IRON MAN & HULK: HEROES UNITED
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Adrian Pasdar as TONY STARK
Fred Tatasciore as THE HULK
Dee Bradley Baker as ZZZAX
Robin Atkin Downes as THE ABOMINATION
David Kaye a JARVIS
Directed by: Eric Radomski & Leo Riley
BY KEVIN CARR
For years, I have been singing the praises of the superhero animated films and television series. As much as I enjoy the live-action superhero movies (for the most part, at least), the animation field is where things fall closer in line with the source material. Directors aren’t trying to put their own personal mark on an existing property, and the movies aren’t being made to reach the lowest common denominator.
As someone who grew up reading superhero comics, I find myself taken back to my youth by watching some of these cartoons. They’re what superhero movies are all about, in my opinion.
I never read the Marvel comics as a kid; I was strictly a DC guy. This had nothing to do with the quality of stories, necessarily, but rather it was a financial decision. I couldn’t keep up the payments to follow both universes, so Superman and Batman won out over Spider-Man and The Avengers. Still, I wasn’t unfamiliar with many of the characters, and there’s a lot of similar connective tissue that builds each universe. I can easily slip into the mode of watching Marvel movies, just without as much pre-knowledge of the intricate source material.
Of course, I have the Marvel-driven feature films to help out as well, which gives me a respectable background of Tony Stark and the Incredible Hulk.
Iron Man and the Hulk team up in the direct-to-video feature film “Heroes United.” Animated with CGI rather than hand-drawn cell art, this 71-minute movie tells the story of Hydra trying to capture the Hulk (which is never a good way to start an evil plan), but ending up creating a sentient form of energy known as Zzzax. Iron Man comes along to help out, and the two reluctant hero friends must find a way to defeat this energy being before it absorbs all of the energy on the planet.
There really isn’t much of a story here, but it’s a standard set-up for a superhero film like this. I remember plenty of old Superman comics I read in the past that had similar plots as Supes tried to defeat an accidentally created being that only wanted to absorb and destroy.
So, while I wasn’t wild about the underuse of the characters here, I understood and appreciated it as a single one-off story that might appear in a bulky Annual issue in comic book form.
It’s nice to see a more evolved version of the Hulk rather than just a crazy rage monster, which isn’t really something we’ve had a chance to see in the theatrical films yet (though we did get a taste of it in “The Avengers” two summers ago). Tony Stark is also underdeveloped and seems to be more of a wisecracker than a playboy genius. This fits in with the Stan Lee comic book model, so it wasn’t too jarring for me to see.
Sure, the movie is really just an excuse for a 71-minute slug-fest between these two heroes and the Zzzax energy creature, and it is pretty cool to see the Hulk put on some Iron Man armor at one point. This is the disposable superhero entertainment I remember watching when I was a kid.
The only beef I had with this product is the use of CGI, which can be an effective tool, but on a limited budget, it can look cheap. I much perfer cell animation in my superhero television world, but I guess that’s progress for you.
The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and Digital Copy. There’s a few bonus features, including a ten-minute jaw session with Ryan Penagos and Joe Q to talk about where the Marvel universe is currently standing. There’s also the delightful and hilarious “Marvel Mash-Ups,” which feature silly voice-overs to existing Marvel cartoons. These are dropped into intermissions when you hit “pause,” making me want to watch them more than the movie itself, at times.