“If you join forces with Captain GoNuts Crazy, no one will take you seriously as a hero. Know what I mean?”
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore is not a story featuring Robert Downey Jr. Though the Iron Man character has undoubtedly enjoyed a boost in popularity thanks to Downey’s portrayal, this particular disc features Matthew Mercer (Thundercats) in the titular role and he’s an Iron Man all his own. Those who are looking for an animated version of the Iron Man we’ve seen on the big screen will not find him here. He has some snark and some devil-may-care attitude, but this is a different world and viewers would do well to adjust their expectations accordingly. I don’t have a problem with the character here; my issues are with the story.
As our story begins, Tony Stark and Lt. James “Rhodey” Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine (James C. Mathis III, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) are having a friendly flying competition en route to the launch of Stark’s latest endeavor, a satellite named Howard. Some question the need for a super-satellite designed to watch the entire planet and act as a crime prevention tool. So it’s hoped positive press will go a long way toward calming the fear that the world is about to become one giant police state. Before the satellite can be launched, Iron Man and War Machine are attacked in what seems to be a simple terrorist action. But when Iron Man comes face-to-face with the leader of the perpetrators, he soon realizes he’s up against a foe the likes of which he’s never seen — a teenager in some kind of bio-engineered armor whose technology is mind-boggling.
When their confrontation ends with an explosion that claims Rhodey, one thing becomes clear — Iron Man is out for revenge. Too bad S.H.I.E.L.D. detains him for further questioning, seeing as he’s the only one who managed to communicate with the mysterious threat. It doesn’t take long for Stark to escape the Helicarrier. Not to be deterred so easily S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury (John Eric Bentley) labels Iron Man a fugitive and sends out two agents, Hawkeye (Troy Baker) and Black Widow (Clare Grant) to retrieve him. But Tony will have none of that and his quest for vengeance leads him to team up with Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher (Norman Reedus).
Together the duo discover who is behind the attacks. Stark is shocked to learn the “Technovore” is none other than Ezekiel Stane (Eric Bauza), son of his former friend-turned-enemy Obadiah Stane (JB Blanc). Ezekiel wants to rid the world of the technology it has become so dependent on and rule from on high as a supreme being, the next logical step in human evolution. It will take all of Iron Man’s intelligence and a surprise ally to help him defeat this latest threat to humanity.
I enjoyed Iron Man: Rise of Technovore and recommend it to anyone who follows the characters. I only have a few quibbles and they’re with the story.
First, all the events in question were only allowed to transpire because no one called off the satellite launch, even when it became apparent they were under attack. I’m not sure I buy that there are no protocols for that sort of thing. Had the launch been scheduled to take place out of the public eye, another attack could have occurred during which Rhodey bit the dust. His is the only death we care about anyway, as it’s the one Iron Man obsesses over, so why not inject a heightened sense of tension while adding in a more believable element? That element being Tony and S.H.I.E.L.D. being smart enough to do what they can to prevent civilian deaths, even at the loss of much-needed positive publicity.
Another issue I have is how Iron Man escapes at the moment of his greatest peril. He’s been taken by the Technovore and rendered immobile, as Stane’s weaponry does its best to corrupt Tony’s suit. That works until Technovore’s suit falters for some unknown reason, giving Iron Man enough time to recharge his own suit and break free. I am not a fan of the hero being saved because of dumb luck. I’d much rather see some action on their part, even if it’s a stupid plan which defies the laws of physics. At least they’d be taking action. Simply waiting for a moment of technical failure isn’t at all that satisfying.
My final issue is when Technovore is on the Helicarrier with Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury. Why doesn’t he kill them all? Sure Iron Man can fly away, but Technovore has shown throughout the film he cares nothing for humanity. So why doesn’t he merely dispatch them with all the speed and precision he’s been demonstrating over the last hour or so? His sudden lack of killing (until the no-name S.H.I.E.L.D. agents appear) plays against character. He’s been shown to be powerful enough to kill anyone and the story wasn’t served by having him suddenly not act as the lethal assassin he is.
Presented in standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the best aspect of Iron Man: Rise of Technovore is the gorgeous artwork. The distinct visualization of this well-done anime lends itself so well to the storytelling, bridging the gap between cartoon and graphic novel beautifully. The palette is strong and the backgrounds have been uniquely rendered. For example, during Iron Man and War Machine’s race, the rocky caverns and mountains are richly textured with wonderful detailing. The scene by Ezekiel’s pool is bathed in overblown whites with the steps beneath the water shaded so subtly as to merely suggest a deeper definition. The audio options are bountiful, with six language tracks and nine subtitles. Each mix is Dolby 5.1, guaranteeing rich sound with well-delineated levels and Foley for the space. This disc looks and sounds as well as it can, outside of a Blu-ray retooling. Bonus features include two brief featurettes — one on the making of the film, the other on the role S.H.I.E.L.D. plays in the Marvel Universe — plus a digital copy. The Blu-ray version offers up an exclusive concept art gallery, if you go that route.
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore is one of the most stunning examples of anime I’ve seen in a long time. I really liked how it provided an opportunity to bring in The Punisher, while utilizing Hawkeye and Black Widow far better than in previous incarnations. The supporting cast makes this feel far more cohesive than it would have otherwise. Those looking for an action-packed tale may not mind the story bumps, especially if you have an affinity for all things Iron Man.