Saturday, March 17, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Iron Man (1994)

Iron Man is a 1994 animated television show that was part of The Marvel Action Hour along with the 1990's Fantastic Four cartoon. Both shows were a part of Marvel's "Animated Universe" which also included Hulk, X-Men, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, and Avengers shows.

The appearance of Iron Man for this show is taken directly from the comics of the day. The show also features Force Works - a short lived comic book team that featured a slightly altered lineup of Spider-Woman, The Scarlet Witch, Warmachine, The Century, and Hawkeye. Beyond that, this show has little relation to the comic book series. In fact, I think in one episode they call Warmachine "James Avery" when his actual name is "James Rhodes."

Frankly, there's little redeeming quality about this show. The animation is below even 1994 standards. The show tries to shoehorn in some CGI sequences when Tony Stark transformer into Iron Man but watching hand-drawn animation morph into CGI and back again is paintful. The series is riddled with coloring problems and reused clips that have the wrong backgrounds.

Sound effects and music are likewise abysmal. At times you will wonder why they were reduced to ripping off old Nintendo games for their sound effects and repetitive background music. The opening credits are horrible and the theme song is likewise completely forgettable.

But the writing may be the worst. The internal logic of the episodes defies explanation. Things just happen without cause or apparent logical effects. The techno-babble is truly amazing as character string together any three or four words with more than five syllables to explain any event or "scientific fact." Characters are two-dimensional and are reshaped to meet the needs of each episode. We see Tony Stark in physical therapy and walking with a cane but in other scenes he's running and jumping freely. Mandarin berates the Blizzard for freezing his begonias. Seriously. The "big bad villain" is upset his flowers died. Modok, the super-genius, thinks being pushing a baby stroller is a good disguise for him. In another scene, Modok is able to produce a baby-Modok with his hand that he calls his "ELF" - External Life Form. In one episode, Iron Man develops a "solar weakness," and he recharges by listening to classical music. Bill Clinton, Luciano Pavarotti, and Van Cliburn are all given cameos.

The series opener features the following villains (all in one episode!): Whiplash, Mandarin, Aquatic Zombies, Modook, Blizzard, Fin Fang Foom, Hypnotia, Dread Knight, Whirlwind, Grey Gargoyle, and Justin Hammer. The series never really goes beyond these villains. They appear again and again, episode after episode.

The series does get better as it goes on but not by much. It is noteworthy that the production value of this show was improved in the second season with better animation, writing, music, and sound effects.

One very odd note - One episode shows a plane flying into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center hit by missiles from the same plane. I'd call that strangely prophetic...

Final analysis: The second season lifts this show slightly but not nearly enough to overcome the horrific first season.

1LR Rating - 6 out of 20 - It's a Failure!

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