Superhero Sundays: Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United (2013)
Matthew Turner | On 06, Sep 2020
Directors: Eric Radomski, Leo Riley
Cast: Adrian Pasdar, Fred Tatasciore, Dee Bradley Baker, Robin Atkin Downes, David Kaye
Watch Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United online in the UK: Disney+
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 Hulk: Heroes United (2013) is the first in a series of direct-to-video movies from Marvel Animation. It was swiftly followed by Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United and even has a post-credits sting revealing the villain of that story.
Story-wise, the film is even more basic than its sequel, and that’s saying something. After a battle with fellow gamma-irradiated monster The Abomination (Robin Atkin Downes, sounding a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger), Hulk (long-time Hulk voice Fred Tatasciore) is kidnapped by a pair of Hydra scientists, who want to siphon his gamma energy into their own version of Tony Stark’s arc reactor.
However, something goes wrong – specifically, the polarity is reversed, in a nice shout-out to Doctor Who – and the resulting energy surge creates Zzzax, a being composed of pure electrical energy. The gamma surge alerts Tony Stark / Iron Man (Adrian Pasdar) and the pair team up to defeat their sparky new foe.
The film starts promisingly, with a gorgeous title sequence that includes some lovely Jack Kirby-inspired artwork (Andy Suriano is credited with “Main Title Design”.) Unfortunately, this quickly backfires, because what probably seemed like a clever idea at the time – cutting from the comics art title sequence version of The Abomination to the film version – only highlights the poor quality of the animation.
Publicity at the time focused on the fact that the studio had invented a new process called a “2-D wrap” for the film, involving traditional animation being scanned into computers to wrap it around the characters. That process was meant to bring texture and weight, but it just ends up looking like really bad video game scenes. As with the sequel, the film seems very aware of this – at one point Stark says “This is better than a video game” and you’ll be hard-pressed not to reply: “No, it isn’t.”
The script and dialogue are at least passable, and it’s more fun watching Iron Man and Hulk interact here than it is watching Iron Man and Cap in the sequel. Similarly, the plot is paper-thin (all Zzzax wants to do is consume energy), but at least there’s plenty of action, with the animators throwing in other traditional Hulk villains, including The Abomination and Wendigo.
On that note, the film makes good use of Zzzax’s powers, having him fire up and control first a Mandroid – one of Stark’s robot helpers – then an army of Mandroids and one of Iron Man’s suits of armour. If nothing else, this at least prompts the line “Puny robots! Hulk SMASH!”, which is all you really want from a Hulk movie.
The film also makes room for the time-honoured team-up ritual whereby the two heroes always have to fight each other before getting down to business. Consequently, both Iron Man and Hulk get their licks in, but you can tell their hearts aren’t really in it and the writers quickly move on.
In fairness, there are lots of good moments scattered throughout. Highlights include: Hulk grabbing Iron Man by the leg and using him to smash robots; Hulk accidentally trashing Stark’s lab while in search of a fridge; Hulk wearing Hulkbuster armour (sort of) to fight Zzzax; and a nice touch where Hulk is bathed in blue light and his hair goes all spiky when he’s fighting Zzzax at the end.
Ultimately, this has a slight edge over its sequel, thanks to the aforementioned Hulk moments and Tatasciore’s accomplished vocal performance. It’s just a shame the animation is so ugly to look at, especially when the character designs in the title sequence are so good.
Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.