Superhero Sundays: Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United
Iron Man vs Cap5
Big green guest appearance7
Matthew Turner | On 31, May 2020Reading time: 4 mins
Directors: Eric Radomski, Leo Riley
Cast: Adrian Pasdar, Roger Craig Smith, Clancy Brown, Fred Tatasciore, Liam O’Brien
Watch Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United online in the UK: Disney+ / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
On Sunday mornings, we like to watch cartoons. So we’re working our way through animated superhero cartoons available to stream. We call it Superhero Sundays.
Co-directed by Eric Radomski and Leo Riley, Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United (2014) is the second in a series of direct-to-video movies from Marvel Animation, following Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United, which came out the previous year. In MCU chronology terms, it was released before Avengers: Age of Ultron, so don’t go expecting the complex Cap / Iron Man dynamic that characterises the later live-action movies.
There’s a certain purity in the simplicity of the plot. Cap’s arch enemy The Red Skull (Liam O’Brien) recruits Taskmaster (Clancy Brown), a supervillain who can mimic the fighting abilities of any hero he observes. Together with the Skull’s army of loyal Hydra soldiers, they kidnap Captain America (Roger Craig Smith), so the Skull can use his blood to create an army of super soldiers. During the process, Cap is brainwashed and turned into Captain Hydra. He then fights Iron Man (Adrian Pasdar), who has arrived to rescue him. Meanwhile, the Red Skull intends to unleash the super soldier serum on the world with a giant rocket, so, you know, business as usual.
Finding contrived ways to pit superheroes against each other is a tried and tested trope of classic Marvel comics, so it’s pleasing to see that given an outing here – the film opens with them sparring, playfully, before the main event later on. Sadly, the fight itself doesn’t last very long, but it’s the thought that counts.
In fact, that seems to be the key line of thinking throughout the film, which packs in lots of ideas, but doesn’t keep any of them around long enough to do something interesting with them. The result is a little like a box-ticking exercise for Marvel fans. Captain Hydra? Check. A villain stealing Iron Man’s armour and becoming The Iron Master? Check. The Iron Patriot? Check. And so on.
That said, the Red Skull is good value (his plans are always just that little bit more demented than everyone else’s) and it’s good to get an advance preview of Taskmaster’s skillset ahead of his appearance in the live-action Black Widow movie.
The fight scenes, generally, are fine – it’s clear the animators have put a lot of thought into Iron Man and Captain America’s contrasting fighting styles, so much so that it becomes a plot point. What lets the film down, however, is the quality of the CG animation itself, which frequently resembles video game cut-scenes. The character designs are particularly poor, especially on the faces of Cap (Steve) and Iron Man (Tony). At times, the film seems almost aware of its failings in that regard – at one point Iron Man quips “Can we just get to the boss fight already?” and it feels like a knowing in-joke.
As for the script, the character work is superficial at best. Cap and Iron Man do have their differences, but they only extend to Tony always doing everything without a plan and Cap always having a strategy. Needless to say, they are nothing like the Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr versions of the characters and that absence is keenly felt. In fairness though, Adrian Pasdar would actually make a pretty good Tony Stark/Iron Man if the Downey Jr version didn’t already exist – even Eric Loomis’ excellent voice work in the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series is very much a post-Downey Jr interpretation.
Ultimately, the best thing about the film is a spoiler of sorts, so look away now, etc. The climax employs an entirely gratuitous Hulk ex machina, in which everyone’s favourite gamma-irradiated monster (growled by longtime Hulk voice Fred Tatasciore) arrives to save the day and promptly bashes Iron Man and Captain America’s heads together, before delivering the film’s best line: “Hulk saved you and Hulk wants pie”.
In short, this is a disappointing animated adventure, although not without its moments for Marvel fans. On that note, score-nerds may be interested to know that the soundtrack incorporates themes from Avengers Assemble, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.