Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Justin Gross as Captain America
David Boat as Thor
Olivia d'Abo as Black Widow
Grey DeLisle as Janet Pym/The Wasp
Michael Massee as Bruce Banner
Nan McNamara as Dr. Betty Ross
Nolan North as Giant Man
Fred Tatasciore as Hulk
Andre Ware as Nick Fury
Marc Worden as Iron Man

Special Features:
Pop-Up Trivia

Assembling the Avengers Featurette

The Ultimate Voice Talent Search

What Avenger are You? DVD-Rom Game

First Look at Ultimate Avengers II

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.77:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Language
Running Time: 90 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on the Marvel Comic "The Ultimates" which is a retake of their long running title "The Avengers". The following is the official synopsis for the film:

"Marvel Entertainment and Lionsgate Home Entertainment are proud to present Marvel's first-ever animated feature DVD release, 'Ultimate Avengers: The Movie.' Based on the best-selling Marvel Comics series, "The Ultimates" – and featuring superb animation that stays true to its comic book roots – this action-packed saga features an all-star line-up of some of Marvel's most popular Super Heroes, including Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor.

In 1945, sinister alien forces nearly seized control of the free world, and only one man, Captain America, rose up to stop them. But after detonating a nuclear missile aimed at the Capitol, Captain America fell miles into the icy depths of the North Atlantic, where he remained lost for over sixty years. Now, with the world facing the very same evil, Captain America must rise once again. Yet his only hope for victory lies in a team of independent and strong-willed Super Heroes:

• Iron Man, the billionaire bachelor used to doing things his own way
• The Hulk, the destructive force Bruce Banner hopes to turn into a useful team member
• Thor, a hero who has responsibilities to both the world of man and the world of gods
• Wasp, a petite powerhouse who sees the team as a fresh start for her and her husband
• Giant Man, sixty feet tall with an equally large chip on his shoulder

'Ultimate Avengers: The Movie' is the extraordinary story of six very independent heroes who must – whether they like it or not – fight as one to save the world. Individually, they are superheroes. United, they are The Avengers."

"Ultimate Avengers: The Movie" is rated PG-13 for action violence.

The Movie:
I should start out by saying that I'm a long time comic fan. I've followed the Avengers for years and I've read every issue of The Ultimates since it debuted. There's one word that describes The Ultimates perfectly – cinematic. From the dramatic art to the epic storytelling, the comic had all the makings of a great film. I always hoped they'd make a live action version of it, but it's easy to see why Marvel would choose it as the first of their adult oriented animation. So how did it translate from the printed page to the small screen? Not bad. It's certainly not as good as it could have been, but it's also a promising start for Marvel's animation.

The first thing any fan of The Ultimates will note about this animated feature is that the dark and violent edge has been taken off of Mark Millar's story. This is understandable since they want to market this film to the widest audience possible, but it also removes some of the plot points that made it unique. For example, Hank Pym doesn't abuse his wife Janet. They bicker, but there's no domestic abuse. The Hulk is also violent, but he isn't…er…horny and the embodiment of the male psyche run amok. (He doesn't want to kill Freddie Prinze Jr. either.) That being said, though, elements of that edge are still present mainly in the action scenes. The Hulk break's Giant Man's knee. The Wasp flies into Hulk's ear in a memorable moment. We also see Captain America fly a plane into a German base from the spectacular opening of the comic. So though it has been watered down to a degree, there's still a little bit of the edge left.

The overall story is also a rough amalgamation of the original Millar script. It takes a few key scenes and the overall alien invasion plot and reshuffles it around to fit the needs of the film. For example, you have memorable scenes like the Hulk's rampage (now at the end of the story), Captain America's opening battle, and Steve Rodger's revival. (In fact, Captain America's storyline is probably the best of all the sub-plots of the film.) However, you also have some changes like a new action scene involving a battle at a SHIELD base, a plane rescue scene by Iron Man, and the alien invasion set in New York. There are also some changes to the characters. In the comic, Iron Man had a huge staff helping him maintain the suit while in this film Tony Stark works solo and anonymously (which is closer to the mainstream Iron Man comic). Thor is also a little different. He's still an activist, but this time the Norse god is saving the whales, which is ironic since Norway is one of two countries still hunting whales. You'd think Vikings would like whale burgers.

The animation in the film is a bit of a mixed bag. The character designs and backgrounds look pretty good. There are times when the animation is spectacular, mainly during the fight scenes. However, the quality seems to waver between Saturday morning animation and big screen animation. It never quite achieves the level of excellence that most adult male audiences have come to expect. They seem to be aiming for anime level of quality, but it never quite reaches it. The end result seems to be just what Marvel intends – animation that is just good enough to tell the story and cheap enough that they can crank it out quickly, cash in, then move to the next film.

The Extras:
There is a pretty good selection of bonus features included with this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Pop-Up Trivia – This is a feature seen on other DVDs – it's simply text windows that pop up as the film plays. They contain bits of trivia about everything from WWII to the original Marvel comics to the animation in the film. They even discuss Marvel's team up with Lionsgate. The pop-up windows are so big, though, that they block portions of the screen. You'll want to save this for a second viewing.

Assembling the Avengers Featurette – Comic fans will enjoy this one. It details the Avengers comic and runs about 20 minutes long. They interview Mark Millar, George Perez, Joe Quesada, and a few other folks involved in the series. (Oddly, Stan Lee isn't interviewed despite being an executive producer on the film.) They discuss the origins of the comic, Perez's run in the 70's and 80's, and the relaunch of the series as The New Avengers with Wolverine and Spider-Man.

The Ultimate Voice Talent Search – In preparation for this film, Marvel put out a call to fans to submit auditions to be the voices of the main characters in the film. They didn't end up using any of them and after seeing this I understand why. It ends up being like American Idol for comic book geeks. Many of them ham it up quite a bit while only one or two seem like legitimate contenders for roles. You'll laugh, you'll cry.

First Look at "Ultimate Avengers II" – The sequel to this film is already in the works and is due this summer. Avi Arad discusses the film and shows some storyboards from the movie. It appears that this storyline departs entirely from the Ultimates comic. This time around the Avengers arrive in Wakanda and meet The Black Panther. They help him fight more aliens and Captain America has a rematch with an old nemesis from WWII. It's going to be interesting to see how the animation stands now that it departs from its comic inspiration.

The Bottom Line:
While I think kids and adults will enjoy The Ultimates, comic fans are going to enjoy it on a whole different level from everyone else. Unfortunately, they'll also be the ones who are familiar with The Ultimates and know what the film could have been compared to what it is. However, the overall result isn't bad at all and seems to be a promising start for Marvel's animation company. Parents will also want to note the PG-13 rating. This isn't for all smaller kids.

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