Marvel has started to release a line of direct to DVD animated movies
based on their comic line. The first one was Unlimited Avengers.
I reviewed that
title when it was first released and thought it was pretty slow with
mediocre animation. Now the second Marvel DVD has been released, Ultimate Avengers 2 and I was disappointed
to discover that this one wasn't much better than the first.
The aliens from the first Ultimate Avengers disc are back, and
this time they've brought the reenforcements. Herr Kleiser, the alien
that was responsible for Cap being trapped in suspended animation for 60
years, is still alive and has set his sights on the African kingdom of
Wakanda. A meteor with amazing powers landed there ages ago, and
the aliens want it for their own. After Kleiser kills the king, his
son and new ruler travels to America to enlist the help of the Avengers.
It isn't any young king who calls on the heros however, it is T'Challa,
the Black Panther.
Nick Fury doesn't want to formally send the Avengers to another county,
so he has them investigate it quietly which they are really up to doing.
The Wakandas soon discover them and armed with spears and arrows manage
to fend off 'the world's mightiest mortals.' Because he invited the
outsiders to their kingdom, T'Challa is stripped of his crown. When
things can't look any blacker, the aliens attack.
The creators in Marvel's animation department could really benifit from
watching some DC cartoons. Teen Titans, The Adventures of Batman,
and Justice League Unlimited all manage to avoid the errors
that the two Ultimate Avengers movies made. The pacing is really
poor. Nothing really happens for the first half, and then the action
is limited and rather ludicrous in many respects. (Giant Man's idea
of fighting is to stand still and let a lot of soldiers shoot him with
arrows??) This movie only picks up in the last twenty minutes, and
then it's a case of too little too late.
Wait, you say, they're using the first section of the show to develop
the characters and show us what these heros are like behind the mask.
Yes, that is true, the problem is that none of these people are likeable.
Henry Pym is an egotistical, often irrational jerk who treats his wife
like crap. Janet, in turn takes it like a beaten wife rather than
the research scientist that she's supposed to be. Steve Rogers has
a death wish, and Bruce Banner is a whiney mouse. None of these people
seem heroic or noble. Is that realistic? Sure, but that's not the
reason that kids have been reading comics for decades. They want
excitement, adventure, and heroics. Something that the first 45 minutes
if this hour and 10 minute show doesn't provide.
Like the first movie, there are a lot of things that pulled me out of
the viewing experience and made me say "wait a minute." Captain America
throws his shield through the engine block of a truck without it slowing
down and the Black Widow can fire a pair of pistols as fast as a machine
gun and never runs out of ammo, just to name two. Even my 10 year
old son laughed when Iron Man was taken out of a battle by....a log.
Many people won't be bothered by these, which is fine, but the accumulation
of these improbable events made it hard for me to enjoy the show.
Unfortunately, the animation hasn't improved any with this release.
The animation is pretty crude overall. Everyone has stiff movements
and whenever someone walks across a room it's a bit jerky. A lot
of movements look unreal too, such as when Tony Stark puts his backpack
back on while climbing a mountain. He picks it up, slings it over
one shoulder, and then the backpack's other shoulder strap moves by itself
and miraculously flies over his other arm. Okay.... The proportions
of people are often off too. Note Giant Man's long torso in the screen
capture above. They put more money into the action scenes, but even
these weren't very impressive. The backgrounds have little detail
and even less movement and this makes the whole production look bad.
A note to parents: There is no nudity or sexual inuendo in this movie,
but there is a lot of violence. People have knives rammed through
their chests, a man is choked to death, and many aliens have their arms
and legs ripped off. This is rated PG-13 for those reasons.
This movie comes with both English and Spanish soundtracks, both in
5.1. The English track sounded good with the explosions really surrounding
the viewer and giving the subwoofer a good workout. Unfortunately
when there wasn't a battle going on, the soundtrack collapsed to basically
a two channel mix. The quality was very good, with the dialog coming
through nice and clean and audio defects being absent.
The anamorphic widescreen image looked fine. The colors were solid
and bright, and the lines were sharp. Aliasing, a digital defect
that plagues animation, was absent, as were other compression artifacts.
A good looking disc.
Like the first disc, this one comes with a good amount of bonus material.
The extras section starts out with The Ultimates, a 23-minute featurette
that features interviews with Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, the creative
team behind the Ultimates comic, where they talk about the philosophy
behind the Ultimate line and what they wanted to do with the comic.
The best bonus item is The Ultimate Gag Reel is a three minute,
well, gag reel. This was really funny, and I especially liked the
running gag about Tony Stark's House of Ribs. I also enjoyed the
two First Look featurettes showing a peek at upcoming DVDs featuring Iron
Man and Dr. Strange (3 and 2 minutes respectively). I'm a big Iron
Man fan, but I thought that the Dr. Strange movie looked to be the better
of the two.
There is also a Which Avenger Are You? game that is playable
on a computer equipped with a DVD-ROM drive. After answering a series
of questions players are given the Avenger they resemble the most.
While I am a comic fan from way back and really enjoy these characters,
I didn't think Ultimate Avengers 2 was nearly as good as it should
have been. Unlike the animated shows based on DC characters, this
movie starts of really slow and doesn't pick up until the end. The
characters are fairly unlikeable and some of the plot elements are pretty
ludicrous. Still, it was fun to see the few action scenes, and those
alone make this worth a rental.