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Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1(TV) (2009)
As the heir to the billion-dollar corporation Stark International, Tony Stark lived a life of luxury, but everything went horribly wrong when a tragic accident robbed Tony of his father and nearly cost him his own life. Eager to honor the memory of his father, Tony now uses his suit of invincible armor and technical know-how to protect those who would also fall prey to tragedy, corruption and conspiracy!
For more about Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 and the Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray release, see Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 26, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray Review
Pesky teen drama aside, Marvel's latest animated series shows potential...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 26, 2009
The masterminds at Marvel Comics have long had their fingers on the pulse of the comics industry. Missteps aside -- "Heroes Reborn" anyone? The infamous Clone Saga? The "Acts of Vengeance" debacle? -- they've given their readers some of the finest characters to grace a paneled page, toy lines and collectibles that make some fanboys' basements look like tri-colored museums, and several well-conceived, wildly successful feature films. But the House of Ideas has failed to fully capitalize on animation. Oh, they've dabbled. They've produced six animated films in the last three years, but each one has drawn little more than mixed reactions. For two decades, they've delivered a variety of animated television shows, but few (if any) have earned the acclaim and praise awarded to DC Comics' best (Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League among them). Their latest, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, certainly isn't going to win any Emmys, but its alternate take of the now-popular Marvel mainstay offers enough exciting superheroics, flashy action sequences, and solid storylines to make it stand out from the pack.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures completely reinvents Tony Stark, arguably one of Marvel's more adult-oriented characters, shedding key elements that have made his comics incarnation the man that he is. Alcoholism? Out. Womanizing? Out. Mustache? Out. But despite the assertion of the show's most vocal detractors, the majority of Stark's fundamental flaws and personality quirks remain intact (albeit sugar-coated for its young audience's consumption). After losing his father in a tragic accident, a very teenage Tony Stark (voiced by Adrian Petriw) uses his wealth and engineering prowess to create a suit of armor that grants him flight, repuslor rays, and the ability to battle a bevy of baddies currently pilfering his company's advanced technology and weaponry. In the series' first six episodes -- the only episodes included on this release -- Tony gets help from his friends, Pepper (Anna Cummer) and Rhodey (Daniel Bacon), tries to wrestle control of his father's company from a shrewd businessman named Obadiah Stane (Mackenzie Gray), and meets a young man named Gene Khan (Vincent Tong) who, unbeknownst to Tony, is the rightful heir to an ancient criminal empire's throne. Along the way, he has to face a trio of malfunctioning monoliths, a powerful warrior called the Mandarin, a pair of armored-wearing henchman, an ice-wielding rogue calling himself Blizzard (David Orth), a Russian cosmonaut dubbed the Crimson Dynamo (Brian Drummond), and a mad inventor (Donny Lucas) and his most devious creation, Whiplash (Peter Kelamis).
Like Smallville, Armored Adventures' efforts to cram established characters into teenage bodies pays off at times, but is an unnecessary distraction at others. First, the good. Iron Man soars when Tony suits up and takes to the skies, giving the animators ample opportunity to stage a slew of fantastic fights that rarely grow repetitive, tiresome, or predictable. Stark isn't an invincible powerhouse, nor is he an accomplished veteran. He's simply a boy trying to do what's right in a world that's growing increasingly dangerous for his friends. More importantly, his repulsor-bending encounters don't smack of villain-of-the-week laziness. Each challenger is used to advance Stark's personal journey, sometimes quite rapidly, and allow him to test the limits of his armor and the boundaries of his commitment to his newfound superheroism. His clashes with the Mandarin -- Gene, after he imprisons his stepfather at the end of the first episode -- are particularly inspired, creating a fierce rivalry between friends (who subsequently have no idea they're armored nemeses) and planting the seeds of a conflict that drives the first season along. Of course, the first six episodes only reveal so much of the strong Iron Man/Mandarin storytelling that is to come, but anyone following the series on television will tell you theirs is easily the most interesting relationship on the show.
And the animation? For the most part, it's quite effective. I'll admit it limps along whenever the series' unarmored teens take center stage -- soulless eyes, awkward finger movements, and stilted walks abound -- but it gleefully captures the sheer chaos and collateral destruction a war between two hulking, metal-clad foes would produce. Fast and frantic, its heroes and villains hit and hit hard, lending palpable weight and heft to every asphalt-splitting explosion and unibeam blast. It's also nice to see the animators didn't just use CG for background elements and space harriers. I've grown increasingly tired of watching traditionally animated characters slap it out in front of towering CG cityscapes and on the backs of high-frame-rate airships. The disconnect between the computer's icy rendering and the animator's pen is usually jarring. Don't get me wrong, I adore traditional animation -- the action sequences in Avatar: The Last Airbender prove how amazing hand-drawn fights can look, even in a weekly television series, when given the proper attention -- but I prefer all or nothing.
Alas, the series plummets rather drastically anytime the bell rings for third period. Tony's interactions with Pepper and Rhodey amount to little of note (at least in the first six episodes), relegating the pair to playing psuedo-parents whenever Stark loses his temper or tries to save the city. Worse, his struggles to balance school and "work" fall flat, leaving the writers with little choice but to go out of their way to justify how he sneaks out of class, abandons his ordinary responsibilities, and keeps everyone from asking the oh-so-obvious questions. I know, I know... it's a cartoon aimed at kids. But if Batman: The Animated Series taught us anything it's that a cartoon, even one targeting a younger generation, can appeal to its older viewers with tight scripting and thoughtful dialogue. Still, Stark's interpersonal strife is handled well enough to overshadow some of the series' shortcomings (especially since Tony thankfully brandishes his armor far more often than a Number 2 pencil). All things considered, Armored Adventures is a fine series that's managed to entertain both me and my five-year-old son. He enjoys the show more than me, a Shellhead junkie since I was his age, but I suppose my nostalgia and middle-aged shortsightedness prevents me from sinking in with the wide-eyed wonder of a boy. I do wish Genius had waited and released the full twenty-six episode season -- which, as of its twentieth episode, has grown more addictive and more intriguing than these first six episodes suggest -- but I suppose this sampler provides newcomers with a fitting preview of the series proper.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Iron Man: Armored Adventures is bright, colorful, and sharp; everything animation enthusiasts and fanboys of all ages would want from a Blu-ray release of Marvel's animated television series. Despite some palette variations and intentionally subdued primaries from episode to episode, blacks are deep and inky, lineart is crisp, repulsor blasts sear the screen, and the red and gold in Tony's armor pops. Unfortunately, Genius' 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is tormented by rampant banding, obtrusive macroblocking, frequent aliasing, and other digital anomalies. The use of soft, overlay lighting effects is often the culprit, producing at-times garish stair-stepping that stretches across the entire image. However, even the simplest shots are plagued by artifacts of some sort or another. It doesn't help that fine facial lines tend to pixelate, drawing attention to the limitations of the comparatively low-budget CG production.
The Blu-ray presentation isn't quite as problematic as the HD television broadcast, but I generally had a hard time differentiating between the two. While I wasn't able to compare them shot for shot -- or for that matter, episode for episode -- both high definition presentations are undermined by the same, glaring technical issues. Suffice to say, it's a decent transfer; one that will please casual viewers but drive videophile insane.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Genius' DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is much more satisfying, imbuing Iron Man's superheroics with booming LFE support and crisp, clean dialogue. Though Tony's high school antics are chatty and altogether front-heavy, the soundscape comes alive every time he steps into a suit of armor. The series' unexpectedly bold, bombastic effects are peppered with sharp, stable wheens and sheens, granting climactic showdowns with Whiplash, Crimson Dynamo, and others all the necessary oomph they require. The rear speakers get a surprising workout as well. While simplistic by Hollywood standards, aggressive battlefield ambience and directional effects allow the sound designers to take advantage of the soundfield. Moreover, there aren't any distracting technical issues that suggest the audio could sound better. The few prioritization problems, immersion mishaps, and soundfield inconsistencies I noticed all trace back to the series' limited sound design, not Genius' lossless track. Ultimately, those who enjoy the show will be thrilled by the Blu-ray edition's involving sonics.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Genius hasn't cobbled together any supplemental features focused on the production of the show. Instead, four 30-second "Suit Profiles" introduce Tony's Iron Man suits, a three-minute "Rooney Music Video" offers an extended version of the series' theme song, and a "Super Hero Squad Show" promo gives a ragtag bunch of diminutive Marvel heroes the chance to take center stage. Fans will blow through everything on the disc in less than ten minutes (ten standard definition minutes, no less) and be left hungry for something... anything more.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Iron Man: Armored Adventures' first six episodes show legitimate promise and a thorough understanding of how to stage pulse-pounding clashes of superhero titans. But anyone who's been following its television broadcast knows that the show gets much better (particularly when the Mandarin becomes a more crucial character in the story), building on the series' strengths while minimizing its weaknesses with each passing episode. As a result, Genius' Volume 1 disc is merely an appetizer to a proper first season release. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray edition doesn't offer much more than an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio track. Its video transfer is decent but flawed, its supplemental package is nearly non-existent, and its price tag is a bit steep for the introductory arc of a much larger story. Decide accordingly.
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Iron Man: Armored Adventures Volume 1 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• And another BB Exclusive: Iron Man Armored Adventures - October 16, 2009
Back in July, Genius Entertainment announced the release of 'Iron Man Armored Adventures, Volume 1' on Blu-ray and DVD for October 20. However, the BD version seemed to have fallen from the schedule, and some put that down to the financial problems at Genius/Weinstein. ...
• Iron Man: Armored Adventures BD for October - July 13, 2009
Our friends at TV Shows on DVD have the scoop that Genius Entertainment is planning to release the animated series 'Iron Man: Armored Adventures' on Blu-ray on October 20, day-and-date with the DVD. There are no audio or video specifications or special features ...
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