In addition to discussing the film with its voice talent, CBR News spoke to producer Megan Thomas Bradner and writer Brandon Auman about their part in bringing the East/West hybrid film to life and how their experience with some earlier versions of Iron Man and anime informed what made "Rise of The Technovore" what is is.
"There are different types of stories that lend themselves to different mediums," Bradner said of the switch from anime TV to anime film. "For example, in comics there are some stories that take six to twelve issues to tell, and some that require a Giant-Size Annual. This is our Giant-Size Annual.
"We got to see a lot more Iron Man in this movie than we did in the comic. The series had different focuses in what they were doing and was much more about Tony Stark and him coming to Japan where he had this philosophical quandary. This is much more of a fast-paced, action-oriented adventure story. We wanted to try different things, and the movie allowed us to do that."
Approaching the task of writing the movie for a bi-continental production, Auman said the process was an open one. "MadHouse was actually very open to setting the movie anywhere we pleased. We thought it would be great and epic feeling to set the film all over the world," he explained, adding that both studios were able to draw on the characters' broader pop culture footprint to find the film's final take on Iron Man. "It helps that by now, people have a specific idea of who all these characters are just from the movies alone. A lot of their characterizations are based on their movie versions, and also, to a certain degree, their comic counterparts."
In many ways, the film shares a tone with the Marvel Studios "Iron Man" films, featuring a wise-cracking Tony Stark relying on his sharp-tongued gal Friday Pepper Potts to battle against the living robot Technovore as it combines with vendetta-driven teen Ezekiel Stane. Auman said that tone was no accident. "Honestly, MadHouse brought a lot of connection to the cinematic universe. They brought back the suitcase armor, which I think the fans will love. And the Mandroids are adapted Hammer Drones from 'Iron Man 2.' I was kind of surprised, but really into the connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but... it's not really a sequel. It's still its own universe. But if that's how the fans want to take it, it's open for interpretation."
Bradner agreed that the film stands on its own in many ways while drawing on a wide range of inspirations. "We definitely hope that anyone who picks this up can watch and enjoy it whether you're a hardcore fan or a comic book fan or someone who's an anime fan not experienced in the Marvel U or someone who's just into the Marvel films. We keep in mind that this could be someone's first exposure to the character," she told CBR News. "But I think in terms of the tone, that familiarity is a result of the feel we tried to get which takes elements we all love from the comic books and doing it in the film in a way that's not so continuity heavy. It asks, 'If you first met these characters here, what's most important to get from them? What's important about Iron Man, the Punisher, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Maria Hill and Nick Fury? What's the bare bones that make them who they are?' We tried to capture that still considering that it's Tony Stark and Iron Man's story."
In particular, the producers worked to make a new version of the Technovore -- a tech-based villain who appeared in a few appearances in the '90s. The villain has since been revived in animated appearances in "Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes" and the "Iron Man: Armored Adventures" cartoon both Bradner and Auman worked on. This Technovore, though, combines with the Ezekiel Stane character from the comics with a decidedly anime twist. "Early on we talked about the threat being Ultron, but that changed... he became Technovore. I pitched it as a bio-tech suit that would take over its user and become something monstrous. But I suppose to answer your question, I think the concept -- starting as a nanovirus-like creature -- just feels very modern and very possible. Nanotech is already happening, and it will be a part of our lives very soon.
"The human side is so important, you actually feel bad for Zeke," the writer said of the teen in the armor. "He really is a fragile, if insanely brilliant kid. He has serious father issues, even if he won't admit them, and has twisted values that often conflict -- just like a kid -- and just like the terrorist he has become. He also lives in a fantasy world of his own construction. This kid is more brilliant than Tony Stark... but he's also a twisted monster who wants to wipe out humanity and start over -- or possibly be alone with his Technovore creations. I was a bit stunned they made him so young -- but then again I wasn't, as it's common Japanese storytellers make their villains young and kind of androgynous."
In fact, Auman said the process of collaborating with writer Kengo Kaiji who wrote the screenplay for the anime based on his story before he had to translate the movie back into English added a lot of Japanese flair to the proceedings. "All of the elements are there, but some of them were changed. The pacing changed a lot, especially towards the end. But I think we're so used to typical American structure that anime sometimes surprises us. And I think that's a good thing. I like everything that Kaiji brought to it. It almost feels like a dream. It's surreal and kind of bizarre, and I love the surreal and bizarre. This is the guy who helped bring 'Uzumaki' to the screen."
Bradner noted that the anime format allowed the pair to do things they never could have done in their "Armored Adventure" days but not in ways most fans would expect. "I think some people will look at this and think 'adult' means we got to use more profanity and blood and stuff like that. I think this is more about the level of maturity we're able to tell this story with," she said. "In the case of 'Armored Adventures,' Tony was young. That's what we always heard from the fans. 'On my God, you're using young Tony. I'm not going to watch.' But kids don't want to watch about boardroom antics, but in this movie we can involve Tony as a businessman and the quandaries he finds himself in in regards to his past. It's a maturity of storytelling. This is very much an action story where he's in his suit for almost the entire story. It's not exactly the kind of thing we could have pulled off in 'Armored Adventures,' and it has some added scope.
"We had four anime series under our belts, but we did get to change things for the film away from the fast-paced schedule of the TV series. We had a little more time, and so we did have the opportunity to spend more time on the creation of it here and then were able to spend more time working with our team at MadHouse and Sony Japan. Brandon, to his credit, came in and had a lot of Iron Man experience under his belt. He worked with us here to figure out what the story would be, and then we worked with MadHouse, and then it all came back. That's a real interesting process when you're reading what's come back after it's been translated. You want to keep in mind that when the dialogue comes back, our version is not going to be that exact line. It's going to have that feel, but it's not going to be exact. You've got to be open. And you'll see if you watch it in Japanese with the English subtitles -- I would recommend trying it both ways so you can see how the different versions play."
Ultimately, both felt that this didn't have to be the end of Marvel animation on DVD or the Marvel/Sony/MadHouse relationship. "I'd love to go and do more anime series," Bradner said. "I'm certainly an X-Men fan, and if you watch the end of the 'X-Men' series, you'll see an Easter Egg in there for possible stories to come. But I think that this was also a great experience making a feature with the MadHouse guys and with Brandon, and I see a lot of possibilities for a future of collaborations on the DTVs in the future -- maybe with some of the characters in 'Technovore.'"
"Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore" is on sale now on DVD and Blu-ray.