Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Recap: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "Doorway to Destruction, Part 1"

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Ugh. As I have said before, I've never seen a show fail so hard in so many different ways. I don't ever go into something wanting to hate it. Why would I sit down and watch a show that I'm determined to hate? I gave this show a chance to impress me, and it hasn't.

Of the nine episodes that have aired (as of the time of this writing), I have seen seven of them.
That's 77.7%. I disliked all of them. Even if the other episodes were amazing, that's still only 22.3% of the show worth watching, which any teacher can tell you is not good enough.

I have already posted an introduction to the characters and situation at the beginning of my review of "The Collector," but I'll also be going over characters as they're introduced. And now, we might as well begin to talk about the show. How else will you know just how bad this series is? Let's begin our ongoing look at Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.

After watching this, I need to go get smashed.
This is your last chance to turn back. You have been warned.

The two part premiere opens with the Hulk, yelling and smashing amidst wreckage and destruction. The military, led by General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, is attempting to quell, subdue, or destroy him, whichever's easiest. Hulk uses a tank to hit a missile into another tank, and throws the tank at a fighter jet. The jet drops it's payload and crashes; the payload lands near the General and goes off, which I guess is their half-a**ed way of setting up the Red Hulk, but more on that later.

A round, floating spy-drone (one of many providing the previous footage) gets taken out by the Hulk, and we zoom out from the monitor showing this footage. The setting appears to be a futuristic military base, and a young man (Rick Jones, the guy that Bruce Banner saved from the original gamma bomb that made the Hulk) narrates the show’s premise to us.

Long story short: Rick Jones is using the spy-drones to make a webshow, where he wants to prove that the Hulk is actually a good guy.

And that’s where the premise begins to fall apart. For more on why the webshow angle doesn’t completely work, see the Review following this Recap.

Rick goes down to the basement level of this as-of-yet-unidentified military base, and meets up with the Hulk, who’s calmly doing bench presses.

Another long story short: this show is a spin-off of an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man, where some mind manipulation by Mesmero resulted in a smarter, calmer Hulk.

I’m just wondering what happened to the Bruce Banner personality. I like to think that the Hulk is suppressing Banner against his will, forcing him to see and hear everything their shared body does, but has no control over it. Bruce Banner has no mouth, and he must scream. Why did I create this theory? Not only does it neatly close a plot-hole, but it makes the show delightfully dark, which helps me bear its overall awfulness.

If only.
Anyway, back to the blandness. Rick tells Hulk his plan, but Hulk insists that humans will always see Hulk as a monster. To drive the point home, we cut to J Jonah Jameson in a cameo, yelling about the menace of the Hulk on his news show, which Rick ends up muting and doing his own “funny” voiceover for.

"Don't make me put you back on that bomb test-site, twerp."
Rick tries to convince the Hulk some more, but when Hulk bares his soul about this abandoned military base being the only place he won’t lose control, Rick asks him to do it again into a camera. Suddenly, an alarm goes off, and Hulk hits a camera and goes off to investigate.

We then see the Hulk jumping across the desert (which makes no sense if the show’s entirely shot by Rick’s camera, and the cameras aren’t following the Hulk). As it turns out, Vista Verde (Hulk’s “birthplace” and the only place people think of him as a hero) is on a swirly-thing alert, as a green swirly-thing is swirling above the city. Well, teaser over.

We then get the title card (complete with theme tune that’s all of five notes).

Back to the episode, Hulk heads into Vista Verde, as narrated by Rick… somehow. As Rick drives to the scene, computer analyzes the swirly thing, and says that the anomaly is entirely composed of gamma energy and is generating hurricane-force winds. Um, no. Hurricanes can rip apart cities when the storm’s miles away from the actual town. This thing is in the town. Basically, there should be no more town. Not only that, radiation isn’t exactly known for anything but its ability to, you know, radiate. How the heck is it making these winds?

Rick and Hulk reach the town, and now we see some craziness. There are people able to stand up straight in one part of town, but a little girl no more than 100 feet away is hanging onto a lamppost for dear life. Well, for a bit. Her grip weakens, and the Hulk catches her before she blows away like a leaf. The girl does her Hulk impression before the army comes along and demands that he drop her. Rick shows up and stands down the army.

Rick: “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hulk just saved that kid, am I right? C’mon!”
Hulk: “Rick! I know what to do!”

Hulk slowly walks forward, and sets the kid down. What, was that supposed to be profound? Um… what else was Hulk going to do? Throw her at the army? It’s not even like Hulk thought of this by himself, the army told him what to do! Seriously, are we supposed to be proud of the Hulk for not eating her or something?

He growls at the soldier to get her to safety, and the army vamooses. The gamma storm, which is getting worse (although the winds have mysteriously stopped blowing things around) opens up a tunnel. Hulk identifies it as a tunnel to the Negative Zone, which doesn’t really impress me. I mean, the Hulk’s butt is huge, so it makes sense for him to pull random deductions from out of its roomy interior.

Hulk’s plan is simple: smash. He grabs a couple cars, and smashes them together, which… I don’t really know. The cars send what looks like an energy blast (?) to the tunnel, which turns the tunnel red. The red tunnel fires a laser, leveling a fast food place onto the Hulk.

Rick (Cutaway): “Hulk had a few choice words about the burger incident. Ah… the less said, the better."

(Knowing what we do now about Rick’s later transformation, when did he have time to leave Vista Verde and record that segment before coming back?)

Hulk jumps into the tunnel, and Rick namedrops Kang and Doctor Doom while wondering who’s behind this. The tunnel spits Hulk back out, and it hits me that all this screwing around with the tunnel is just filler to stretch this weak premise into two parts. Suddenly, Annihilus, the ruler of the Negative Zone, appears in the tunnel and exposits that the gamma energy in Vista Verde let him break through dimensions. Boy, with that much gamma energy around, everybody in Vista Verde must have at least five different types of cancer.

Annihilus and Hulk taunt each other for a bit, and Annihilus exposits that the plan is to take the resources of this universe. Annihilus summons his own hulking brute to fight the Hulk: a grey-green, sword-wielding barbarian named “Skaar.” Oddly enough, Skaar has a belt with an “H” on it exactly like the Hulk’s. Why? Because he’s going to be on Hulk’s team later and the writers and animators weren’t apparently on speaking terms, leaving this warrior from another world with a belt that he has no logical reason to have.

Hulk and Skaar fight, and a thingy on Skaar’s neck keeps beeping.

Skaar: “Skaar SLASH!”
Hulk: “No! Hulk SMASH!”

The fight looks awful. I haven’t mentioned this, but now’s a good time to bring this up. The animation is often lazy, with a capital “WHATEVER.” Half the shots in this episode are oddly proportioned, leaving most of the screen in black. This seems to be a cost-cutting method for the animation, although one could make the argument that it’s meant to evoke the similar style of Ang Lee’s Hulk film. Doesn’t change the fact that the animation cuts corners by moving static cutouts over cheap, action line backgrounds, though.

After a fight featuring a gratuitous cameo by the voice of Stan Lee, Hulk is crushed by a car dealership display. Rick appears and tells Skaar to back down, leading to Hulk having to catch the sword Skaar throws at Rick. Hulk and Skaar fight some more, destroying a water tower in the process. Skaar ends up subduing the Hulk with his energy whip, but Hulk is saved from Skaar’s blade by an incoming missile that knocks him mile away. From out of the aircraft that launched the missile, the Red Hulk descends.
(Red Hulk also has an “H” belt. I guess they’re standard issue for musclebound giants.)
Red Hulk takes this moment to gloat over the Hulk, and Hulk responds by punching him in the face. In a cutaway, Red Hulk explains that he’s General Ross from the beginning, permanently transformed into a Hulk. Why is he now a Hulk? Because he hates the Hulk! No, it doesn’t make sense, because they’re poorly glossing over a complex storyline from the comics. This is just a huge WTF moment to anyone not familiar with this story already.

As Rick explains, the team heads back to the Gamma Base, and Hulk and Rulk put the knocked-out Skaar in a holding chamber. Rulk explains that he’s here to take care of the gamma tornado, and reminisces about the old base, getting his old weapons back. The thingy on Skaar’s neck beeps some more, and some gamma-lightning outside let’s Skaar break free of the chamber… I guess, it's not clear. Skaar grabs a weapon and fires wildly, taking out both Hulks, and escapes into the desert.

Hulk deduces that Skaarr will use the gamma weapon he stole to generate enough gamma energy to let Annihilus through. Rulk calls Annihilus’ plan “the old Trojan Horse trick,” then proceeds to outline the plan like all the other characters were sleeping through the episode’s events so far. Wish I was. Hulk tells Rick not to follow them into battle, and Rick protests.

"Whatever, you're not even my real dad!"
Rick: “I’m not some helpless critter that has to be locked in a tank!”

Um, no, but you’re the moron who once thought that loitering on a nuclear testing site was a good idea. Speaking of good ideas, Hulk locks Rick in a tank. Hulk and Rulk fly off in their aircraft towards the anomaly. Meanwhile, Rick escapes by being stupid and making a bomb go off while trying to reach a hammer. It's not as funny as it sounds. Then he drives after the Hulks.

Whosoever wields this hammer is frickin' stupid.
Skaar aims his gamma cannon, and fires at the anomaly. Rick states, for the audience’s convenience, that Skaar’s opening the portal, like we were idiots or something. This same point is reiterated by Annihilus, making me wonder if the writers actually thought the audience was stupid.

Annihilus sends his swarms to Earth to take resources. Rulk, having KOed Skaar is left to shoot Annihilus’ bugs out of the air while Hulk goes after the main villain. Hulk gets shot down, and starts squishing the poorly animated bugs. Skaar wakes up and attacks Rulk, while Hulk and Annihilus face off. Annihilus drops a steppe on Hulk, and Skaar hurls Red Hulk far away. Skaar takes control of the gamma cannon and shoots Hulk with it, while Rick shows up and rescues the Hulk with his car. The cannon explodes in a burst of gamma energy, and Rick is bathed in gamma rays. Skaar takes to unconscious Rulk to his master, and the portal disappears. Hulk finds Rick, who congratulates Hulk on stopping the invasion.

Rick: “Hulk, I really don’t feel so good.”

Rick’s eye glow green, and the screen tells us that this episode is TO BE CONTINUED.

Now, you might be inclined to say,
"Newt, that didn't seem so bad! Not that great, but not as terrible as you've led us all to believe!"

You'd be right. This episode wasn't that bad.
The second part... IS that bad.

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