REVIEW: IRON MAN (1994)

CAST (VOICES)

Robert Hays (Airplane)
James Avery (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Ed Gilbert (Transformers)
Robert Ito (Batman: TAS)
Dorian Harewood (Sparkle)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Matt Frewer (Taken)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Lisa Zane (Monkeybone)

Although only lasting two seasons, Iron Man was the subject of a major overhaul between seasons when its production studio was changed. The result was a massively changed premise, tone, and general approach, which left the disparate seasons scarcely recognizable as being two halves of the same series.

The first season of Iron Man featured little more than a Masters of the Universe-style battle of “good against evil”, as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark battled the evil forces of the world-conquering Mandarin as the armored superhero, Iron Man. In his evil endeavors to steal Stark’s technology and Iron Man’s armor, the Mandarin led a group of villains consisting of Dreadknight, Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle (when it comes to fighting Iron Man and his team, he has a tendency to accidentally turn his fellow villains to stone), Hypnotia (Dreadknight and Blacklash were rivals for the affections of Hypnotia), Whirlwind, Living Laser, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom and Justin Hammer. To combat these villains, Iron Man had the help of his own team (based on Force Works, a then-current comic book team which has since faded into obscurity), including Century, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye (replacing U.S. Agent from the comics) and Spider Woman.

The season consisted mostly of single-episode open-and-shut-case adventures, with two two-part stories late towards the end. Unlike many other Marvel animated series, despite featuring over-the-top titles that paid homage to the early Stan Lee written Marvel comics of the 1960s (for example, “The Grim Reaper Wears a Teflon Coat”, and “Rejoice, I am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer”), almost none of the episodes were adaptations of comic book stories, consisting instead of original stories penned by Ron Friedman, occasionally collaborated on by Stan Lee himself. The closest the season came to adapting a comic book tale was in the two-part “The Origin of Iron Man”, which recounted a (modified and modernized) version of the character’s comic book origin  just before the season concluded.

This late-run recounting of the title character’s origin is symptomatic of what is generally thought of as the season’s greatest weakness – despite (or perhaps because of) having such a large cast of characters, very few of the show’s heroes and villains were actually developed in any way, leaving viewers unaware of their personal stories and powers. The show is generally held to have been at its best when filling in these origin blanks (MODOK in “Enemy Without, Enemy Within,” Iron Man and the Mandarin in their self-titled “The Origin of…” episodes), but these were rare occasions, with virtually every other plot simply consisting of the Mandarin attempting to steal Stark’s newest invention and being bested, often through very strange and illogical means (with the nadir perhaps being Iron Man somehow using the energy of a small tape-player to restore his armor to full power in “Silence My Companion, Death My Destination”).

A small sub-plot in the first season revolves around Mandarin secretly spying on Force Works. It culminates in “The Wedding of Iron Man” when Stark realizes they have been spied on by reviewing events from previous episodes (and explaining how Mandarin’s forces always knew where they would be), realising that Mandarin has acquired enough information to potentially deduce the true identity of Iron Man. The entire episode’s plot is dedicated to resolving the problem, culminating in Iron Man and his team setting up an elaborate deception where Mandarin sees Iron Man and Tony Stark in the same place with the intention being to convince him that the two men are not the same person (The ‘Tony’ in the situation was an android).

In 1995, Marvel switched The Marvel Action Hour to a new animation studio (as previously mentioned, the animation in Season 1 was provided by the Rainbow Animation Group, while the animation in Season 2 was provided by Koko Enterprises), and with it came new writers (Ron Friedman was replaced by Tom Tataranowicz for Season 2) and new music for each sequence, coupled with a new direction for the series. The first season’s subtle keyboard theme music for Iron Man (composed by progressive rock artist Keith Emerson) was replaced by an intense electric guitar theme featuring the repeated refrain of “I am Iron Man!”, while showing Tony Stark beating red-hot iron plates into shape with a blacksmith’s hammer (possibly to mimic the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man”). Tony Stark’s longer hair style in the second season was based upon the artist Mark Bright’s depiction of Stark from the late 1980s, which is where most of the episodes from Season 2 were based upon.

The new story lines spanned multiple episodes and were no longer “open and shut” cases. They formed a linking narrative, featuring themes of duplicity, consequence, and phobias. Also, the stories were no longer centered on the Mandarin, whose rings had been scattered and whose power had been depleted. While the Mandarin did appear in these episodes, his appearances were reduced to cameos in the cliffhangers at the end of the story, as he tried to retrieve each ring.

Another change was that Force Works was mostly written out of the series, parting ways with Stark after he deceives them in order to work in secret with the Mandarin when Fin Fang Foom and his fellow Dragons were plotting to eliminate Earth. When Stark’s counter plan against Justin Hammer, which includes faking his death without the knowledge of his teammates, leads to a disbanding of Force Works, Julia Carpenter and James Rhodes are the only ones who continue to work with Stark. This split would be revisited with Stark’s ensuing conflicts with Hawkeye over the course of several episodes.

Also, War Machine develops a phobia of being trapped inside his armor (also based on a then-current comic storyline), but this is resolved before the final episode. While Rhodes was active as War Machine in Season 1, he remained out of armor for the majority of Season 2 due to reliving a tragic drowning experience while being trapped underwater in the War Machine armor in the Season 2 episode “Fire And Rain”. Rhodes eventually overcomes his fear and dons the War Machine armor once again in the episode “Distant Boundaries”.

Prior to finding his last two rings, the Mandarin claims his eighth ring from MODOK in the episode “Empowered”. “Empowered” was the clip show of the season, the purpose being that the Mandarin wanted to learn of Iron Man’s recent activities. In the finale,[9][10] the Mandarin, having regained all of his rings, unleashes a mist using the Heart of Darkness to render everything technological useless. Iron Man reunites with Force Works in order to stop him. The Mandarin unmasks Iron Man before their final showdown ends in his death. More specifically, Iron Man manages to reflect the power of Mandarin’s rings, destroying them, and ultimately leaving the Mandarin with amnesia and helpless before a band of desert bandits who likely killed him, or at least cut off his hand/fingers for the rings. After Mandarin was killed, MODOK and the rest of Mandarin’s henchmen were sent to jail. After disappointing ratings, the series was canceled.

After twenty six episodes, Iron Man the animated series remains a very mixed bag. Blame for this shows disappointing quality can be attributed to constrictions placed upon the writers to feature as many Iron Man suits as possible in each episode as free publicity for the toys. On the bright side, it got better, allowing the audience at least 13 episodes of decent animated entertainment.

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REVIEW: IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES – SEASON 1 & 2

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MAIN CAST

Adrian Petriw (Edgemont)
Daniel Bacon (50/50)
Vincent Tong (Death Note)
Anna Cummer (Aliens In America)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)Image result for iron man armored adventures LOGO

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Catherine Lough Haggquist (Godzilla)
Fred Henderson (This Means War)
Alistair Abell (Freddy vs Jason)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Glactica)
Christopher Britton (Thor: Tales of Asgard)
Venus Terzo (X-Men Evolution)
Lee Tockar (George of The Jungle)

When his industrialist father Howard Stark who disappears in a plane crash after refusing to weaponize the Earth Mover at Obadiah Stane’s behest, 16-year-old genius Tony uses a high-tech suit of armor he has constructed and investigates a charge that Stane may have been involved in his father’s death. As Iron Man, Tony spends his time stopping Stane’s plans and saving the world from other villains such as Mandarin, Mr. Fix, Whiplash, A.I.M., Living Laser, the Maggia, Controller, Crimson Dynamo, Blizzard, Killer Shrike, Unicorn, M.O.D.O.K., Ghost, Black Knight, and Technovore. He is assisted in his crime fighting efforts with help from James Rhodes and Pepper Potts. Tony’s activities as Iron Man usually result in his needing to make up excuses as to why he is constantly late or missing from school and other activities. Dependent on his phenomenal technology for survival, Tony must balance the pressures of teenage life with the duties of being a super hero.

The first season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures has a total of 26 episodes. Tony Stark, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Pepper Potts, Gene Khan, Happy Hogan, Nick Fury, Whitney Stane, Black Panther, The Hulk, and S.H.I.E.L.D. all appear in this season.

The first season focuses on the Makluan Rings saga as Tony, Pepper, Rhodey, and Gene Khan work together to get the 5 rings. Upon overthrowing his stepfather Xin Zhang, Gene secretly works undercover to steal the rings from his friends, and ends up betraying them (which upsets Pepper). The season also features the Madame Masque Saga, which comes to a conclusion in the episode “Best Served Cold”. Tony’s feud with Obadiah Stane comes to a partial conclusion in that episode as well. The season ends with two primary cliffhangers in the episode “Tales of Suspense”. The now-friendless Gene discovers that the original Mandarin had 5 other rings besides the original 5. Tony finds out that his father, Howard, survived the plane crash and is being held prisoner, while the armory is destroyed during Xin Zhang’s attack limiting Tony’s resources to find and rescue his father.This season featured Makluan Guardian versions of Dreadknight, Ultimo, Firebrand, and Fin Fang Foom who guard the rings the Mandarin hasn’t obtained yet.

The second season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures has a total of 26 episodes, just like the first season. Black Widow / Natalie Romanoff, Hawkeye, Doctor Doom, Magneto and Justin Hammer appear in this season. General Nick Fury, Black Panther, Mr. Fix, Whiplash and Obadiah Stane return.

The second season covers the Armor Wars saga and Stane International storylines. The first half of Season Two reflecting the Armor Wars has Tony and Rhodey as his definite partner War Machine fighting many people who have stolen Stark’s armor tech and seek to exploit the stolen Iron Man specs for their own purposes.

The enemies young Stark fights during this version of the Armor Wars include the Ghost who steals Iron Man specs and knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man. Ghost sells the specs to both Justin Hammer and Obadiah Stane but says he will not reveal Iron Man’s true identity until Tony turns 18. Justin Hammer makes an armor with the Iron Man specs with the armor being called Titanium Man. Doctor Doom joins forces with Stane to attain the Iron Man armor operating system. Stane builds the Iron Monger armor which is revealed actually to be a direct upgrade from Crimson Dynamo armor (version 3) and is much larger than in the comic book and live action movie realities. The Armor Wars conclude as Obadiah Stane discovers the identity of Iron Man. Stane steals Iron Monger and is intent on destroying Tony once and for all.

While Tony is fighting the Armor Wars, Howard Stark is shown to be alive and forced by Gene to find the other 5 Makluan Rings. Gene continues to find and secured the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth rings for himself during this time. This part of the season also included Makluan Guardian versions of Melter, Sunturion, Grim Reaper, and Grey Gargoyle who guard the remaining Makluan Rings. The second half of season two is loosely based on the “Stane International” story arc. Justin Hammer (instead of Obadiah Stane) successfully buys control of Stark International. Stark, Rhodey and Potts all agree to fight against Hammer and his weaponization of Stark International’s projects. Unlike the printed page version, Stark and Rhodes reject the title of Circuits Maximus for the new start-up and settle on “Stark Solutions” . By the end of the second season, Pepper has assumed the armored identity of Rescue.

The show is well written. The characters are three dimensional. And the story is very intriguing. But you have to watch all the episodes in order. It’s almost a serial type of show. If you miss an episode it’ll be harder to understand what’s going on.

REVIEW: MARVEL ONE-SHOT: ALL HAIL THE KING

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CAST

Ben Kingsley (Species)
Scoot McNairy (Batman V Superman)
Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest)

 

Trevor Slattery, having been captured at the end of Iron Man 3, is now being held in Seagate Prison. At the prison he is living luxuriously, having his own personal “butler”, Herman, as well as other inmates who act as his fan club and protection from other inmates. Looking on at the attention Slattery receives in the cafeteria is Justin Hammer, who wonders what makes him so special. Slattery has been talking with a documentary filmmaker, Jackson Norriss, to chronicle the events of the Mandarin situation seen in Iron Man 3. Norriss, trying to learn more about Slattery personally, recounts his past from his first casting as a child as well as starring in a failed CBS pilot. Norriss eventually informs Slattery that his portrayal has angered some people, including the actual Ten Rings terrorist group, which Slattery did not know existed. Norriss tells him the history of the Mandarin and the terrorist group, before revealing that he is actually a member of the group. The real reason for Norriss interviewing Slattery is to break him out of prison so he can meet the actual Mandarin. Hearing this, Slattery still has no idea of the full ramifications of his posing as the Mandarin.

A return to the lovable personality of the hapless Trevor and a step forward for the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has its twists that should satisfy both lovers and haters of Trevor Slattery. But it’s the approach that Pearce takes with the material, from the kung-fu movie style credit sequences to the light-hearted tone that takes a sudden and jarring turn. Kingsley once again shines in the role of Slattery, aloof and ignorant, but more than happy to slide back into Mandarin mode if it will please his adoring fans. .”

REVIEW: IRON MAN 2

 

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Contagion)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest)
Mickey Rourke (Sin City)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Kate Mara (Fantastic Four)
Leslie Bibb (The Skulls)
Jon Favreau (Swingers)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)_
Olivia Munn (Zoolander 2)
Seth Green (Family Guy)

After the initial trepidation followed by the overwhelming box office success of the first Iron Man film, a second was a foregone conclusion. However as part of a larger trilogy, not to mention a subsequent Avengers film, the challenge of advancing some of those storylines along with giving people what they liked in the first one would be difficult, to say the least.

Jon Favreau returns to direct the second film, based on Justin Theroux’s (Tropic Thunder) screenplay. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes) and his businesses continue to thrive, in part because as Iron Man, he’s promoted the longest stretch of global peace in quite some time. There is a small cottage industry that tries to capitalize on Stark’s success, with the main one being Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). Hammer tries to mimic Stark’s technology and gain an advantage over it, but the results seem to wind up being disastrous. It’s as if he’s the Wile E. Coyote of defense contractors who want to make their own Iron Men. However the biggest threat to Stark’s Iron Man may be Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler), a Russian whose father worked with Stark’s, and may be as familiar with the technology of Iron Man as Tony is.

Not knowing of Vanko, Tony continues to live the good life. He continues to get along well with his assistant Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en), despite the addition of the younger and equally attractive Natalie (Scarlett Johansson, He’s Just Not That Into You) into the fold. Despite these women sparring for Tony’s affections, he has bigger things to be concerned about. The arc reactor device in Tony’s chest is slowly turning his blood toxic and in effect, killing him. He doesn’t tell the women, or his best friend Lt. Col. Rhoades (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard from the first film). And when Vanko confronts Tony, in Monaco of all places, it leaves Tony with a sense of doubt and a lack of purpose that might have long-lasting ramifications.

With Favreau juggling the different storytelling balls, including an increased role from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction), he gives the audience new and different ways to enjoy the action and fighting sequences. And I have to admit, they’re exciting and damned fun to watch, starting from the opening sequence when Tony jumps out of a military plane into his “Stark Expo” highlighting his company’s ware. He twists and turns through the night sky, avoiding fireworks and other air obstacles to make his grand entrance. The confrontation with Vanko is also entertaining and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

It’s ambitious in what it wants to accomplish, and it succeeds on many levels.