Review: ‘Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of SMASH’

Marvel's Hulk and the Agents of

Trying to mix action and goofy comedy, Disney XD's animated series am not smart

With the acquisition of Marvel and Lucasfilm, Disney XD — the Disney Channel satellite aimed at boys — has a whole new super-powered arsenal at its disposal. Still, mining those libraries with an eye toward moppets has gotten off to a rather rocky start, with its latest series bearing an unwieldy title, “Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of SMASH,” lurching between copious action and irritating screwball comedy. With the notable exception of Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers,” other movies and TV have struggled to transfer Marvel’s not-so-jolly green giant to the screen, and this animated leap — while busy and colorful — doesn’t stick the landing.

For starters, there’s the little matter of just how intelligent and verbal Hulk is going to be, and the two-part, one-hour premiere (scripted by veteran animation writer Paul Dini) oscillates between having the Hulk (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) sound like a wisecracking version of Marvel’s the Thing to the customary grammatically questionable mutterings, a la “Hulk am smart” and “Hulk smash!”

As the title suggests, “Agents of SMASH” (seemingly named to draft off a certain upcoming ABC series) surrounds the Hulk with a supporting cast of Gamma-irradiated power players, including She-Hulk (voiced, no doubt to the delight of fanboys, by Eliza Dushku), Red Hulk (Clancy Brown) and A-Bomb (Seth Green), the suddenly mutated version of longtime sidekick Rick Jones.

In the premiere, they must eventually unite to beat back the villain Annihilus, a traditional comicbook baddie with an army of bug-like creatures at his command. This allows the good guys to board spaceships and blast away at the invading horde, who dutifully splatter like bugs on a windshield.

Why super-powerful mutated monsters would need to use guns makes about as much sense as everything else in the opener, which veers past “fun” into “goofy” at too many turns, much like the channel’s “Ultimate Spider-Man.” Here, that includes dubbing Red Hulk a “bloated red butt-head,” as well as a semi-gratuitous gag — plucked from an old “Saturday Night Live” routine — about the Hulk-like effects on a spaceship latrine.

The series employs two interesting devices: Occasionally shrinking the action into what resembles comicbook panels, adding a clever visual element; and having the characters provide direct-to-camera interviews for a “Web series,” a la a reality show, which falls conspicuously flat.

In the long term, Disney’s cable outlets have been presented a huge synergistic gift in having access to these kid-friendly properties. But that doesn’t mean pandering to tykes’ perceived tastes by bastardizing these characters is necessarily the best formula for exploiting them.

While there’s room for trial and error, so far, Disney XD hasn’t mastered the transformation. And the result is a series that leaves even the mighty Hulk and his gang, in entertainment terms, looking sort of puny.

Marvel's Hulk and the Agents of SMASH

(Series; Disney XD, Sun. Aug. 11, 11 a.m.)

Production

Produced by Marvel Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Alan Fine, Dan Buckley, Jeph Loeb, Joe Quesada; co-executive producers, Stan Lee, Eric Radomski; supervising producers, Mitch Schauer, Henry Gilroy, Todd Casey, Cort Lane; director, Dan Fausett; writer, Paul Dini; voice direction/casting, Jamie Simone; music, Guy Michelmore. 60 MIN.

Cast

Voices of: Fred Tatasciore, Clancy Brown, Eliza Dushku, Ben Diskin, Seth Green

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  1. There are fans of all ages and Marvel should realize that quickly. The biggest problem for me is how Marvel brings the dialog down to a child’s level. The show could be funny, without talking like a 5-year old.

    Paul Dini is one of the writer’s/creators. His work on Batman, Superman, and Justice League was brilliant and entertaining. Fans would expect the same quality for Marvel’s animation, however we get Ultimate Spider-man and now Hulk and the Agent’s of SMASH.

    I thought the episode was a great intro, it was just the childish dialog at times that was bad. Rumor has it that this show will only be one season? http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/destruktor2k/news/?a=76105

  2. Theodore Jones says:

    Well I thought that this was a great way to kick off the series. I found it much more appealing than Ultimate Spiderman in terms of humor and better than Avengers Assemble in terms of animation and fighting sequences. Yes, the Hulk is “smart”. There are several incarnations of him that portray him as such. And yes, he and Red Hulk are known to be enemies. But the relationship that’s established between both of them from the start is an interesting one and I, for one, am curious to get an explanation to how General “Thunderbolt” Ross (the planet’s biggest enemy of the Hulk) managed to establish a working relationship with this “monster”. And I use the term “working” loosely because it is still plain to see that Hulk and Red barely trust one another. Again, I hope this relationship can be further fleshed out in future episodes. Also, the humor works surprisingly well because it isn’t done as constantly and as intensely as Ult. Spiderman’s, which is notorious for its signature “HEY AUDIENCE, LOOK! I’M SPIDERMAN AND I CAN BREAK THE 4TH WALL EVERY 3 SECONDS!” brand of humor, which gets old really quickly.

    All in all, this episode was funny, jam-packed with action, and quite easy on the eyes. I honestly think this series hasn’t gotten the hype it deserves due, in part, to the clips and interviews that were released to the public prior to this episodes airing. I almost didn’t give it a chance because the media portrayed the series as something entirely different to what this episode turned out to be. Was it perfect? Of course not, but I plan on regularly watching this show and keeping up with this fresh new take on the Hulk for a while and I know that if more people would watch this series with an open mind and reasonable expectations, then maybe they will find something worth watching in this new show too.

  3. Vy Huynh says:

    The first episode is pretty lame. The Hulk is not like himself. Where are all his anger? Red Hulk and Hulk are enemy. There be some be some conflict between before they work together.

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