Alibi V.18 No.18 • April 30-May 6, 2009 

Idiot Box

I Am Iron Kid!

“Iron Man: Armored Adventures” on Nicktoons

If you ignore everything that’s awful about “Iron Man: Armored Adventures,” it’s pretty good. Honest.

“Iron Man: Armored Adventures” is a blatant attempt to make the runaway success of the Iron Man live-action movie starring Robert Downey Jr. appeal to the tween crowd. How do you do that? By stripping away almost everything that made the film such a success, apparently. “IM:AA” recasts billionaire industrialist Tony Stark as precocious teenager. Instead of getting severely injured by terrorists while hawking military weapons systems overseas, little Tony barely survives a suspicious plane crash that claims the life of his brilliant inventor father. Donning dad’s experimental armor, the skinny high schooler goes undercover looking for revenge against pop’s scheming second-in-command Obadiah Stane (played by Jeff Bridges in the movie). Aiding him in his quest are teen tough guy Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes and nosey pubescent motormouth Pepper Potts.

Despite the fact that all the cast members have been hideously mutated by the Fountain of Youth, “Armored Adventures” still tries to wedge itself between Downey Jr.’s film and the upcoming sequel. Stane plays a major part in this series, as he did in the film. Also climbing on board for supervillain duty is The Mandarin, a bad guy hinted at in the first film and expected to take center stage in the second. Longtime fans will likely cringe at the cartoon series’ concept that The Mandarin’s position and powers have been usurped by his petulant stepson, but young viewers probably won’t bat an eye. A high school honor student by day and a superhero by night? ... Yes, it’s “Hannah Montana,” with superpowers.

No matter what your age, the animation is questionable. The cell-shaded CGI style makes everyone look more like anorexic balloon sculptures than human beings. The starkly designed shoebox cityscapes seem to be copied from the cyberpunk parkour video game Mirror’s Edge. Then again, it’s bright and cartoony and could all be mistaken for some sort of “edgy” blend of anime, graffiti and PSP graphics.

Although it runs riot over 40 years’ worth of mythology created by Marvel Comics’ long-running series, “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” will probably sit comfortably with youngsters less interested than adults in crazy concepts like continuity. Ignore the lack of snappy dialogue, the absence of brand-name actors and the cookie-cutter plots, and this new version more-or-less works. There’s lots of teen angst and youthful wish fulfillment—which Twilight taught me the youth of today eat up like Sour Patch Kids. Also, adults are likely to not get it, lecturing at length about how much better Iron Man was when they were kids—which is almost guaranteed to make it a hit with the wheelie shoe set. Hey, if the faintly preposterous “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” could make a go of it in 1981, there’s no reason why “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” can’t do the same today.

“Iron Man: Armored Adventures” airs every Friday night at 5 p.m. on Nicktoons.