As I have gotten older my tastes have changed. I have always loved comic books though my passion has subsided due to a lack of time and the finances involved with collecting. Along that vein I have been very pleased with the marketing of these series in other mediums. From TV shows to games and movies, comic books are more pervasive now than ever before. In my opinion this is a good thing.
Unfortunately not every comic book franchise has made the transition to another format well. For every Spider-Man, X-Men, and Justice League we have a Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Elektra. In each project there is something to appreciate but it's fair to say that the quality varies greatly and it's really a matter of opinion regarding which one is better than another. For instance, I appreciated The Invincible Iron Man animated movie despite its shortcomings but many out there did not. Likewise I'm sure there are many who enjoyed the Ultimate Avengers. Unfortunately I'm not one of them.
While Lionsgate has included both Ultimate Avengers: The Movie and Ultimate Avengers 2 on this Blu-ray disc, I found each feature offered similar problems. My main gripes involved the pacing of the plot, poor character development, shoddy animation, and an overall lack of direction. Compared to releases from the DC Universe or even the Hellboy Animated line these films felt amateurish and were a bit of a let down.
The first film, Ultimate Avengers: The Movie starts out in World War II and features Steve Rogers (Captain America) entering battle against the Nazis. For the sake of this movie the Nazis are being aided by an alien race known as the Chitauri. Together they are building a nuclear weapon and needless to say good 'ol Cap has to save the day. In the ensuing explosion he is catapulted to the bottom of the ocean and rests there for decades until SHIELD pulls him up under the direction of Nick Fury. It's kind of silly that after sixty years SHIELD would think his body is still intact but Dr. Banner needs the corpse to continue his research for the Super Soldier Serum.
Encased in ice, Rogers somehow has survived (go figure) and comes back to life on the operating table. As he comes to grips with the reality that faces him he attempts to settle some things from his previous life which includes a trip to see an old flame and his pal Bucky. This, coupled with his reluctance to work with SHIELD, was the most compelling aspect of Ultimate Avengers: The Movie. Many other characters are introduced as well but they don't receive anywhere near the camera time that Captain America gets.
In addition to Cap we get to see the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Pym, and Janet, the Wasp. Each of these personalities has their fair share of issues such as Banner's obsession with using the Super Soldier Serum to control the hulk, Pym and Janet dealing with their failing relationship, Tony Stark's irritating amount of pomposity, and Thor's desire to be like Captain Planet. Frankly none of these side stories were worked into the plot very well and each character feels constantly at odds with the film. As they work out their differences they eventually come together but the whole process isn't handled very well. The shorter run time also doesn't allow for the development to happen at a comfortable pace. Because of this the story often feels rushed and incomplete.
To top it all off the aliens that Captain America destroyed back in the 1940's have resurfaced for no reason what-so-ever. They simply appear again and assault SHIELD out of the blue. We are never given a glimpse at their motivation or shown what their ultimate goal. The Chitauri are simply a plot device used to bring the Avengers together and unfortunately they are not a very effective tool. As a villain they are a little more focused in Ultimate Avengers 2 when they show up again but once again they are a weak antagonist.
The plot in the sequel features the Chitauri striking out against Wakanda because they are looking for "The Heart" of the Wakandan people. I appreciated the introduction of the Black Panther and the fact that this story basically picked up where the last one left off but once again there were many problems.
For starters the characters have reverted back to being dysfunctional. Banner is locked in a cage and is being a crybaby, Pym is still abusing Janet, Stark is still a shmuck, Thor is still Thor, and Captain America seems to have a death wish. This makes for a very disjointed beginning and until the movie gets going you have to sit through a ton of melodrama that doesn't go anywhere. A rivalry between an alien super soldier and Captain America helps to heat things up later on in the film but it's too little, too late.
Throughout both movies the animation is downright terrible at times. With stiff movements, lifeless backgrounds, and disproportionate anatomy both Ultimate Avengers lack the polish competitive releases offer. Regardless of how vibrant they may appear on Blu-ray it is evident that there were corners cut. If you can look past that you'll still find two flawed features that offer a minimal amount of entertainment. They seem to be geared towards an age group younger than the PG-13 rating allows for. If you're a fan of The Ultimates you might dig the movies enough for a rental but that's about it.
The Ultimate Avengers Collection is presented on Blu-ray with 1080p HD resolution and a MPEG-2 codec. While the art style and animation may leave you wanting the actual quality of the image impresses. There was a noticeable vibrancy to the production with sharp, clear lines, and colors that absolutely popped. Whether Iron Man was shooting off a plasma beam or Captain America was just flashing the reds, whites, and blues, you can rest assured that this production is clean and colorful. Unfortunately there was a certain amount of aliasing here and there and the coloration in some cases tended to look distorted. In the end this isn't the greatest looking transfer for a movie on Blu-ray but it sets the bar for future animated releases.
A step up from the video quality is the audio presentation. With an English 7.1 Uncompressed Audio track accompanied by English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Surround EX tracks your experience will be good no matter what you select. If you have a seven channel sound system then you'll be in heaven with the PCM Audio mix. The soundstage truly comes to life and though the effects may be a little over the top at times it really brings Ultimate Avengers to the plateau it should have been.
The 5.1 offerings are a tad less capable than the 7.1 but depending on your system you'll still find them impressive enough. Some of the sound didn't balance out as well as it could have due to the fact that the emphasis was on the action but that's a minor gripe. English and Spanish subtitles are included.
For this Blu-ray release Lionsgate ported over both standard definition releases' bonus features.
For the Ultimate Avengers Collection things start off with two documentaries that clock in at over 20 minutes. The first is "Avengers Assemble" which talks about the franchise and its characters. People who worked with the series chime in to discuss it and share their views. The second, "The Ultimates", takes a look not only at the characters and people behind the stories but the comic book itself. It features the evolution of characters from the very beginning to their newest form in Ultimates. Both featurettes were certainly interesting and included a lot of information.
The rest of Ultimate Avengers Collection's bonus content is eaten up by fluff. There are some fan audition videos for some contest that was run before the film was released. They are kind of funny but are merely a frivolous add-on that doesn't improve the value of the release. An amusing gag reel helps to liven things up a little bit with some funny, yet staged, clips of the voice actors having a good time. A pop-up trivia track is also included with a boatload of information about the Avengers while you watch the film. Finishing things off are a trailer for The Invincible Iron Man and preview for Doctor Strange.
Like I mentioned at the start of this review I'm a strong supporter of comic book characters branching out into other formats. An animated film or series is a natural evolution and as such I have enjoyed many from Teen Titans to Justice League and even Hellboy. Heck, even The Invincible Iron Man entertained me despite its shortcomings.
The Ultimate Avengers Collection offers two films that unfortunately present low quality all around. The first film felt the most structured in terms of a plot but the pacing and run time kept things action-oriented rather than dramatic. The second movie tried to compensate for these flaws but failed to expand upon things. Sadly both movies share the common bond of poor animation which comes across as being very low-budget. Fortunately this Blu-ray disc offers good image quality with astounding audio to help round out the package. I can't recommend buying this release unless you're a diehard fan of The Ultimates though a rental is probably in order.
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