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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ultimate Avengers Collection
Ultimate Avengers Collection
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG-13 // April 24, 2012
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Nick Hartel | posted May 23, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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THE PROGRAM

With the release of "The Avengers" capping off a run of five build-up films, it's no shock that a company would want to take advantage of the buzz by dusting off some old Avengers related material that might be fresh to newer fans. "The Ultimate Avengers Collection" gathers three related animated films "Ultimate Avengers," "Ultimate Avengers 2" and "Next Avengers" in a two-disc release with the first two titles occupying the first disc.

THE FILMS

ULTIMATE AVENGERS

Released in early 2006, "Ultimate Avengers" draws inspiration from Mark Millar's comic series "The Ultimates" a retelling of the origins of the classic Marvel team. The film runs an inconsistent 72-minutes beginning with the origin of Captain America before flashing forward decades later as S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury is tasked with defending the Earth from an alien invasion by recruiting the Earth's greatest heroes into one super group. Along for the ride are live-action familiars Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Black Widow, as well as comic book staples (but still AWOL on the big screen) Ant-Man and his wife Wasp.

For all the promise of a legendary band of heroes battling evil, "Ultimate Avengers" is a dull meandering mess of a story that desperately needs a lesson in pacing. It's only saving graces are the Captain America-centric opening sequence and exciting third act rumble with an out of control Hulk. The plot threads connecting these events are thinly sketched out and extended far too long. Generally a short running time is a detriment to these animated superhero films (see the DC catalog for a shining example), but here, 72 minutes is an eternity populated by squabbling facsimiles of treasured characters and bland generic alien invader (the aliens are in fact the Chitauri but aren't as interesting as the one-dimensional warriors of the live-action offering, not to mention their original comic universe counterparts The Skrull).

Confounding matters are an overall level of shoddy production design. Character design is slightly stilted and the animation itself is rudimentary, more at home in 1996 than 2006. Voice acting is by all counts competent but with a tinge of laziness. There's nothing ultimate about the complete package, but comic fans should definitely check it out for what it does get right. The bottom line is "Ultimate Avengers" is a frustrating misfire and waste of potential.

MOVIE: 2.5/5.0
REPLAY: 1.5/5.0

ULTIMATE AVENGERS 2

Arriving later in 2006, "Ultimate Avengers" is a huge step backward from its semi-passable predecessor. Now a firmly established team, the Avengers are called to action after a mysterious superhero from the guarded country of Wakanda seeks out Captain America. T'Challa or as he's better known, The Black Panther specifically seeks out the Cap because his nation is under attack from...wait for it...yes, the Chitauri. The added twist here is the evil Nazi Captain America hunted decades prior is back, as he himself is a Chitauri shape shifter and responsible for the death of T'Challa's father, the former Black Panther. With a seed of revenge/retribution planted, the whole team is pulled into what is supposed to be a complicated political situation, the people of Wakanda would seemingly face death than allow outsiders within their borders.

As hackneyed as the Chitauri presence in the previous film was, their reappearance as well as that of Herr Kleiser, Captain's nemesis, is more painfully apparent here. The build up to a final action sequence is full of technical mumbo jumbo and constant (intentional or otherwise) taunts at fans with an imprisoned Bruce Banner. Yes, folks, your hopes of a controlled Hulk taking his rightful place alongside his allies are dashed. The conclusion to "Ultimate Avengers 2" is unsurprisingly met with a feeling of "who cares?" as our heroes shamble off-screen perhaps knowing how shameful the adaptation they reside in really is.

The animation quality is no better here and confusingly, the creators decided to amp up the violence to a level that alienates perhaps the only viewing audience that could tolerate such tedium: small children (the film earns its PG-13 rating). Aliens and humans alike are dispatched in gruesome fashion, with T'Challa's father getting the worse via Kleiser's blade like tendrils. The whole affair as the stench of cruelty to it and true heroism is a rare commodity. "Ultimate Avengers 2" only has the slightest hope of entertaining someone completely oblivious to the Avengers in any other format, but even then, that viewer would have to really love dull characters and second-rate animation.



MOVIE: 1.5/5.0
REPLAY: 0.0/5.0

NEXT AVENGERS

"Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow" is a breath of fresh air after two dismal attempts at bringing The Avengers to the small animated screen. Produced in 2008 and running around 78 minutes, the feature takes a familiar structure and flips it on its head. Instead of another straightforward Avengers tale, we get the saga of their children, protected by an aged Iron Man following the hostile takeover of Earth by Ultron. The children: James Rogers (son of Captain America and Black Widow), Torrun (daughter of Thor and Sif), Azari (son of Black Panther and Storm), and Henry Pym Jr. (son of Ant-Man and Wasp) life a somewhat sheltered existence, until the sudden appearance of a near-death Vision.

"Next Avengers" is a lighthearted treat for young and old, new and familiar alike, finding a balance to kid friendly entertainment and comic book history that largely exists in minor details (such as the parentage of Azari. The writers capture the personalities of the children's parents perfectly, with predictable squabbles between the group occurring as one might expect. Additionally, keeping Tony Stark around as the adult figure in their lives is a nice character move, showing underneath the cocky exterior was a man devoted to his friends and the welfare of others.

The animation is much more fluid than previous Marvel attempts and the voice acting finds the right balance of regular child and hero. The only real stumbling in the story is setting up Ultron as the villain, which results in a contrived plot device where the group must fight robot avatars of their parents. Fortunately there are some surprises along the way, including a group of resistance fighters led by Francis Barton, the son of Hawkeye. The best surprises, including a finale critical element are best left discovered as one watches this largely successful experiment. While this new batch of heroes are no substitute for the originals, they do capture the spirit of their predecessors much more handsomely than the "Ultimate Avengers" films do.



MOVIE: 3.0/5.0
REPLAY: 2.0/5.0





THE DVD

Video and Audio

ULTIMATE AVENGERS

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer features strong colors, minimal but noticeable compression artifacts and generally smooth lines, although aliasing is often a noticeable technical glitch. Colors are generally distinct with minimal bleeding.

The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is strong at times, but as a whole feels like a flat but moderately effective stereo track that occasionally springs to life with some semi-noticeable surround effects. A Spanish 5.1 track is also included.

VIDEO: 3.5/5.0
AUDIO: 3.0/5.0

ULTIMATE AVENGERS 2

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer features strong colors, minimal but noticeable compression artifacts and generally smooth lines, although aliasing is often a noticeable technical glitch. Colors are generally distinct with minimal bleeding.

The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is strong at times, but as a whole feels like a flat but moderately effective stereo track that occasionally springs to life with some semi-noticeable surround effects. A Spanish 5.1 track is also included.


VIDEO: 3.5/5.0
AUDIO: 3.0/5.0

NEXT AVENGERS

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer sports vibrant colors befitting not only animation but also a (generally) light-hearted comic book offering. There is minimal color bleeding and by large, the animation is very clean looking with no heavily visible compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is a generally fine and satisfying audio experience, with the notable exception of sound effects feeling far heavier than they should be and off-balance with the dialogue and score. A Spanish 5.1 track is included as well as English subtitles.

VIDEO: 4.0/5.0
AUDIO: 3.5/5.0



The Extras

"Ultimate Avengers" features a brief background on the comic team via "Avengers Assemble" while "First Look at Ultimate Avengers II" acts as an extended preview for the sequel. Rounding things out is a trivia track. "Ultimate Avengers II" extras contain "The Ultimates" featurette, which covers the comic book background, "First Looks at 'Iron Man' and 'Dr. Strange,'" a "What Avenger are You?" game and a contrived gag reel. "Next Avengers" sports two behind-the-scenes featurettes "Legacy: Making of Next Avengers" and "Kid Power: Next-Gen Marvel" as well as two "First Looks" at "Hulk vs. Wolverine" and "Hulk vs. Thor."

Final Thoughts

A very mixed-bag that leans towards forgettable, "The Ultimate Avengers" collection has one must see sequence in "Ultimate Avengers," a forgettable aggravating follow-up and a generations crossing experiment that will please older fans and keep younger viewers coming back. Rent It.

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