ULTIMATE AVENGERS: THE MOVIE
The Avengers was a title that Stan Lee created back in 1963 where he clearly drew from the success of DCs Justice League of America in creating a team-up of all the superheroes that Marvel had under their roof at the time. The Avengers has enjoyed great popularity in the years since then. Ultimate Avengers is based on the 13-part comic-book mini-series The Ultimates (2002-4), which was written by comic-book artist Mark Millar whose creations have also fueled other films such as Wanted (2008), Kick-Ass (2010) and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015). The Ultimates was part of what is termed the Ultimate Marvel universe, a new move that began in Marvel in 2000 where most of their popular characters were modernised and cast in an alternate universe where they were divorced of their more complicated back stories and their adventures interwoven in terms of continuity many of the mutant characters that occur throughout the Marvel Universe are now tied to the super-soldier experiments that are portrayed here, for example. These Ultimate Marvel reworkings have gained enormous popularity. The Ultimates was a Marvel Ultimate reimagining of The Avengers.
Marvels rival DC Comics have had great success in the animated arena beginning in the 1990s with the tv series adaptations of Batman (1992-4), Superman (1996-2000) and Justice League (2001-6), as well as numerous film spinoffs from these. (Marvel had created various animated series during the 1990s as well, although these did not enjoy as high a profile or acclaim as the DC series). This success is not missed by Marvel Animation who here employ some of the team behind the DC animated efforts, including Curt Geda who had directed episodes of both the animated Batman and Superman and the films Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000), Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003), Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006) and Turok: Son of Stone (2008), as well as Boyd Kirkland who directed 21 episodes of Batman and the film Batman and Mr Freeze: SubZero (1998). Most of the others involved as writers and directors here are veterans of the various Marvel animated tv series of the 1990s.
The combined talents produce a modestly impressive film. The opening scenes, which offer a condensed Captain America origin story, are excellent with Captain America flying across the midst of a battlefield to crash a plane into the Nazi stronghold, he fighting Nazis hand-to-hand and slicing them open to reveal tentacle creatures inside, the fight around the outside of the rocket as it is launched and then crashes into the ocean. The film draws the various cityscapes, vehicles and battles with great visual scope. There are some excellent action sequences notably one with Iron Man bringing an airliner down to a safe landing and fleeing through the skies of Manhattan, and especially the teams venture into the military complex. The film however saves its best for the exhilarating climactic battle first up against the Chitauri ships and then to defeat the rampaging Incredible Hulk.
The story does nothing particularly radical with the incarnations of the various characters but winds them together with a modest complexity. There are however some subtle differences that become apparent in comparison to the various DC animated films. Ultimate Avengers offers up an incarnation of the familiar superheroes and a series of show-stopping battles, which it does more than capably, but ultimately that is all it does. Crucially, it never digs any deeper into the psychological motivations of the characters or the complexities of the pairings. The other disappointment is that the Chitauri threat amounts to nothing more than a generic and faceless menace against which the team is arrayed. Nevertheless, the film does a modestly impressive job with what it has on hand.
While the animated DC films usually cast familiar name actors in the various voice roles, the voice line-up here has been deliberately cast with unknowns. Most do capable jobs, the sole exception being Michael Massees voicing of Bruce Banner, which comes out sounding like a middle-aged version of a whiny adolescent.
Ultimate Avengers II (2006) was a sequel from the same production personnel and voice cast as here. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008) was a further Avengers film made under the same banner, featuring the children of The Avengers. The Avengers had earlier appeared in the short-lived animated series Avengers (1999-2000), which cast the characters in a futuristic setting. The subsequent live-action feature film The Avengers (2012) had a surprising number of similarities to the plot for this film.