Thanks to the hugely popular live-action Iron Man movie, the Iron Man character has pretty much reached household recognition. And now that the sequel is about to hit, for which I will be going to see the midnight showing tomorrow night, Marvel has decided to release the old 1994 animated television series on DVD. Even though I've long been a fan of Iron Man, I must admit that I have little-to-no recognition of this series. Maybe I watched it and forgot about it, or maybe I just never saw it... or more likely, I saw a couple episodes and then never watched it again. I say this is more likely because once I started watching the DVD, I realized that the show sucks, and I don't mean it just kind of sucks, I mean it sucks HARD! Absolutely terrible, that is until season two came along, at which point the show actually got pretty good. So yeah, this is kind of a weird one to review.
Okay, so what made season one so bad? How much time do you have? First off, the animation was terrible. This was released in 1994, but the animation was like something out of the early 1980s, with very simple character designs, animation mistakes, boring angles, you name it. Pretty much every other cartoon on air at that point looked better than this thing. They even tried to get clever and use some very primitive CGI whenever Tony Stark stepped into his Iron Man armor, but it just felt out of place. Oh, and his armor is a gray briefcase that unfolds into a square version of the armor which then magically changes color and becomes more rounded to fit Tony and magically zaps Tony to remove his clothes and put him in some kind of high tech thermal underwear... magically.
And the stories were extremely lame. Every episode had the evil Mandarin trying to steal something from Tony Stark or trying to kill him or whatever so that he could take over the world. Really? That's all the big bad Mandarin has got? Turning into a petty thief with a bunch of useless supervillians to steal technology even though he has a bunch of rings that can seemingly do anything? There were no morals or life lessons learned, nor were there any sort of character development for any of the characters. G.I. Joe had more realistic plot lines.
The last thing I'll mention here is what I called the "magic" of the show, which is that pretty much nothing makes sense and stuff just magically seems to happen. In the first episode, Tony somehow figures out all this convoluted stuff the Mandarin did a year ago just by seeing the date on a newspaper?! WTF?! Or in the 2-part episode The Origin of Iron Man, Tony is injured while wearing the Iron Man armor and crash lands inside a glacier. The armor needs to to recharge and I guess auto-repair, and Tony needs to stay awake or else he will die... so the only solution is, get this, for the Iron Man helmet to project out holograms showing Tony's past to him... WTF?! You're extrmely low on power so you need to project holograms? The only way Tony can stay awake is to watch past memories, some of which he doesn't even remember?
Now, season two turns all of this around. The animation gets good, I'd say on par with the X-Men series which was airing at the same time. And the stories get more involved, containing life lessons and have various puproses, not just bad guy try to take over the world. Then the characters become actual people, they're given depth and sometimes struggling emotionally with various issues, and actually serve purposes. Also, the "magic" is greatly reduced, where the nonsensical stuff was kept to a minimum. If the first season had been like the second, I think the show would have lasted a lot longer than only two episodes, because I'm sure most people who were turned off by the show when it first started didn't bother to come back and check out the second season.
There are no extra features so that was a bit disappointing. I'd love to hear interviews with the creators and what was going on with development on the two seasons. My recomendation would be to rent this, and if you have Netflix then I'd say just skip disc 1 all together since season 2 starts on the second disc but still contains some season 1 episodes so you can check them out and see what they're like.