tells Tony that he's not out for revenge and doesn't care much about his father. Similarly, the idea of Howard, an all-seeing eye in the sky that will be used to prevent crimes, is not explored in any meaningful way. In fact, it's glossed over in three lines of dialogue, dumping the most fascinating conflict in favor of a generic comic book plot.
Of course, comic book plots can still be fun, but 'Rise of Technovore' can't even get that right. Ezekiel is like an amalgam of all that's bad in anime. He's an oh-so-superior kid who spouts of philosophical nonsense for most of his screen time, making you hope that Iron Man offs him not to save the day, but simply to shut him up. His dialogue is truly insufferable, the sort of drivel that you'd expect to hear in a Philosophy 101 class. Not that the dialogue for anyone else is better. Tony, Pepper, Nick Fury, Black Widow, you name the character and I promise you their dialogue will be hackneyed and cliché. This isn't helped by the lazy and sleep-inducing performances of the American voice actors. The Japanese is more enthusiastically performed, but the writing isn't much better.
As it turns out, Marvel characters don't translate well to anime. They lose all sense of distinctiveness. Pepper Potts, a character bustling with personality, looks no different than Black Widow, a super spy, and neither of them looks much different than Asuka from 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'. Iron Man and War Machine look no different in their armor, making the transition to anime pointless. Only Nick Fury in his Samuel L. Jackson guise looks familiar. The Punisher feels very reminiscent of Solid Snake from 'Metal Gear Solid'.
Speaking of The Punisher, his inclusion seems particularly pointless, as he barely does anything other than keep Hawkeye and Black Widow off Iron Man's back for a few minutes. And you'd think for a film with both Iron Man and The Punisher, the action would be spectacular, but in fact it isn't anything special. The only sequence that really works is one where Iron Man fights off a horde of unmanned drones at a palatial villa, made more exciting by the use of his suitcase armor. The rest is by the numbers and ho-hum, much like the rest of the movie.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Iron Man: Rise of Technovore' arrives from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in a standard Blu-ray case with a slipcover that replicates the cover artwork. This disc also carries a slip for an Ultraviolet copy of the film.
Sony presents 'Iron Man: Rise of Technovore' in an AVC-encoded, 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer. Animation generally looks great in HD, since it has large swaths of solid colors and sharp, delineated lines with few gradations. And 'Technovore' certainly does have plenty of detail and solid colors, but the whole thing looks washed out. I'm not entirely sure if this is an artistic choice or just a poor transfer, but it's noticeable all the way through the runtime of the picture. Other than that, this is a competent but unremarkable transfer, with solid blacks and okay contrast. There's no visible dirt or artifacts. It's not bad, but it's not great, either.
Sony offers three separate DTS-HD 5.1 lossless tracks for this disc, Japanese, English, and French, as well as a slew of lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. For an action-oriented picture like this, the mix is surprisingly front-loaded. The rears do get used, but mainly for the score and ambient sounds. A few directional hits make their way to the back, but for the most part, even the action is centered on the front. One thing the audio does do well is creating a sense of atmosphere. Dialogue is clear, without any distortions or peaking. Balance is also good, with the effects never overpowering the dialogue or music.
'Iron Man: Rise of Technovore' manages to do a disservice to both the Marvel universe and anime. Filled with hokey, pseudo-philosophical dialogue, bland action sequences, and even blander voice acting, 'Rise of Technovore' is a misfire in almost every way. Gone is Tony Stark's distinctive personality, gone is the sharp interplay between him and Pepper Potts, and the movie manages to take all the most interesting ideas and toss them out the window in favor of puerile junk. If you're a fan of Marvel, you're going to be disappointed. If you're a fan of anime, you can do so much better than this. There's virtually nothing to recommend about this picture. Skip it. 'Nuff said!