Wednesday, October 21, 2009

- or -
Super Hero SQUAT!
- A "Magic of Video" Post

A Review and commentary of Super Hero Squad animated series - episode # 5
"Enter: DORMAMMU!"

SuperHero Squad "# 5" production card

which is an homage to the cover of Strange Tales # 122

Last week, I saw episode # 5 of SuperHero Squad ("ENTER...DORMAMMU!"), featuring Doctor Strange in a co-starring guest role and I wanted to gauge my eyes out from the first minute onward.

Too harsh?
Aside from having the show's theme song stuck in my head like some kind of ear-worm, it's taken me the better part of the week to breathe deep and to not just write a rant.
(OK. there were other real-life reasons why it's taken me so long to get to this. I STARTED writing this on the day that the show aired - Oct 10th, but honestly, my wanting to write more than just all negative comments was incumbant of my taking some time away from it.)

You don't have to take my word for it.
Either before or after reading my take on it, feel free to watch the episode [HERE].


As I made mention in my previous SHS post [HERE] I have ZERO interest in seeing "Strange Dr. Strange" as evidenced by one of the character sketches, but to my dismay... Doc's first appearance in this series has him acting like a moron.

Yes, the story, written by Charlotte Fullerton and directed by Patty Shinagawa, posits a seemingly valid "reason" for it. However, with Strange's entrance within the opening sequence of this, his introductory episode, showcasing him as a lunatic, still sucks as the latest in a loooong list of crappy treatments that we Dr. Strange fans have had to endure for lo' the past decade!

It wasn't ALL skidmarks and character assassination, however.
There were a FEW good, solid positive points for Doc in the episode.
Unfortunately, they were far too few and far between.

One of the more shining aspects to Doc's treatment in the episode comes from Captain America's assessment of his powers and abilities.

Oddly enough, his eye color is listed as GREY but they're always colored GREEN in the episode.
And... is it just me or how can his height be 6' 2.5" when all the characters look to be 3' tall?

Cap describes Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme (I guess we won't be seeing Brother Voodoo any time soon in the SuperHero Squad, huh?), most powerful magicians in the universe, a master of the mystical and physical energies, able to levitate, travel dimensions, transformation of matter, possessor of the Eye of Agamotto (and expert Bulgarian cow-tipper and a great sudoku player).

Along with the glowing review of Doc's CV, we are treated to some of the very best animated images of Dr Strange ever presented.

Desktop images, anyone?

However, those grand images and glowing remarks of his character and abilities are not truly represented in the episode, since for the most part, (due to reasons revolving around interference with one of the show's ubiquitous McGuffins; "the Infinity Fractals",) Strange is relegated to behaving like the love-child of Robin "stream-of-consciousness" Williams and Jerry "Hey, LADY!" Lewis.

The "playing-it-for-yuks" version of Strange had one or two genuinely funny points, as in the scene above, where he sings a variation of "Frère Jacques" with "Dormammu" in the place of "dormez-vous".
Most of Strange's jokes fell flat, but that one got a grin from me.

When played straight, voice over actor Roger Rose gets most of the quiet dignity of Strange down. Unfortunately, even that is fairly one-dimensional.
To give credit, there's probably not much he could have done with Strange's "normal" speech in this episode, since the majority of the time the script calls for shenannigans.
One of my primary beefs against Rose's handling of Strange is that he mumbles so much of the joke material that even if there were some golden one-liners in there, they're lost amidst the noise.

"Strangely" enough, most of the actual GOOD humor in the episode came from the mouth of Iron-Man (and I kinda LIKE the nonsensical way how the mouth-slit on his helmet actually moves like a mouth)!
Iron Man has the lion's share of good lines in this episode. Some really funny one-liners.
Perhaps it's because in the hands mouth... of Tom Kenny (aka Spongebob Squarepants) any lines are capable of inflection, nuance and mirth.

My favorite was: after the Squad are sent to find Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, which is hidden via a spell of concealment, Iron Man asks; "Is there a doctor in the house?... Is there a HOUSE in the House?"

The Sanctum IS revealed (due to the Hulk's door-bell button-mashing) and it is a close approximation of the edifice that comic fans find familiar.

So, when are they making the Sanctum Sanctorum playset?

Also present, and pleasantly unchanged from his classic incarnation, is WONG, Strange's manservant.

Where's my Squad WONG figure?

Wong doesn't speak a word in his SHS debut, which, in a cartoon where every character suffers diarrhea of the mouth, is odd. It almost felt as if the producers hadn't really planned his appearance beyond the visual.
Or perhaps they were stuck for whether to play safe (read; PC) with his speech patterns or not.

Either way, Wong's entire role in the episode is to answer the door and escort the gathered "Squaddies" to the inner Sanctum of Doctor Strange.

Also of merit is the appearance of the ORB of Agamotto - always a treat to see actual artifacts from the comics canon being used properly.

The ORB is used to gaze into the Dark Dimension and show the heroes the possible origins to the magic that had perplexed them at the show's opening sequence.

The Dark Dimension!

In response to Strange's presenting the DARK DIMENSION, Iron Man gets in another of the best lines of the episode; "How come it's never the 'Duckies and Bunnies Dimension'?".
I laugh just typing it.

While Iron Man gets such a wealth of good lines in the show, it seems that most of the other characters are left with nothing worthwhile to say.
Hulk is annoyingly stupid (even more so than he would normally be).
Silver Surfer is annoyingly vapid (although, to his credit, he is far less so in this episode than in others).
Wolverine is annoyingly annoying.

Thor and Falcon have some worthwhile screen presence, but they are definitely playing second (and third) fiddle to Iron Man's lead.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment in the episode was the big bad himself.

I think this might be worse than any issue of SECRET DEFENDERS.

Dormammu wasn't given the greatness that he deserved.
Nothing against Robert Englund, who voiced the dread one, but his vocal quality just didn't resonate "ultimate mystic dictator of an otherworldly mystical dark dimension".
Englund's pitch seemed too high and the delivery of his lines felt flat to me.
Of course, it IS a kiddie show, and having him lay it all out to try and have kids crap their pants on Saturday morning might not be the goal of the show's producers.
I understand that completely. (Not unless a line of Squaddies Rubber-Undies is due for the marketplace.)
Still, I would have liked for Dormammu to have a bit more menace.

Once the faulty characterizations of Doctor Strange and Dormammu are addressed, there is only ONE reason that this episode, as a whole, wasn't a complete loss (well, there were dozens of reasons, really, but only if you count each one as a separate reason)... and THAT is because of the MINDLESS ONES!

"Dormammu and the Mindless Ones" = A death-metal band.
Iron Man has all their albums.

The Mindless Ones lit up the screen with their very presence.
Well... lit it up with blinding eye-beams as well, but that's just the frosting on the mindless cake.

Although, (and I hate to nit-pick, but) the "Mindless Ones" were presented as having somewhat of a MIND!
In some scenes they are shown to have expression by the eye-slit forming a frowny or a surprised expression! There is a distinctive showing of intelligence in their actions, when, in the comics canon they are merely mindless berzerkers - fighting anything in their way just for the sake of fighting and because something is in their way.

Still, that is a very minor quibble, and mentioned only for the sake of completeness.
The Mindless Ones were my favorite part of the episode.

Honestly, these guys were the only thing keeping me from doing bodily harm to any number of TV execs, storyboard artists, voice-over actors and Joe Quesada - who is now in charge of Marvel's Animation endeavors.

Taking this episode as but one in the series' line, I have found the personalities and behaviors of many characters to be very "off" - if not flat out "wrong".

Captain America is an out-of-touch WWII-minded elder-statesman, who thinks that Thor is a woman (and a Women's Libber).

Silver Surfer has power levels that are treated as little more than simple power-zaps (even though he constantly mentions the power-cosmic) all the while speaking in simple "surfer-dude" type of jargon ("cosmic, dude").
Actually, that wouldn't bother me much at all, if it weren't his only one-note persona.

Dr. Doom is...well... a more childish version of Doom!
Petulant, impatient and arrogant.
So, Doom is otherwise fine, except for scenes like this one.

Orbitz gum - for dirty mouths - no matter what.

I DID find one thing to be quite impressive.
The producers of the show maintained that the Hulk is the only one able to see Dr. Strange in his astral form.
One scene has him pointing to the astral image (which has his cloak of levitation - one of neilalien's major peeves) while everyone else sees only empty air.

Once Doctor Strange regains his own self-composure, there is very little wrong with the going's-on in the episode. However, it takes one final burst from the McGuffin before Doc is able to be freed of it's taint.

I WILL say that the old-school VISUAL treatment of Dormammu is appreciated!

That last bit of incompetence causing Doc to turn his friends into other aspects of themselves.

Frog-Thor is AWESOME!
Wasp-Wasp sadly reminds me of the late 1990's bug-version of the characters.
Better not to go down that dark path.

However, once Doc whips out his Eye of Agamotto, it all gets turned around!

Fully himself, and in charge of his supreme sorcery, Doc makes short work of Dormammu and Dr. Doom.

Dr. Doom + Dormammu = Doomammu?

He is then free to go back to the Sanctum and plan a full day of Bavarian cow-tipping.

Either that or Doc has a collection of "My Pretty Pony" dolls.

Of course, the show couldn't end with Doc as a powerful and stoic entity.
Sadly, as he places the spell of concealment about the sanctum once again, we hear his sobbing lamentation of the fact that he left his brownies in the oven.

Please, please, please don't have him retain any aspect of babbling idiot that he portrayed in this episode. That would only make all of we Doc fans do the cross-eyed, finger-to-mouth "bibble-babble-boobble" motion.

You mean like THIS?
Yes. Like that.

Still, I await Doc's 2nd appearance on the show.
Today, October 21st, is to be the airing of "A Night in the Sanctum", featuring Doctor Strange and MORDO!

I'll review that one soon!

Hopefully this show will win me as a fan yet.

But maybe that's just me thinking all crazy.



Sean Aaron said...

If Doc was in the Wii game I'd have bought it, but as it stands reviews haven't been good enough for me to bother with it. Marvel Ultimate Alliance it is!

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