Superhero Sundays: Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron and Battle of the Bands
Action and humour6
Matthew Turner | On 29, Nov 2020
Directors: Alfred Gimeno, Sol Choi, Chris Rutkowski
Cast: Dove Cameron, Sofia Wylie, Dee Bradley Baker, Chloe Bennet, Kathreen Khavari, Kamil McFadden, Kim Raver, Tyler Posey, Cierra Ramirez, Booboo Stewart, Milana Vayntrub, Tara Strong, Amanda C. Miller, Steven Weber, Ming Na-Wen
Watch Marvel Rising 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.
Written, respectively, by Margaret Dunlap and Mae Scott, Heart of Iron and Battle of the Bands are the fourth and fifth entries in the Marvel Rising franchise, created to showcase some of Marvel’s newer, more teen-friendly superheroes. Accordingly, Heart of Iron is a 45-minute feature that introduces the character of Ironheart, while Battle of the Bands is a 23-minute short that centres on fan favourite Ghost Spider / Gwen Stacey.
Heart of Iron begins with Hala the Accuser (Ming Na-Wen) attacking a college campus, in search of stolen Kree technology. The chaos attracts the attention of both Captain Marvel (Kim Raver) and the Secret Warriors, but their efforts only make things worse. Meanwhile, 15-year-old tech genius Riri Williams (Sofia Wylie) confuses things still further, by showing up to the fight in Iron Man armour. Once the proper introductions are made, Riri later joins the Secret Warriors in a battle against Hala in Central Park.
The second film, Battle of the Bands, sees Gwen Stacey / Ghost Spider (Dove Cameron) struggling to balance superhero duties alongside the Secret Warriors with her commitment to her up-and-coming band the Emm-Jays, who are unaware of her secret identity. Everything comes to a head when Ghost Spider and the Secret Warriors battle sonic-powered supervillain Screaming Mimi (Tara Strong), who just so happens to be the Emm-Jays’ main rival in the Battle of the Bands competition.
In both movies, the central message of teamwork and mutual support rings out loud and clear, providing solid role modelling for its key audience of teens and pre-teens. Cleverly, the writers make those messages work across both aspects of the storylines – it’s there in the way the heroes fight together and work together (we get a classic “slingshot” manoeuvre here that should please comics fans), but it’s also there in the support they give each other in their personal lives.
Both films strike exactly the right balance of humour and action, with Milana Vayntrub’s Squirrel Girl responsible for the lion’s share of the former. The action is particularly good, with the writers finding engaging ways for the team to use their powers together.
If you watch the films chronologically, it’s pleasing to see that there’s a semblance of continuity, in terms of running jokes and potential romance. The former include Squirrel Girl’s continued frustration at being unable to come up with a cool call-to-action like “Avengers Assemble”, and a nice little touch whereby the doughnut shop from one of the previous features has become the team’s regular hangout, despite doing the most hideous-sounding hipster doughnut combinations imaginable. If that’s a dig at millennials on behalf of the writers it’s a very subtle and very good one.
As for the potential romance, so far that’s very low-key and is limited to Kamala / Ms Marvel having a crush on Dante / Inferno, but it allows for some very cute moments, such as Ms Marvel subconsciously wrapping her arms around Dante several times with her stretchy powers when she saves him from something or other.
In short, both Heart of Iron and Battle of the Bands are likeable, entertaining entries in a series that continues to be commendably diverse in its cast of characters, while delivering positive, uplifting messages. Rest assured, this is a series you can comfortably leave your kids in front of while you get stuff done around the house.
Marvel Rising is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.