Friday, December 20, 2013

Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United Reviewed

Annnnd we're back! Amid the gears of the Disney multi-media machine, the straight to DVD feature length Marvel animated adventures return with a tale we've been teased for some time now.

When two HYDRA scientists try to supercharge a Stark Arc Reactor with Hulk’s Gamma Energy, they unleash a being of pure electricity called the Zzzax – and he’s hungry for destruction. Together, Iron Man and Hulk are the only force that stands in the way of the Zzzax’s planetary blackout. But first, the Super Hero duo will have to get through snarling Wendigos, deadly robots and the scaly powerhouse, Abomination. Can two of Marvel’s mightiest Heroes find a way to work together without smashing each other before time runs out?

Right out of the gate, we were a little irked over the fairly awful CGI images we were being shown during the lead up to the title. The opening title sequence boasts Kirby art practically bounding off the screen. The actual animation deflates any expectation. Plodding along like cinematic scenes from an obsolete Marvel movie video game, the characters come off as overly expressive marionettes. The film opens with a battle between Hulk and Abomination, who has gotten a pointy make-over, which I'll admit was pretty slick, but the addition of glowy lines throughout the figure make him look like a Halloween decoration rather than a major Marvel villain.  Hulk spends the majority of the film making Shrek-like faces... something akin to Calvin's "frozen booger" face...

Hulk's intellect shifts wildly from highly intelligent to sarcastic, eye rolling high school teenager to the monosyllabic "HULK SMASH" bellowing green ape we came to love in the Avengers movie. Meanwhile, the film's depiction of Iron Man seems a bit too young with dumbed down dialogue spewing forth like a lawn sprinkler, forced largely to create the vibe of "witty repartee" which fails most of the time. Save for two moments I noted specifically, this film is largely laugh-free. As we flip over to the evil Hydra scientists who say their names every 2 minutes, things aren't much livelier. Each villain is astoundingly one dimensional on a sliding scale...downward..ending with Zzzax, who just comes off as tiresome.

Battle scenes ramp up the action to Dragonball-esque levels, complete with running conversation alongside every punch thrown, leaving the viewer to pray they might talk each other to death. Wrapped up in this tit-for-tat is a not so subtle energy conservation message, for no particular reason. Point of fact, there is another set of villains introduced midway through the film just as randomly, and just as quickly dismissed. This is very poor writing, to be sure. To provide a miniscule giggle, die hard geeks will note a Transformer transformation sound amid the march of the SHIELD emblazoned Mandroids, as if an editor said "screw it, I love that cartoon, here's my nod". It definitely didn't hurt the end product.

There is only one excuse for the near infantile banter, wild shift in characterizations and villains with the threat level of a candy shoplifter...this is a film for CHILDREN. For too long, we've been told the TV cartoons are for the kids, the movies are for the public at large and the direct to DVD films are for us, containing story lines closer to our favorite comics and material of a near rated R nature. That time has clearly ended. This is a child's fantasy with familiar movie characters not doing anything outside of their "expected" nature, so we should expect no more than a cheaply crafted, family safe adventure mirroring film set pieces and characters. As a post credits scene rolled, we are left with the promise of a Captain America and Iron Man team up in the next installment and the 100% possibility it will be just as headache inducing and time wasting as Iron Man and Hulk. Just a hunch.

Blu-ray extras included "Marvel Team-Up", an interview with Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Comics, and Ryan Penagos AKA Agent M, our buddy from Marvel social media. Though it is fairly fun to watch these two remember their favorite Marvel Team-Up moments (even more enjoyable than the actual film), moments like Joe Q remarking that Daredevil "does what he can to get by" and that Daredevil and Spider-Man are very alike are eye-gouging for hardcore Marvel fans. Sure, a man with senses so acute he can tell if you are lying by your heartbeat is just "getting by" and a man who can lift a car and leap across buildings is very much like a fantastic acrobat who is largely mortal in speed and strength. I completely understand your position. Then there are the "Marvel Mash-Ups"...bane of my existence...enemy of my kinder Marvel cartoon memories. These quick skits, created as interstitials for the weekend Marvel cartoon block, take 90's era Marvel cartoons and overdub them with skull cracking voice acting and humor so juvenile, if there isn't a 5 year old laughing himself silly somewhere, then I'm not sure what demographic the jokes are meant for. Hit pause during the movie for a "Marvel Inter-Mission"...which reveals itself to be MORE MARVEL MASH-UPS!! know..because one dose of Marvel Mash-Ups was not enough. They are so proud of their work. If anything, this feature will compel you to not pause the film, thus speeding you through the ordeal as quickly as possible. It's a public service.

Included with my Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy pack was a coupon with a code promising a free Iron Man Minimate and the ability to buy exclusive Minimates mirroring the colossal action of this mind-bending animated epic. Why you would want to relive these moments is beyond me, but I know some of you are completists, so I won't pass judgement. To be blunt, this may provide the only actual entertainment in the film pack, if you don't have children who don't know any better. Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United is a fail at every level. Months from now, we may hear that small children can't miss a day without at least one viewing of this film, but it is clearly not for adults, and absolutely a stomach churning event for die hard Marvel fans. If you can find value in this film, I applaud your effort.

If you are an extreme masochist and feel the need to see this film for yourself, CLICK HERE to score the Blu-ray pack for $19.99. The discount may cushion the blow a bit.

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