Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United (Blu-ray Review)

Iron_Man_and_Hulk_Heroes_UnitedIn this action-packed teamup, the Invincible Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk come together to save the Earth from its greatest threat yet. 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 superhero 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?

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For a long time, if you wanted to see superheroes team up the only place you could only see it happen in the comic books. At least until The Avengers came out and then all bets were off.  As someone who loved those team-ups both in the comics and especially in The Avengers and who is desperately wanting to see a Justice League movie, I’m about the best audience for these kind of movies.  I was so desperate to see superheroes team up I even watch “The SuperFriends” which should tell you something.  So when I heard that Marvel and Disney were going to launch the start of a series of superhero team up movies starting with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, I was very happy.  I was also happy to hear that it would be CGI and not traditionally animated as I believed that they would make it look more realistic and in sync with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And then I saw the final result and those happy feelings were gone.

Let’s start with how the animation looks since that is my biggest source of disappointment.  In the past I’ve complained about how limited and cheap looking Marvel’s motion comic movies look.  This film doesn’t reach those levels but it’s not too far off either as its limitations just go in a different direction.  This movie looks like it was put together by someone who edited together all of the cutscenes from some kind of Marvel Playstation 2 game.  I’ve read that it’s this animation style of combining CG technology with 2D mapping that was presented by Supervising Creative Director Eric Radomski, which sold the effect to Marvel.  As Marvel’s Head of Television, Jeph Loeb stated, “The test that Eric showed us was extremely promising and we green-lit it off that — no gamma pun intended — in order to move forward.”   I don’t know if the test was better than the final result, but they should have gone back to the drawing board because the movie looks terrible and dated.  The character models look like someone painted over the original models with watercolor paint.

Now let’s get to the “story.”  This movie was written by Henry Gilroy who I actually like and know from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” but the Force isn’t with him this time.  The entire plot of the movie can be summed up as Hydra accidentally creates Zzzax through their incompetence and it’s up to Iron Man and Hulk to stop it and Hulk’s old enemy Abomination. That’s it.  Of course, before they give the beat down to Zzzax, they have to fight each other briefly because that’s part of the formula of the superhero team up.  Considering that there’s about eight characters total in this movie, I guess I should be glad that a bunch of Wendigos appear out of nowhere when the fight inexplicably takes everyone to a graveyard, but it just seems like the movie was running short and they wanted to add something cool for the heroes to fight so they could pad out the running time.  None of this really makes much sense nor does the fact that Hulk seems to take it all in stride when he discovers that Tony Stark has been secretly been building “Hulkbuster” Iron Man suits to use against him if need be.

I also didn’t like how the movie tries to heavy-handedly impart a message about conserving power and being environmentally friendly, something that Loeb describes as, “There’s a little bit of a moral story that’s being played out, given what’s going on with our own Earth, but that’s just a little fun Easter egg for people to find as they go along.”  Let me clear something up now Mr. Loeb because I think you are confused.  Fans aren’t looking for easter eggs about the conservation of energy; they want throwaway lines that reference past comics or situations, or even other characters that could provide an inside joke for the longtime readers of these comics.  A good example of an appropriate easter egg is seeing the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin’s treasure room in Thor.  It wasn’t referenced and it flashed by quickly,  but it was there for those who could recognize it and it was a lot of fun.  That’s what you should be shooting for and I know you can do it because each Marvel movie has something hidden for fans every time.

The best part of the movie is the voice acting, especially by Fred Tatasciore as the Hulk.  Adrian Pasdar is ok as Tony Stark, but it’s really hard not hearing Robert Downey Jr. in the role because he just owns it.  I realize that this review has been mostly negative, but the sad fact of the matter is that there was still a part of me that enjoyed seeing these two heroes together even if the animation and the story wasn’t very good.  Even as I watched the movie and continually made mental notes of my complaints for this review, there was still a part of me that was thrilled to see these guys together.  It’s the same reason that I watched “The SuperFriends” and put up with The Amazing Spiderman which really disappointed me. It’s why I own Daredevil, Elektra, Superman III, and The Punisher.  For some reason, these superhero movies are a part of my DNA and I just can’t say no to them even when I should.  C’mon Marvel you can do a lot better than this and you know it. Please stop taking advantage of superhero starved people like me.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

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This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is good despite my earlier complaints about the animation itself.  This is a very clean image with no scratches or digital defects of any kind.  Colors seem a little muted in places but distinct.  Detail is also fairly good too even if the characters themselves are lacking.  If I had to pick, I’d say Iron Man looks the best out of all of the characters.  Black levels are fairly dark and solid and the contrast level is also spot on.

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Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very good and it does a nice job selling all of the Hulk sized destruction throughout the movie.  The dialogue is very clear and clean, as are the various sound effects (of which there are many).  The directionality of the sound effects is accurate and impressive and adds quite a bit of immersion to the viewing experience.

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These are pretty slim pickings but I guess it’s better than nothing.

  • Marvel Mash-ups/ Inter-missions – Recognizing that many of their old cartoons are cheesy, Marvel has decided to have some fun with them by making fun of them themselves by adding some joke dialogue over the cartoons.  I see a lot of these during the Marvel Universe block of cartoons on Disney XD and I’m generally not a fan but some of these are pretty good.  You can also see more of them if you pause the movie.
  • Marvel Team-Up with Ryan Penagos and Joe Q – Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada and Marvel’s Internet Main Man, Ryan Penagos (Agent M) talk about the traditions of superhero team-ups and how those have now transferred to movies.  They also talk about their favorite Marvel Team-Ups.
  • Digital Copy of the Film

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I love Marvel superheroes and I love seeing them team up (especially in The Avengers), but this release is hard to recommend.  The animation looks straight out of a nineties video game and the writing is surprisingly not as strong as you’d expect from Henry Gilroy.  The video and audio are pretty good but the extras are limited.  Marvel is planning on making more of these team-ups so I hope they take this constructive criticism and improve the upcoming films.

Order your copy today!



3 Responses to “Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    I had the chance to see this one at Austin Comic-Con. Now I don’t feel bad for missing this one.

  2. Gregg

    Oh wow, so disappointing. I thought this would be of a little high caliber. Yeah I agree with you about the easter egg environmental bit. I’m all for saving the environment, but I don’t want the issue fed to me while I’m watching the Hulk run through walls.

  3. Sean Ferguson

    It’s too bad because it’s a great idea as a concept but their execution of it was just wrong. I hope the next one will be better.