Zilla and the Comics Junkies

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ultimate Avengers: The Review

1945; Hitler has been defeated. We begin on an air transport plane filled with paratroopers over Nazi Germany; one of those paratroopers is Steve Rogers, Captain America. The soldiers parachute down, and take the battle to what’s left of the Nazi forces, only for Captain America to discover aliens and a nuclear missile, which has been targeted at Washington. The missile is launched, but the Captain takes action; attaching himself to the missile to take it down, mid-air. He succeeds, but his heroic efforts have sent him falling down into the ocean, to be frozen in time…

Present day; General Nick Fury and Professor Betty Ross are aboard a submarine, searching for something in the arctic waters. As they find what they are looking for, we discover that it is the frozen body of Captain America. He is thawed out, and after battling his way out of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, he is surprised at just how much the world has changed. The discovery of Captain America is music to the ears of Dr. Bruce Banner, whom has been working on recreating the Super-Soldier Serum for many years now; but the true reason for his excitement remains to be seen… Meanwhile, the result of an impending alien invasion, General Fury is ordered to activate Project Avenger; to assemble a group of powerful individuals to defend humanity against immanent destruction.

The first thing I must point out is that, although I’ve read the first four (give or take) issues of The Ultimates; I was rather tired at the time, thus I don’t remember every little detail. I also (at the moment) am unable to re-read them, so just assume while reading this that I know nothing more than a basic synopsis of The Ultimates comic book.

With all the complaining about decompressed story telling in comic books these days, it is highly ironic that Ultimate Avengers main problem is too much compression. Here we have a (roughly) hour and ten minute long animated film, that clearly has more plot than is given time for. Things happen way too quickly in this film, and it really hurts ones ability to take the story seriously at times. It seems like Marvel and/or Lions Gate, despite supposedly wanting to make a PG-13 animated film (which, I have no idea why it got anything higher than a PG, save for some relationship drama between Bruce & Betty) felt the need to compress the story into a quick adventure for impatient, juvenile minds.

Another problem with the story is that far too much is mentioned with only a loose or no explanation at all; Bruce Banner’s rampages as the Hulk, how Steve Rogers became Captain America, and why he was the only person the Super Soldier Serum was used on. These are things that really should’ve been explained in one form or another. Sure, many comic book fans already know the answers to a lot of the questions raised in the film, but if they’re trying to market it for a general audience as well; it makes no sense to assume that every viewer automatically knows who’s who and what their story is.

Despite being compressed, the story at hand is rather interesting. The tragedy of Steve Roger’s awakening some 60 years later, with his family and nearly everyone he loves gone, is something that (if fleshed out more) could have really tugged on the heart-strings of the audience. Tony Stark is portrayed rather well in this story; I think he could have easily stolen the show if only his was featured more prominently. He’s an asshole billionaire, interested merely in wealth, women and booze (though the booze angle isn’t played up anywhere near as much as it is in the comics), seemingly not caring about anyone but himself. His snide comments and pompous attitude make him a hilarious character to see interact with the others.

I’ve read that Hank Pym (Giant Man) and Janet (Wasp) have a marriage that eventually turns violent, with Hank becoming abusive towards her. This isn’t portrayed at all in the film, however; Hank is shown as being extremely jealous, rude, and overall just a prick towards Janet. He’s very unlikable, and the abuse seeds have been planted, whether they do anything with it in the next film however remains to be seen. Janet is also shown to have an admiration for Captain America, which may lead to their eventual intimate relationship (as they apparently have now, in the comics). The real pivotal character moment comes from Dr. Banner, though. He is mostly presented through the film as being a tortured genius, but one who still seeks to set the wrongs he’s made right. Eventually, however, his true intentions start coming out, and a shocking discovery is made by Betty and Fury regarding Bruce’s research.

The animation in the film is so-so; it’s not terrible to look at, and it is generally better than your typical Saturday morning cartoon, but there was still room for improvement. Some moments look especially good, such as a scene where Black Widow is trying to comfort Captain America; there’s a minute or so where the camera is focused on her head, looking towards it, as she talks to Steve, the animation looks almost beautiful. There’s also a fair amount of CGI in the film, mostly aerial scenes with ships battling each other; the blend between traditional and computer animation is almost seamless. It certainly looks better than the last time Marvel attempted it (the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon, though in their defense; CGI was still relative new at the time), though it still is easy to spot the difference between the two. One major problem with the animation however is the lip-synching, which often varies from average to just plain horrible. It’s not as if the film is dubbed either (then, it would be excusable), so there’s really no reason (other than, rushed animation, perhaps, or a small budget) why it should be as poor as it is in some scenes.

Most of the voice work is nothing to write home about, but some of it stands out. The actor who voices Tony Stark does a top-notch job with the tone and line delivery of a snobbish playboy; it’s just sad that Stark doesn’t get a lot of screen time. The actress who voices Black Widow also handles the role well (despite the accent being blatantly acted); and the actor voicing Thor does a great job in his introduction scene, although he loses steam very quickly afterward. I’m also impressed with the voice work for Bruce Banner (who, is apparently voiced by Michael Massee a.k.a. “Funboy” from The Crow!), who seemed to fit right into the part of Ultimate Banner. By far the real stinker of the cast is, ironically, the star; Captain America. This was a horrible, horrible miscast. In the film, Cap has a very, timid, young, uninspiring voice. I think the voice director’s motivation for this casting choice was that the character of Steve Rogers (pre-super soldier serum) was a scrawny, weak private. However, as Captain America, he really should have a powerful, commanding, inspiring voice, which sadly here, he does not.

Overall this film is easily recommended to any comic book fan, if at least for curiosity’s sake. I was neither disappointed nor amazed by this film; I enjoyed it, but I recognize that it suffers from a lot of problems. It could have been something great—in fact, if Marvel hadn’t anxiously sold off the film rights to most of the characters in this years ago, I would suggest that Marvel just find a good Hollywood screen writer and director and just make an actual Ultimates movie.

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****


15 February, 2006 08:08, Blogger zilla said...

dude this is a GREAT review man thanks (seriously). you should spread this around - i find it hard to believe we'll find a better, more thorough, or well written review of this short anywhere else (at any time). Cheers.

You really should read through the Ultimates comics, Ultimates and Ultimates 2 are worth the hype they've gotten.

PS i thought this DVD wasn't going to be released until the 21rst? is it a torrent already?

15 February, 2006 13:50, Blogger zilla said...

ps i picked up the new daredevil today - i'll be sure and review it... but let me know what trade you wanted me to pick up...

15 February, 2006 19:16, Blogger zilla said...

PS - i'm going to be pushing this review down the page w/ some of my flop reviews but i'll bring it back up at some point - it's too money to not get a ton of PT. thanks U.

16 February, 2006 01:26, Blogger Christopher Green said...

Good news, I bought Ultimates vol. 1: Superhuman today, with plans to buy the rest of the trades in the series before Ultimates 3 begins.

In terms of Daredevil trades, just start from volume 3 (Underboss) to the latest, it's one big long story arc.

16 February, 2006 01:33, Blogger Christopher Green said...

EDIT: Make sure you pick up Ultimate Fantastic Four #27!

"President Thor" Part 1 of 3

16 February, 2006 07:46, Blogger zilla said...

i'm going to grab that daredevil trade next order... one question though, it seems that vol 4 (not 3) was titled "underboss" is that what you meant (so start w/ v.4 not v.3?).

16 February, 2006 16:10, Blogger Christopher Green said...

Yeah, sorry. I had the number wrong. Start with volume 4 (Underboss) and work your way up.


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In no particular order:

Criminal, The Goon, Daredevil, Exterminators, Punisher, Hellboy/B.P.R.D (All), Powers, Godland, Usagi Yojimbo, The Walking Dead, Invincible, Conan, Ex Machina, DMZ, Desolation Jones, Fell, 100 Bullets, All-Star Superman, Ultimates 2, Loveless, and Fear Agent.

I'm recently back reading after a 15 year comics hiatus.

Zilla is not my real name.

I'm from Tejas living in VA. I'm married w/ 2 dogs. I'm an IT security consultant cranking the wheel for a big consulting firm in "real" life.

I watch the History Channel, Nat'l Geo, TLC, Mil Channel, ESPN and NFL Network, CourtTV (forensic files, etc.) and the Cartoon Network (love Genndy T's Samurai Jack and Clone Wars Adventures). My taste in movies: Gladiator, Last Samurai, Braveheart, Godfather, Tarantino (whatever), Kung-Fu (whatever), Westerns, Top Gun, Big Lebowski.

I love the outdoors and bs'ing around w/ my dogs.

In addition to being a comics junkie, i'm also a sports junkie especially when it comes to the Texas Longhorns and the Dallas Cowboys.

Blog contents copyright © 2005 Rod Wetsel