This summer, some of Marvel's most famous and popular characters (and also Hawkeye) hit theaters with The Avengers. It's the culmination of four years of movie-making, building a shared universe on the screen designed to mirror the one in the comics, but that doesn't really matter. The only thing I care about in this whole thing is the return of the Official Super-Hero Toy of ComicsAlliance. That's right, everybody: Hulk Hands are back.
They're not alone, either, and to promote their new line of Avengers gear (including Iron Man's Repulsor Rays, Captain America's shield and a light-up Mjolnir for Thor), Hasbro has produced one of the single greatest toy commercials of all time. There are martial arts. There is movie footage. There is rap music. So today, we're checking it out to see how it stacks up against other, often equally hilarious Marvel Toy Commercials!
Before we get around to the new commercial, let's have a look at a few past offerings, starting with a double-shot of action figure weirdness circa 1994, starring Iron Man and The X-Men:
Remember the Iron Man cartoon from the '90s? No? Well, considering they went ahead and decided to make the Mandarin lime green like a character from a Bugs Bunny short that's been banned since 1946, that's probably a good thing. It does, however, have the distinction of being the show that brought us the first-ever M.O.D.O.K. action figure, so... that's something, I guess.
Aside from some pretty dubious skin color choices, what really gets me about this commercial is how bad it is at making these toys sound exciting. The kids just sound so bored by the whole thing. Probably because they chose to emphasize Iron Man's "front battle computer module" and "undersea dome" rather than the fact that he was using lasers from his hands to fight a Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing. Seriously: The ball was dropped.
The X-Men commercial, however, is a delight.
Not only do these kids and/or disembodied hands seem to be pretty into the toys, they're actually doing the voices. And while hearing a kid giving his best shot a Wolverine's gruff growl is pretty great, when the girl comes in aiming for Rogue and landing somewhere in Tween Rue McClanahan AKA Blanche From The Golden Girls: Year One, it basically just gets amazing.
I will say, though, for a 30 second spot for action figures that was geared directly towards twelve year-olds, there is an awful lot of innuendo in this thing. Between Kid Wolverine's "wanna mix it up, big boy?" and Rogue's "I've always had trouble with men!", some copywriter was really trying to slip a few past the censors.
Next up, here's a spot for Avengers: United They Stand, circa 2000:
If memory serves, United They Stand was canceled about 15 minutes into the first episode, and with good reason. More than anything else, it was marked by character redesigns that seemed explicitly geared towards action figures, which you'd think would make for good toys. Sadly, that was not the case.
More than the figures itself, though, this ad falls pretty flat in how they present them. I mean, really, when you have Captain America, you may want to go ahead and lead with him instead of starting with a CGI Hawkeye bursting to life to terrorize a child. That is some serious lede-burying, to the point where Cap doesn't even show up until after Ant-Man and Wonder Man. and that's just ridiculous. No amount of toys, even toys with light-up fists, are going to make Wonder Man not be terrible.
The weirdest aspect, though, is the way they're presenting the figures. Every toy commercial seems to take place in an alternate universe where every kid has a cardboard city with a perfectly stacked pyramid of translucent green Dixie cups for things to crash through, and while I've never seen such a thing in my 29 years of playing with action figures, that's fine. But a chute full of ball bearings? That stretches credibility way too far.
2005's commercial for Marvel Mega Morphs, on the other hand, was fantastic.
The Mega Morphs were based on the premise that Dr. Doom had become so unfathomably powerful that the only way to stop him was by using gigantic transforming robot versions of the Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America and f***ing Ghost Rider, which were somehow powered by their own internal stores of gamma radiation, regular radiation, X-Genes, super-soldier serum, and actual demonic energy from Hell.
Fortunately, Tony Stark had been building that exact set of robots in his garage for just such an occasion.
As a premise for a line of toys, it is second only to Dino Riders, in which aliens mounted rocket launchers and laser beams onto Tyrannosauruses. And as a premise for comics, one of which was included with each figure and then collected in a paperback with a four-issue miniseries written by Sean McKeever, it was amazing. Especially when Dr. Octopus used his Mega Morph to steal the Statue of Liberty so that he could blow up the world. Not kidding. That happened.
And that bring us to our final entry, 2012's Avengers roleplaying toys:
This. Commercial. Is. Amazing.
First of all, AVENGERS TOYS RAP. That alone is pretty amazing just in the fact that it exists, let alone that hey decided to go ahead and kick this spot off with "Unh! Come on!" The only thing I don't love about it is that it's only 30 seconds long. I sincerely hope there's an extended club mix out there somewhere, maybe hidden between Evanescence and Papa Roach as a secret track on the Avengers movie soundtrack. Stranger things have happened, like, say, the entire rest of the album.
Second, the costumes. The idea of cosplaying purely by color scheme is pretty amazing, especially since it makes everyone in this commercial look like off-duty Power Rangers. But while "Iron Man" and "Cap" are basically regular clothes, and "Thor" is pushing things a little with his leather jacket hoodie, "Hulk" and his puffy green vest are just flat-out hilarious.
Third, the inclusion of movie footage that has a little something the toy line doesn't: Black Widow. Admittedly, Hawkeye's not there either, but the fact that the camera pans across Scarlett Johansson right before transitioning to a shot of four lonely dudes on an abandoned street has a nice little implication to it. Specifically that wearing Hulk Hands and an Iron Man mask are pretty much going to make sure that there are no girls around for miles.
But, as a friend of mine put it, who needs girls when you have such a sweet vest?
Clearly, it is a commercial worthy of the Hulk Hands.
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