This is cool. I had no idea they had completely remade the classic comic series The Avengers, called "The Ultimates", nor did I have any idea they were bringing these updated characters and stories to the world of animation. And this isn't just some Saturday morning kids' cartoon or mind-numbing run-of-the-mill after-school garbage either; this is a feature length animated movie with quality artwork, multi-dimensional characters, and realistic feeling tone and atmosphere.
Ultimate Avengers: The Movie is rated PG-13, which should immediately tell you something. I mean, The Transformers: The Movie was rated PG because it had some mild cussing. Now, while I didn't notice in cussing here, I did almost instantly notice that people actually got killed! There was no ejecting at the last second so they could float safely to the ground like in G.I. Joe or every other kids' cartoon. Hell no! Those people died! So yeah, I could tell early on that this thing has some realism behind it.
Ultimate Avengers: The Movie is the origin story not for the superheroes that make up the team, but for the team itself, which is comprised of Thor, The Hulk, Iron Man, Wasp, Giant Man, and their leader, Captain America. Back in the late days of World War II, a US project was underway to create a super soldier. The project worked, but only once, because during the process the entire lab was destroyed. The one and only success of that program was Steve Rogers, or as he's more commonly known, Captain America.
Now, during one specific raid on a Nazi base, the good Captain and his troops encountered these alien creatures that seemed to be working side-by-side with the Nazi scum... until Captain America hit one straight in the gut using that American shield of his... and the guy's gut was all green and wiggly, and the put itself back together! But before the Captain has time to fully comprehend what's going on, a rocket is launched that must be stopped at all costs, and of course Captain America is the only one who can do it. Fortunately, he succeeds. Unfortunately, he's high in the air when he does it, and falls back to Earth, landing in the freezing cold waters, never to be seen again. Or perhaps never is too strong of word....
Sixty years later, the super-soldier project had been reawakened, though without success. The lead scientist on the program is a man by the name of Dr. Bruce Banner. As many of you may know, Dr. Banner has a... condition. However, in this universe, his condition is worse than you think. When he becomes angry, this nerdy little scientist guy doesn't just transform into a giant green monster known as the Hulk, but he transforms into a raging beast who is completely and absolutely out of control. This Hulk is more along the lines of a super-villain rather than a super hero, and so Dr. Banner must use medication to keep his human form under control so that the beast may never escape again.
So now you might begin to see why the super-soldier project interests Dr. Banner so much, because with it, he might actually be able to take control over his destructive alter-ego. When the frozen body of Captain America is finally found, new hope fills Dr. Banner. But even with blood samples from the Captain, it will take time, time the world does not seem have. Remember those aliens from sixty years ago? Well, looks like they're back, and ready to cause some destruction. Thus, with the super-soldier project not quite ready, Nick Fury, from the organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D., attempts to bring together six superheroes to combat this otherworldly threat. Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as they expected....
Besides Captain America not feeling like he has what it takes to lead again, the Wasp will only join if her husband is brought on board, and lets just say that Mr. Fury isn't too fond of that guy. As for Iron Man and Thor? Well, they just flat out refuse. And even once Fury does get them to form their makeshift team for project Avenger, actually getting these normally independent superheroes to take orders and follow commands is another task unto itself. Still, one thing's for sure, the people of Earth had better hope and pray that the team can pull it together, otherwise Earth may no longer have humans as its inhabitants!
I really liked the feel of this film, but was kind of disappointed with the overall story. I didn't really understand the whole alien thing. Why did they go away or at least not cause trouble for sixty years? And why are they here on Earth anyway? Maybe this is explained in the comics, but it didn't come through in the movie at all. Also, because this had the whole origin story, there was a lot of exposition to get out there. So that's why I'm really looking forward to seeing what they're going to do with Ultimate Avengers II. I expect that it will have a faster pace to it, and hopeful a story that lasts a little longer than 71 minutes, which is what this one clocks in at. I think another 20 minutes would have helped a ton!
The extras on the disc are pretty nice, too. There is a featurette telling all about the avengers and how it was redone as The Ultimates, which was very enlightening. Then there is The Ultimate Voice Talent Search, which was a contest where fans made and submitted audition tapes in hope that they would get chosen to voice a character in the animated film. In the end, nobody from the submissions was chosen, and I'd say that was good call after watching them. It was almost like watching the American Idol auditions! Then if you put the DVD into your computer, it will ask you a bunch of questions and then based on your answers tell you which Avenger you most closely resemble. Me? It says my closest match is Iron Man. Coolness! Oh yeah, and there's a sneak peek and the second animated feature, Ultimate Avengers II!
Ultimate Avengers: The Movie was released by Lions Gate on DVD starting February 21, 2006. It features the voice talent of Justin Gross, Michael Massee, Marc Worden, Olivia d'Abo, and Andre Ware.
I've seen the movie and was really hoping for a worthy representation. I was disappointed. First, why no Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver? I can understand the omission of the Maximoffs, but Hawkeye was a key member. On top of that I felt they shifted, for worse, the feel of key members: Tony Stark (too serious and aloof), Captain America (he's a battle-hardened soldier?), and Pym (too adversarial, he was more of a tragic figure in the book; in the movie he's begging for a beating). Otherwise, I think Nick Fury was somewhat accurate, and Thor was spot-on, except for the voice. Could they make Wasp's chest any bigger?
There was a couple good moments in the movie that felt like the book, but a lot of the humor from the book was just excised ("Hulk want Freddie Prinze Junior!" or "Who'd in their right mind climb into that [Iron Man Armor] sober."). The art in the movie was better than average, however the animation was rather disappointing with some bits looking rather fluid in movement and then others jerky and stilted. The mix of animated and drawn aircraft in the movie gave an inconsistent feel to the vehicles shown. The CG ships made the drawn carrier and hideous alien ships look weak. They should have done one, or the other, not both.
They made Captain America look like a chump. Part of the appeal in the book was that Cap was rather hard-edged in his style, no nonsense. I felt none of that while watching. He seemed slow, stiff, and indecisive. Cap was supposed to be the super-soldier, the end-all answer to warfare. Why was he the only one to look like a truck hit him at the very end of the movie. He was constantly getting hit; great reflexes there. What was with him surviving, having flown hundreds of feet through the air, from repeated punches by the Hulk? And what about taking these direct hits from Hulk? If he punches Black Widow, she's going down, permanently.
The voice acting was pretty bad too. Black Widow's accent is atrocious, Cap sounds really weak (should have had a lower timbre with more force behind it), and Thor was just laughable (waaaay overacted). Bruce Banner felt about right, but Hulk was a disappointment.
I feel let down by the quality of this release. Marvel has had a pretty good track record for their latest movies (except for the abysmal Elektra and the so-so Fantastic Four). I feel they took a step backward with this movie. While watching it, I felt nothing in regards to the alien invasion thread and I get the impression that the people who made the film felt the same way, adding the Hulk segment to salvage the film (which it largely does).
I'm afraid that this movie is going to be panned by most fans once it is released. It's a shame because the books are tailor-made for Hollywood. My impression was always: Avengers if Hollywood made it. Four of us watched the movie: Two avid comic fanboys, a moderate fan (myself), and someone mildly interested in the characters but doesn't read the books. All four of us panned this film.