"Ben 10/Generator Rex: Heroes United" Offers A Safe Crossover
If I had to sum up Cartoon Network’s crossover between Man of Action’s two major action heroes with a single word, it would be “adequate.” “Heroes United” comes off as an extra long episode of the Generator Rex series, with Ben Tennyson being brought in as a major co-star. For Rex fans this is a marvelous thing, though Ben 10 fans could reasonably feel shortchanged by the arrangement. All in all, though, this outing does amount to an enjoyable novelty, albeit a thoroughly unambitious one.
Things start out with our hero Rex training with Agent Six and displaying his usual bravado, but they’re promptly called into action when a bizarre energy distortion manifests in New York. It turns out it’s really some sort of a dimensional rift, though Rex and the agents of Providence barely begin to understand what they’re looking at before someone emerges from the disturbance – a transformed Ben Tennyson. Naturally Rex assumes he’s some sort of E.V.O., and our two heroes spend about ten minutes of screen time pounding on each other while Six tangles with a mysterious mechanical monster elsewhere. Naturally it turns out that this is the real threat, and Ben and Rex realize that the other guy might not be so bad when they both stop their duel to help innocent bystanders. But when Six subsequently sacrifices himself to cripple the enemy, the burden falls to Rex to carry on and figure things out on his own with Six out of action.
Rex’s brother Caesar soon reveals that their enemy is an entity called “Alpha”, an invention of his that went terribly wrong long ago. It was built to control other nanites and think for itself, but it drains nanites after using them and ended up going rogue to inhabit other bodies as hosts to sustain itself. So Caesar invented a laser to zap him to another dimension, only it was an inhabited space in Ben’s world rather than the empty void he thought it was. Now Alpha is back to absorb machines in Rex’s world and to try to claim his “Omega” nanite to sustain him indefinitely, and of course he’s got to be stopped. Fortunately, Rex has got a fellow hero around to back him up.
Rex and Ben thoroughly dominate this adventure, with the two heroes both getting their share of witty banter and plenty of opportunity to show off the extent of what they’re capable of in their battle against the increasingly powerful Alpha. If there’s a big flaw to it it’s that it takes quite some time before Rex and Ben truly commit to helping each other and things get down to business in earnest, though to be fair that’s hardly implausible given the weirdness of the situation and how strong-willed these two can be. Still, too much time is arguably spent on their misunderstandings and the difficulty the Generator Rex people have with comprehending what they’re dealing with early on; this is time that could have been used to include more characters or craft more of a story instead.
The plot is awfully straightforward and unsurprising. Ben and Rex meet and brawl for the fans, they learn what’s going on, they bond a bit, and then they have a grand showdown with the villain. The narrative does remember to have a little fun with its concept, at least. For instance the idea of a multiverse is mere theory to Dr. Holiday while Ben casually talks about it like it’s old news, and early in the adventure a still-oblivious Ben is amazed when he announces who he is and nobody in Rex’s world reacts to his celebrity. Rex’s inner circle all get their share of attention, most notably White Knight of all people. He nobly steps up to assist in place of Six regardless of the great risk; it’s hard to believe that once upon a time his role was simply to act as Rex’s unlikable and domineering boss.
Still, the main attraction is undeniably what Ben and Rex are saying and doing and how they ultimately bond with each other to bring down a foe that neither could hope to stop alone. That’s fine so far as it goes, though I can’t shake the feeling that more should have been done with an event like this. The absence of Ben’s comrades Gwen and Kevin Levin is a shame, and nobody from Rex’s rogues gallery makes an appearance. Aside from some smart references and tie-ins, it can’t be said that the worlds of these two heroes truly intersect much. If we end up getting the sequel that’s rather unsubtly raised as a hopeful possibility near the end, it ought to be an event of greater aspirations.