Misguidedly rewiring Iron Man’s origin story to transform the industrial magnate into a teenage hero a la Spider-Man, the animation and storytelling in “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” looks OK once the title character blasts into action but sputters the rest of the time. As with Marvel’s X-Men spinoff for Nicktoons, the series is loud and lively enough to possess some appeal among young boys, but disappoints in terms of the more ambitious storytelling that characterizes the best recent boy-oriented action entries.
As reimagined, 16-year-old Tony Stark (voiced by Adrian Petriw) is a computer whiz who becomes Iron Man only after his father dies during a suspicious attack. This leaves his late dad’s vast technology company in the hands of Obadiah Stane (Mackenzie Gray), who’s just the latest ruthless tycoon bent on peddling weapons to the world.
A second half-hour (the two will be paired on the first night in a serialized storyline) introduces one of the character’s comicbook villains, the Mandarin (Vincent Tong), and features a fairly impressive action sequence in which Iron Man races past skyscrapers trying to stop a runaway train. Sure, they did pretty much the exact same thing in the second “Spider-Man” movie, but one of the perks of animation is the freedom to clone for less.
Other than the action, though, everything — from the slightly anime-style character design to Tony’s banter with his teenage friends, Rhodey and Pepper — is mostly an uninspired bust. That’s in large part because Iron Man lends himself to this sort of youthful reconfiguration less than almost any fictional hero, making the whole “boy wonder” approach play like pandering at its worst.
Then again, “Iron Man” is merely software in a larger battle for the hearts and minds (or at least fleeting attention spans) of young boys, as Disney XD and the Nickelodeon channel challenge the solid foothold that Cartoon Network has established within that famously fidgety demographic.
Superheroes remain a reasonably savvy way to target tykes, but you don’t have to be a purist or fuddy-duddy to prefer the old — and older — Iron Man to Nicktoons’ oil-those-rusty-joints-with-Clearasil version.