Ultimate Avengers (2006)
Starring: Justin Gross, Grey DeLisle, Michael Massee, Olivia d’Abo, Marc Worden, Nan McNamara, Andre Ware, David Boat, Fred Tatasciore, Jim Ward
Directed by: Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon
Ultimate Avengers was chosen to be the first direct-to-DVD movie from Marvel’s new agreement with Lions Gate, and I think that decision was a good one. The Avengers are one of Marvel’s biggest properties, but I don’t think it’s a property that will lend itself to a good live action release. The team has always had a large, revolving cast of characters, but the lynch pins of the team have always been Iron Man, Thor, and especially Captain America, all of whom are properties that can carry their own movies (look for Iron Man in 2008), and are probably in development by different studios. The alternative is to try and do an Avengers movie without the Big Three, as they did with the FOX Kids cartoon, but I don’t think that would be a very good idea. You could probably do a movie without Thor, or Iron Man, but not Captain America.
So an animated feature is a perfect way to expand the property, with the Ultimate line serving as a good update of the classic characters. I’ll be honest, I’ve never read The Ultimates comics by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch that this movie is based on (nor have I read any of the Ultimates line). So I can’t tell you how well this movie adapts the stories “Super-Human” and “Homeland Security”. However, I am familiar with the traditional representation of The Avengers that The Ultimates are based on, having a short run of Roger Stern written comics from the 80’s and about 50 or so West Coast Avengers from the time as well. While I can’t tell you how exacting an adaptation this is, I can tell you that the characters and tone of the movie fit well with The Avengers of the comics.
It’s a satisfying little movie (coming in at a brisk 72 minutes) for fans of superhero team comics. A little more sophisticated and dark than your average animated movie, Ultimate Avengers does carry a PG-13 rating and will probably be a little too disturbing for younger viewers. It’s clearly targeted at the current comic book demographic of males aged 13-30, and I think it will play well to that demographic. The characters are introduced well, the scenes with the team getting put together are fun, and the action is pretty exciting. If you’re a fan of superhero team comics, then you should check this out. If you’re a big Avengers fan, you may even want to own it. But, if you’re not into either, then there’s no reason for you to check this out at all.
It really has nothing to offer for those not already in the choir. The themes don’t transcend traditional comic book fare. The animation is acceptable at best; a yeoman’s effort that reveals the lower-budget nature of the film, reminding me of an updated G.I. Joe. The characters all look fine (Betty Ross in particular draws a striking similarity to her live action counterpart Jennifer Connelly), but the backgrounds are weak and the dialogue doesn’t synch up at times. I enjoyed the movie from a comic geek perspective, and will probably check out its forthcoming sequel, but probably won’t be watching it again, and can’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a comic geek themselves. It’s good for what it is, but… it is what it is.