Ultimately Worth It!
Marvel has never been as good at capturing their iconic heroes in animated form as DC has. Sure, there have been some major successes (X-Men the Series, Spider-Man the Series, The Incredible Hulk the Series) but there have been even more major failures (Avengers the Series, The New Fantastic Four, Mtv’s Spider-Man, Silver Surfer the Series). DC, since the era of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini began, has just been more consistent with their attempts at animating the classic characters.
If Marvel could just keep up the level of quality and consistency seen in Ultimate Avengers, they’d give DC a run for their money. This movie was VERY satisfying.
For those of you “in the know”, Ultimate Avengers is an adaptation of Mark Millar’s first two volumes of The Ultimates comic book. For those of you “not in the know”, the Avengers are Marvel’s answer to the Justice League of America. They’re a team of the Marvel Universe’s head-liners assembled to battle world-threatening catastrophes and villains that they would never be able to conquer as individuals.
This movie acts as their origin story, for the most part, and the “world-threatening catastrophe” of invading aliens is somewhat cast into the backdrop. Basically, the movie starts out in World War II Germany, with the Allies storming an Axis fortress. The genetically engineered super soldier, Captain America, leads the assault only to find out that the Nazis are really ALIENS! He manages to disarm the nuclear bomb they send toward the United States, but winds-up sinking into an icy ocean. The story picks up “today”, and America’s secret defense agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. (lead by Nick Fury) have dug up Cap’s body, frozen in a block of ice. They thaw him out, discover he’s still alive, and elect him to lead a team of Earth’s mightiest heroes; the Invincible Iron Man, the Mighty Thor, Giant Man, the Wasp and Black Widow. The evil Alien Nazis are back and the individual heroes (with attitudes!) have to work together to stop not only THAT threat, but the threat of Dr. Bruce Banner when he changes into the Incredible Hulk and starts pounding everything in sight.
Alright, the plot may SOUND very hackneyed, and to be honest, it IS very hackneyed. But the interaction between the characters, their conflicting personalities and interests, is what makes the movie so enjoyable. That and the action. The action sequences in this movie are surprisingly well-animated. The fights are choreographed with flare and the hits are surprisingly brutal. The opening blitz on the Nazi fortress doesn’t spare you any of the gruesome realities of war while the ending confrontation with the Hulk will leave you wishing that the last Hulk movie had been so satisfying.
But this isn’t theatrical-quality animation by any means. Most of the budget went toward the fights scenes, which is good, but the “boring” parts of the movie (where characters just converse or deliver lengthy exposition) are made even more “boring” due to money-saving lack of animation. They just stand there, stiff as cardboard, and at times the animation around their lips can get a little dodgy and “blur” or “pixilate”. And no, this wasn’t a problem with my DVD.
Now, if you’ve read the Ultimates, will you like this movie? Yes and no. In order to cram the first two volumes into an hour and a half, AND tone it down to PG-13, they had to do a lot of trimming. So the Captain America in this film more closely resembles his boring old Regular Marvel Universe incarnation as opposed to his “psycho-kill-the-Democrats-Republicans-should-rule-the-world-BLARGH!” incarnation seen in Millar’s exceedingly “subtle” Ultimates comic. So yes, that means no classic “Surrender!? Do you think this letter on my forehead stands for FRANCE!?” line, unfortunately.
They also nixed the bit where Giant Man beats the crap out of the Wasp. There are hints in the movie that their marriage isn’t a story book one, but he never lays a hand on her. And the Hulk, though still a rampaging monster, threatens to rape no-one. And no Freddie Prinz Jr., either. Oh, and Thor doesn’t have a beard.
But barring those changes, this is actually a pretty damn accurate representation of the source material. The story remains almost entirely intact and the opening sequence, set in World War II, is ripped straight from the pages of the comic. You’ll love it.
So this is Marvel’s step in the right direction in regards to their attempts at animation. Characterization is a little on the light-side, but that’s forgivable considering they had to introduce so many in such a short amount of time. And as I heard it on the Ultimate Avengers II sneak-peek seen on the DVD, the sequel will devote a good deal more time to character-development. Thank you.
As a bit of warning for those interested in the special features on the DVD, the “Avengers Assemble” documentary is extremely hard to watch. And there are two words which can sum up why; “George Perez”. Yes, the documentary devotes about half an hour to Perez and another half hour to his Hulk-sized ego. The man, along with his painfully annoying voice, drone on endlessly about how magnificent HIS art is and about how HE revitalized the Avengers and about how HE saved the comic and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, Mark Millar (the guy who wrote the comic this movie was based on), and his charming Scottish accent, is given maybe a sentence or two to discuss his feelings on Ultimate Avengers. But that’s only a short couple of seconds before we’re treated to more egotistical ranting from George Perez.
So how shall I grade this movie? It had its troubles, but to anyone who likes the Ultimates, likes the Avengers, likes Marvel comics, or just wants a good animated action film…you’ll like it. It gets a B-. Not superb, but a very fun movie that stands as a preview for all the good things Marvel has on the horizon.