A threat to the existence of mankind has surfaced and it has a strong connection to one Tony Stark.
What They Say:
After a deadly terrorist attack, Iron Man is blamed and must go on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and stop the insane villain Ezekiel Stane who has developed a new type of “bio tech” that seems to outclass even the Iron Man armor.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty strong as we get three main tracks using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec, giving the Japanese, English and French tracks a very good feeling. There’s a lot of throws to the rear channels right from the start with the way the armor suits are used in flight and it’s something that’s done often throughout the film. The audio for this definitely makes for a good home video approach as it immerses you into it really well and has the numerous action scenes stand out all the more. In some ways, it feels like this is a better and more dynamic mix than you get from a lot of movies as it really draws you into it. We sampled some of the various tracks but watched it initially in Japanese and then again in English to see how they compare, which is pretty spot on. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playbacl.
Originally released in 2013, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The film clocks in at 88 minutes with just a few extras, giving it plenty of space to work with. The film uses a solid bitrate throughout as even the lower action sequences run in the mid twenties. There’s a good variety to the types of scenes we get throughout the film and the transfer captures it well, whether it’s the earthy scenes early on or the more varied pieces with Ezekiel and his whtieness. The transfer has a very clean look to it with nothing that stands out as problematic, but having a good film-like feel about it. The vibrant moments really stand out here but even they feel naturally blended into the overall style design of the film.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard Blu-ray case with an O-card slipcover that replicates what’s on the case itself. The front cover gives us the familiar logo which looks good with the film subtitle below it. The background goes for the technological side of blandness and doesn’t add much, but the foreground brings in the notable characters so that you can get a clue as to who all is in it, which definitely helps. The character artwork is a bit shadowed form the bottom so it doesn’t look too clean, but it keeps it from looking too childish as well. The back cover provides a decent summary of the premise without giving away too much while also providing a few shots from the show and a breakdown of the discs extras. Add in the production credits and a text layout of what the technical specs are and you have a decent looking exterior. The cover does have artwork on the reverse side which is nice as it uses the same kind of background but also provides a four pose shot of the Iron Man suit itself. No show related extras are included in this release.
The menu design goes for simplicity with the menu laid out with just a simple navigation strip along the bottom which doubles as the pop-up menu. It’s just a mildly opaque bar so you can see the animation below it and has the core selections with easy menus to navigate through that operated without any problem. The backgrounds for the menus use various clips from the feature to give it a good bit of action and movement but also some focuses on the characters themselves. Setup is a breeze and we had no problems in changing things on the fly or just general setup. Submenus load quickly and everything is laid out smartly.
The Blu-ray release gets one bonus that the DVD doesn’t have and that’s the concept art gallery, which can be done by moving through it manually, having the slide along the bottom to skim through or just playing an actual slideshow segment so you can just enjoy it. Lots of good stuff here and some fantastic detail in the designs when it comes to the mechanics of it all. In addition to that, we get two featurettes that are really enjoyable that both run about eight minutes in length. The first is a standard behind the scenes piece for the feature as it brings in the creative team and the main people behind Marvel and how they took the anime approach and what they set out to do. The second feature goes more into what SHIELD is itself, providing the history of it and expanding the casual fans knowledge in a really nice way.
Having been reading Iron Man comics since I was a kid and being a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the one place that Marvel has really fallen for me is when it comes to their animated properties. No matter how much I love the live action movies, the animated properties and TV series just don’t click for me as they always feel too simple, to Saturday morning in a way. That eased a bit in the past year as we had the Marvel Anime TV series and, though flawed, they started giving me more of what I wanted that felt true to what the comics were doing at times. With Rise of the Technovore, we get a feature that’s situated within the movie universe and uses the characters from there, referencing certain events from it as well, in order to give us a new Iron Man centric tale, but one that acknowledges other areas of the world.
The premise for the film works well as we get Tony and Stark Industries about to launch a massive new satellite, named Howard after his father, that will help work with SHIELD in their attempts to stop the bad guys before things get too far out of control. Though there’s an obvious altruistic approach to it on Tony’s part, you can see how easy it can be abused in the wrong hands as well. But for Tony, his desire to do the right thing to save as many people as possible is what drives him and he often misses some of the human elements in his quest to use technology to better mankind. Though it doesn’t delve into it too deeply, it’s at least acknowledged that there are a lot of privacy issues at stake here with people uncertain about its existence but end up seeing that it’s something that’s going to go through. At least until some mysterious group makes an attack on the launch facility in order to destroy it.
The group is made up of just normal people in armored suits for the first part of it, but it’s when the white clad mysterious young man that leads them arrives that the surreal aspect hits. With a deadly casualness, he ends up killing a slew of people using something he calls Technovores, biotech creatures that seem to be bonded with him that can just kill easily and destroy machinery with just as much ease. Though the satellite gets launched, it’s at quite a price. And one that Tony barely survives, but in the end just makes things worse for him. While SHIELD wants to debrief him, and he does allow it for a bit, he’s intent on figuring out this new armor and what it is the kid wants and he’s not going to wait for SHIELD to finish its by the book approach to debriefing and so forth. Which, unfortunately, puts him at odds with SHIELD and we get a couple of otherwise pointless chase scenes as Black Widow and Hawkeye are sent to bring him in.
The film goes through the discovery phase well as Tony tries to figure out who the kid is and that brings him to a few different people. We get some time with Pepper Potts as he resets himself after the initial fight and he later ends up working with Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, who has a pretty good grip on how to get information that he’s looking for. The two of them working together is kind of awkward in some ways considering their different approaches, That brings the two of them back into Black Widow and Hawkeye’s orbit again which is fun as we get all of them going back and forth in an almost playful way at times. But I really liked that as it went on and we learned about the mystery kid and his true connection to Tony, it ties into the first movie in a great way and practically has me wanting to see this done as a live action movie as it would be a great kind of evolution for things.
Though some of the story elements of the Madhouse produced Marvel Anime TV series didn’t work for me, I loved the animation itself. With this film, they go the extra distance and really bring it all together in a great way of adapting what we saw in the movies, giving it the anime spin and hitting things hard when it comes to the action. It’s very much an anime feature and you can see so many different things that have been longstanding plot points for shows of this nature going back decades. There’s even a shade or two of Bubblegum Crisis in here that makes me grin. But what also gets me about this, especially comparing it to the other shows that we saw perviously through Lionsgate, is that there’s a maturity to the characters and storytelling here. Yes, it’s superheroes and familiar plot points. But it’s dealing with adults and it often feels like they’re real characters in what they talk about, how they talk and the interactions. The quiet time we get is just as engaging as the action and that goes a long way towards making this a fully realized film.
While I initially watched the movie in Japanese (and continue to lament that the TV series anime have not gotten a bilingual Blu-ray release yet), I enjoyed that cast a lot and what they brought to it, which in some ways is less than the English production as there are a lot of quiet scenes in the Japanese track that have English dialogue on that track. American animation just can’t handle quiet moments sometimes. The English cast for this works well and Matthew Mercer is a solid Tony Stark, though he doesn’t have the lightness that Robert Downey, Jr. has to his voice. When it comes to the other name casting, Norman Reedus plays the Punisher and it’s a bit harder to separate him from his Walking Dead role, but he handles the character well here while still needing something a little deeper and richer to his voice. Kate Higgins works well as pepper Potts and I was just glad to see even a small role for Maria Hill here, which was done by Kari Wahlgren. Clare Grant does well as Black Widow, but it’s a performance for a role that has to be restrained and kind of like she has to feel disdainful about doing this job at all, so there’s not a lot to it. Where it all really comes down to is how well that Mercer and play Tony, which he does well, and how the villain deals with things, and Eric Bauza provides the right kind of approach for that character.
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore hits that sweet spot for me as an anime fan and a comics fan with a great blend that pays respect to what came before but has a slick and modern feel and approach to it. The blending of the comics side with the approach of anime and the quality of the designs, animation, choreography and scale of it all works well. There’s a maturity about the film here, especially in comparison to the TV properties and previous animated films and it all ties in together well with the Cinematic Universe so that it could easily be a part of it without any real continuity issues to be had. But at the end of the day, it really came down to this for me. I was very entertained throughout it and wanted to see just how far it would go. It’s not an out of the park grand slam, but it is the best of the Marvel animated programs that I’ve seen yet and is the way that all their home video features should work.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, French DTS-HD 5.1 Language, Spanish Language, Portuguese Language, Chinese Subtitles, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: April 16th, 2013
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.