Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Recap: Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United

And so, here we are.

Last September, I covered a certain piece of animation which many have stated to be the worst thing Marvel ever animated. I can’t agree with this statement, simply because I haven’t actually seen everything Marvel ever animated. (Yet….) But yes, it certainly was a stinker. Slow, dull, poorly animated, and a waste of a perfectly good animation technique.

And it has a sequel.

Dang it.
After I covered the first installment of the Heroes United duology, I promised that I’d take a look at the second (and hopefully final) installment as soon as the NewtCave hit 75,000 page views. Thanks to a retweet from a certain guy in a hat, a cameo from a certain rodent, and a sudden interest in my Recap of the Avengers: EMH premiere, I’ve already hit that mark. So today I’ll be recapping and reviewing Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United.

This film was announced the same day that the first installment was released, to little fanfare. Because everyone knew by watching the trailers for the first one that the sequel was no doubt crap. Because of the dismal reviews and abysmally low sales of the first installment, this sequel has not yet gotten a DVD/Blu-Ray release; it’s only available through digital copies and streaming.

And here’s where I hit the “Research Wall,” as I call it. No one is talking about this movie. With well-reviewed movies and shows, there’s information everywhere. Generally speaking, the fans will have questions for the creators, and the creators love to talk about their work. Heck, you can sometimes find as much information with things that are so-bad-they’re-good. But I can barely find any behind-the-scenes info on this thing. And that tells me that it’s not so-bad-it’s-good, but so-awful-no-one-cares. Not a good start.

So I guess there’s no more putting it off. Time to begin my Recap of Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United.

Happy 75,000 Views, everybody.

Our episode.... Oh, geez. I honestly made that mistake. Because, spoiler alert, this whole thing feels like a padded out episode of Avengers Assemble. This is off to a fine start.

Our movie opens on the exterior of a HYDRA base, hidden in a foggy dam. Already, things are looking up for me. The fact that the animators are tackling semi-complex water effects means that the animators probably put a bit more effort into this one. Soon we hear the voice of either Dr. Fulp or Dr. Cruler (their voices are quite similar) commanding HYDRA robot drones to attack an intruder, who is soon revealed to be….

Red Skull: “Captain America….”

Red Skull monologues somewhere off screen about Cap’s powers. Strength, agility, blah blah blah, the usual deal, as well as his strategic abilities. Cap’s fight ends up crashing into the interior of the HYDRA base. I’m pretty sure that the animators are just reusing the base from the last Heroes United with a different color scheme, but I refuse to check because that involves rewatching the last one. No thanks.

Inside the base, Cap fights some HYDRA goons that all use the exact same character model, making me feel like I should have a Playstation controller in my hands. I may nitpick some of these animation shortcuts, but I’ll give credit where it’s due; the animation is actually a vast improvement. The textures and colors are more defined and detailed, and the 3-D models are less jarring when they move.

Red Skull’s monologue takes an interesting turn as he starts talking about why Cap was frozen in ice for a few decades. We see an animated version of the final battle from Captain America: The First Avenger, but it’s heavily implied that Red Skull was not zapped by the Tesseract into time and space. As such, we can add yet another list onto the pile that proves that Heroes United is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thank goodness.

After Red Skull’s monologue, it’s revealed that he’s actually talking to the man he hired to fight Captain America, Taskmaster. Wait, a villain’s hiring the Taskmaster to copy a hero’s moves and take him out? I know that’s pretty much Taskmaster’s MO, but I’m still being reminded of “Why I Hate Gym.” And reminding me of Ultimate Spider-Man is usually not a good thing. Actually, speaking of that episode, Taskmaster has the same voice actor here, Clancy Brown. In fact, all the characters are voiced by their MAU actors, making me wonder why they didn’t just make this a special episode of Avengers Assemble, or something.

In order to pad out the slim running time, I mean, test Taskmaster’s skills, Red Skull has a few drones attack the man he hired to fight Captain America. You know what would be hilarious? If one of the drones shot Taskmaster dead. Because opening fire on the guy you hired to essentially be your bodyguard is just asking for the scheiße to hit the lüfter.

To be fair, Taskmaster, your boss is a Nazi. They aren't known for being the nicest people.
As you might expect, Taskmaster takes them all out. We’re then treated to some more padding in the form of Red Skull talking about how Captain America’s greatest weapon is his mind, his heart, blah blah blah, the usual. As he talks, Red Skull’s mouth is distracting. Instead of moving smoothly the characters’ mouths in the last Heroes United, it just jumps into one of several pre-animated positions. It’s very distracting, but I managed to pay attention to Red Skull as he reveals that he needs to acquire something from another Avenger: Iron Man.

Taskmaster: “Stark?”

No, Beauregard Brewster; yes of course Stark!

Taskmaster: “Tony Stark?”
No, Brandon Stark.

 

Of course Tony Stark!

Look, I get that Red Skull and Taskmaster are supposed to be filling the audience in, but there’s no reason for it. I know that Tony Stark is Iron Man, you know that Tony Stark is Iron Man. Heck, your grandma probably knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man. After three solo movies, a few animated and live-action Avengers movies, and several cartoon series, I’m pretty sure the only people in this world who don't know this are North Koreans that have never been on the internet before.

“Tony Stark? 누가?”
Anyway, Red Skull wants Tony’s technology, like pretty much every other villain Iron Man goes up against these days. To ensure that he gets what he wants, Red Skull provides Taskmaster with a load of troops who proceed to raise the roof while chanting “Hail HYDRA! Hail Red Skull!” After that, we final begin the opening credits. It’s another 2-D sequence. The difference here is that the animation actually spoils all the movie’s plot twists. Judging from the opening sequence alone, Captain America turns evil, Taskmaster gets Iron Man’s armor, Red Skull plans to create an army of monsters, and he’ll unleash missiles upon the world. We’re only five minutes in and I know exactly what’s going to happen.

I shouldn’t have to say SPOILER ALERT when showing a picture of the opening credits.
Anyway, we get to see Tony’s brand new helicarrier. I don’t know why he has this one, either. Inside, he’s about to go toe-to-toe with Captain America, who I guess got bored and stopped infiltrating that HYDRA base we saw him in a minute ago. As they banter, it’s easy to notice that their mouths are animated the same way as the Red Skull’s is, cutting between pre-animated positions. If anything, it’s even more distracting. Though I must say that Tony’s face is rendered with more depth and differentiation than last time. So I guess you win some, you lose some

Iron Man gets miffed that Cap started the match before he was ready, but Cap counters with a lesson about strategy, and planning, and… aw, crap. I thought I was free. But no, we’re once again rehashing the Avengers Assemble staple of “Iron Man needs to rely less on his technology and more on his smarts.” Because it’s not like I haven’t seen that lesson enough times already. At the very least, this movie is kind of doing something different with the idea by not making Captain America a perfect Avenger. Iron Man rushes into things, but he’s unpredictable. Cap might be a good strategist, but he’s as predictable as Ol’ Faithful. Then again, this idea was already touched upon in “Super-Adaptoid,” so I take back what I said about this movie doing things differently.

The sparring match ends in what I can only assume is a tie, so they both agree to a no-holds-barred beatdown, complete with a gentlemanly wager.

Iron Man: When I win, you have to wear my armor. For a month. And don’t worry; I got one in your colors.”
Captain America: “I don’t need a stuffy sardine can, but okay. However, when I win, you go to boot camp training with me. I hope you like pushups, Tony. I see a lot of ‘em in your future.”

The new fight begins, we get more arguing, more fighting, and both Avengers get taken out at the same time. What a waste of time. Later, after Tony repairs his armor, Cap lectures him a bit more. It hits the same notes as their earlier debate, so I’m going to cut to the chase. The chase involves HYDRA goons infiltrating the helicarrier and heading for the weapons vault. Iron Man rushes in and causes a scuffle, and he argues with Cap as they fight the HYDRA goons. Meanwhile, Fulp and Cruler are back from the first movie, trying to unlock the vault with the best stuff.

Dr. Fulp: “Careful, Dr. Cruler. Haste makes waste.”
Dr. Cruler: “I’m hacking as fast as I can, Dr. Fulp!”

And he’s telling you to slow down, you idiot. Fulp cracks it, and the two men rush inside the vault, where they quickly come across their prize: a repulsor cannon. They pack it up and get a call from Taskmaster. They ask him for backup, but he refuses.

Dr. Fulp: “I don’t think I like him.”

Yeah, but at the very least, he’s a better villain than Zzzax was.

One of these guys tried to touch lightning. I don't think either of them are too bright.
The floor gets cut out from under the two scientists, and they land on a HYDRA aircraft. Meanwhile, Taskmaster chuckles over the fact that Fulp and Cruler are a diversion for Taskmaster’s real goal: the Iron Armory.

Iron Man and Cap have beaten up all the other HYDRA goons, and find the repulsor cannon missing.

Iron Man: “HYDRA’s in possession of one of my deadliest weapons!”

Um, isn’t a big part of your origin your refusal to continue making weapons?

Iron Man runs off without a plan, so Cap interrogates a HYDRA goon. Well, he tries. The goons’ brains get erased by a bit of HYDRA tech before Cap can get any information out of them.

HYDRA Goon: “What is this place? I’m freakin’ out, man!”

Cap heads to the hangar to borrow a jet. As he notices there’s an extra jet in the hangar, an arrow narrowly avoids going through his shoulder. Taskmaster confronts the good captain, and the two fight.

Taskmaster: “Give it up, Captain! I possess the techniques of the greatest fighters in the world! Like Iron Fist!”

Wait, are we actually following up on that episode?

They fight, while Iron Man chases after Fulp and Cruler’s HYDRA jet. They attack him with his own weapon, injuring him a bit. Back with Cap, Taskmaster wins by booby-trapping Cap’s shield with a tazer-device while it’s in midair. Okay, that was actually pretty impressive. As Iron Man manages to barely make it back to his helicarrier, he checks the internal security and discovers that Cap’s been taken by HYDRA.

Speaking of him, he gets taken away to the Red Skull’s Nazi Science room while Taskmaster secretly works on the stealth armor he stole from the Iron Armory. He does this while plotting out loud to take over HYDRA. Before he can finish futzing around with it, though, Red Skull arrives at the base and gets ready to perform Nazi science on his star-spangled captor with Ken doll hair.

"Ich werde Sie brauchen, um diese zu füllen. Danke."
Step 1: Get Captain America’s blood.
Step 2: Use it to create a super-soldier army.
Step 3: Synthesize Taskmaster’s mimicry ability to give said army all of Captain America’s tactics.
Step 4: Brainwash Captain America.

As evil schemes go, it’s not as boring as “suck up all the energy.”

Iron Man, meanwhile, manages to check the security logs, discovering Taskmaster’s infiltration and armor theft.

Iron Man: “What else could go wrong?”
JARVIS: “I’ll try to find something, sir.”

Taking a closer look, he discovers that Captain America took a leaf out of his own book and improvised a plan. Captain America pretended to be knocked out, so he could… wink at Tony through the security cameras, I guess. Tony runs an analysis on some mud left by Taskmaster, and JARVIS informs him that it’s a perfect soil match for rare clay from the Baltic highlands. Because in fiction, soil is like a fingerprint. Tony cross references this with a list of Taskmaster’s hideouts, and runs off to Estonia.

Over in Estonia, Fulp and Cruler have extracted Cap’s skills while Taskmaster parades around with Cap’s shield, whining that they should have copied his own skills. And the brainwashing of Captain America begins. Just like the opening credits flat-out told us.

Captain America: “I wish you had lips, Skully. So you can kiss my star-spangled…”

He does have lips. Your insult makes no sense.

To waste a bit more time, we get an animated sequence of the death of the Avengers and the rise of HYDRA. It looks great, but is ultimately pointless. Red Skull goes off to make himself some super-soldiers, and takes Cap’s shield from Taskmaster. Because let’s face it, everybody wants to wield the shield. Iron Man shows up at the base and takes out some goons before continuing further inside. He questions why Taskmaster would build a lair inside a Cold War bunker, and this plot thread goes nowhere. More fighting of goons, blah blah blah.

Iron Man: “Sheesh, can we just get to the boss fight, already?”

I couldn’t agree more.

But it’s not Captain America that Iron Man finds in an arena surrounded by acid. He finds Captain HYDRA. As you might imagine, they start arguing while they fight.

Captain HYDRA: “Everything always has to be about you, Stark.”

I wouldn’t say everything, but definitely most of Avengers Assemble.

"Falcon was my best friend in the comics! I led the team! Red Skull used to be my nemesis!"
Cap manages to get some good shots in, including a few bursts from his laser pistol, and Iron Man’s armor ends up getting disabled by a small device, which also gives Taskmaster the codes he’ll need to activate that stealth armor. Iron Man knocks Cap down and hits him with the sonics, clearing his mind from the brainwashing. But Taskmaster’s still watching the fight, so Cap fakes his HYDRA loyalty and knocks Iron Man into the conveniently located acid pit. Taskmaster jumps down and offers Captain America a chance to take over HYDRA with him, and Cap pretends to agree. As soon as Taskmaster reveals that the main base in in Antarctica, Cap hits him in the face. The two start fighting again as Iron Man emerges from the acid, having been protected by his forcefields. The two Avengers take him down in only a few seconds and reconvene.

Iron Man: “Oh, I get it. You used my spontaneous style to sneak in and get brainwashed so you could find out where the Red Skull is.”

I honestly can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or not.

They argue over whether or not this means Iron Man wins the bet and get going. Right after they leave Taskmaster in a prison cell like the one S.H.I.E.L.D. kept Loki in. But it seems he snuck in a lockpick…. Cap decides to stay dressed up as Captain HYDRA while Iron Man detects the armor Taskmaster stole from him. Unable to pinpoint its location, Iron Man heads off in a HYDRA jet with Cap to the Antarctic. While apparently leaving his armor that he knows is there behind. Because it’s not like anyone ever stole and wore his armor before oh wait.

"Ahem."
And yeah, the next scene is Taskmaster activating the stealth armor while changing his name to the Iron Master. See the above image.

Our heroes argue some more as they enter Antarctic airspace. This time, Tony’s a bit worried that Cap’s plan has a bit too much Tony in it. Tony himself is prepping a backup plan of his own, just in case. Because teamwork, fair balance between plans and spontaneity, blah blah blah. I should not be saying “blah blah blah” this much in a Recap. That’s not a good sign.

Cap bluffs HYDRA into believing he’s still under control, and gains permission to land. After landing, Iron Man activates his armor’s invisibility (making me wonder why there’s a “stealth armor”) and follows Cap, who gets escorted to Red Skull himself. Well, partly. The escort goons get taken out in the elevator by Cap and Tony, who uncloaks. Why did he cloak in the first place again? Was getting in the elevator really the most vital part of this plan? Cap even changes into his usual suit, because screw stealth and subterfuge.

"Here's my plan, Cap. First, we sneak in. Then we stop sneaking."
"Why?"
"Because step two is different from step one. Also, I may be drunk."
Through the elevator doors, Iron Man and Captain America see the HYDRA rockets as well as the HYDRA army getting prepped. The process turns regular HYDRA goons into animation models with minor deviations from the Hulk’s 3-D model. Cap and Tony arrive in the lower levels, where they’re busy mass-producing repulsor cannons and giant shields for all the HYDRA hulks. The heroes begin the complicated plan of “destroy everything” as Cap gets his shield back from the fabrication device.

Things get blowing up all well and good until Red Skull himself shows up with a couple of laser machine guns. A little teamwork knocks him down, and Iron Master shows up to take care of business and overthrow Red Skull. Well, he would, but he’s literally unable to do so, thanks to some of that good ol’ fashioned HYDRA brainwashing. In fact, Red Skull reveals that the idea to steal Iron Man’s armor was planted in his head. He was brainwashed to think like the Red Skull, with the only side effect being a desire to take over HYDRA.

Red Skull: “You are no more than a hired gun.”

Almost as if they’re covering up a plot hole with Taskmaster’s desire to take over HYDRA, but I doubt the writers will ever come out and talk about this movie to confirm. Anyway, the third act continues as Red Skull commands Taskmaster to destroy the heroes alongside the fresh batch of HYDRA hulks. Speaking of “hulks,” the actual Hulk himself arrives to join the fight, having gotten a message from Tony earlier.

Taskmaster joins the fray while Red Skull goes to activate the final steps in the plan, and the two Avengers split up accordingly. Iron Man and Taskmaster begin their final fight as Cap goes to stop Red Skull’s missile. Red Skull exposits, as he is wont to do, that the missile is filled with the super-soldier serum. Enough to blanket the world and turn everyone into one of his soldiers. Thus leaving him with no one in the world to actually rule over besides a few billion people who can each murder him without much effort. I don’t think this plan was thought out very well.

Over with Iron Man, though he manages to use his sonics to cure the mind control over Taskmaster, Tasky still wants a fight. One good zap, though, and Iron Man disables his armor. Using his brain, just like Cap taught him. And yes, Captain America wins by improvising. Specifically, he activates the rocket launch sequence after having knocked his shield into the rocket fuel tank. An explosion sends his shield back at him, and our three heroes manage to escape the exploding base, with the Hulk catching Iron Man and Cap, who were flying through the sky until Tony’s armor gave out.

Hulk: “That’s two you owe me.”

They must be counting that time that Iron Man fell out of the wormhole in The Avengers.

Red Skull escapes the exploded base alongside some goons and Taskmaster, but they quickly get apprehended by agents arriving in a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Later, at Tony’s own helicarrier, Cap and Tony spar one last time. This time, Cap’s wearing the Iron Patriot armor. And they’re not sparring against each other, either.

Hulk:Aaaaaaaaaaauuuuuhhhhhhhh!”

They try to put their newly learned lessons to the test, resuming their bet by attempting to fight like each other to see which style works better. And they both go down.

Hulk: “You’re both good at what you do. Why don’t you just stick to that?”

Thanks for rendering every lesson learned in this thing pointless, Hulk.

After vowing to stick to their guns, Hulk knocks their heads together and they all head off to go get pie. And thankfully, there was no post-credits scene this time. So hopefully, that was the last Heroes United Recap I’ll have to do. And this will be the last Heroes United Review.

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