Ultimate Avengers 2006
With the popularity of my one-sentence review of Age of Ultron, I decided that I would leave you hanging a bit more and bide my time to give my full thoughts on the latest Avengers movie. Also, since I didn’t cover quite as many animated films last month, I thought I would instead take a look at the other animated Avengers movies that came out before even the first Iron Man movie when Marvel was working with Lion’s Gate to produce a series of animated films which would later tie-in with some of the live action movies. But they actually went the opposite route and began with the big team-up film instead of giving everyone their own separate introduction. It was based on the Ultimates universe and while it does share quite a few things with the Cinematic Universe, there are plenty of departures as well. It has been years since I’ve watched this, and I’m a little sad to say that it doesn’t hold up, especially after seeing them all realized so much better in the flesh, or at least most of them.
To start off this film, it actually delves into Captain America’s final hurrah back in World War II. It skips his origin story with the super soldier serum and goes straight into how he got trapped in ice while raiding a Nazi camp on an island North of Norway that just so happens to be full of aliens. Interestingly enough, while these aliens are shapeshifters like the Skrull, they are actually referred to as the Chitauri. It jumps ahead into the present where Nick Fury finds his body and brings it back to Bruce Banner who is working on reconstructing the super soldier serum from scattered notes and research. It eventually turns into Nick Fury building his Avengers team in order to find and defeat the Chitauri who have been in hiding ever since their setback fifty years ago with no explanation as to what they were waiting for or why.
As for the rest of the team, there’s Iron Man who has surprisingly kept his identity as Tony Stark a secret. Natalia Romanov aka Black Widow with a horrendously thick Russian accent and plays the sexpot angle up to the fullest extent. There’s Thor who is played mostly as a joke. Nick Fury believes that he’s just a regular guy with these powers who thinks he’s the Norse God Thor and spends most of his screen time drinking mead. There’s Hank and Janet Pym who are Ant Man and Wasp, although it’s only Wasp who gets to shrink down to tiny size in this film. Pym has actually managed to make his suit go the other way and is Giant Man here, though he does have a couple moments early on with his ants. And to wrap up the team there’s the Hulk. Here he isn’t handled very well compared to practically any of his other on-screen versions. Bruce Banner is played as an extremely socially maladjusted nerd who is obsessed with his relationship to Betty Ross. His Hulk is played as a completely uncontrollable force of nature which he keeps in check by taking shots to keep him from getting angry in the first place. But he’s also consumed with using the super soldier serum on himself in order to turn into the Hulk while keeping his mind intact.
It’s an interesting group to be sure, and nearly everyone besides Tony Stark is very different from what we’ve seen in the past several years. Instead of having a moment where there is a misunderstanding or conflict of interests so they can fight with each other, there is more of a conflict of egos on their first mission. They aren’t fighting each other, but they are causing all sorts of damage as they get in each others way. It’s actually an interesting way to build this conflict where they are all trying to play the solo hero instead of working as a single team under Captain America’s orders, and end up completely botching the operation. But of course, they manage to get things in line so they can band together and defeat the aliens at the climax. And as a coda to that battle we also get to see the infighting as Bruce Banner doesn’t end up with the amount of control he had hoped for over the Hulk and continues to battle anything that moves until he is finally calmed down by Betty Ross.
The animation was relatively passable for its time, though it didn’t feel like much of a step up from the better cartoons of 90’s Saturday mornings. Hulk looked a bit too much like Frankenstein, and Iron Man also looked rather blocky. The voice work was decent, but nothing special aside from Natalia’s distracting accent and Betty Ross’s rather uninteresting performance. The most interesting parts of this film were watching to see how different these characters were compared to where they are now. Bruce Banner was practically portrayed as the secondary villain here, with his Hulking out almost being treated like a type of drug addiction. There’s even a moment during the big fight at the end where Hulk manages to pick up Thor’s Mjolnir through sheer brute force, though it’s not the typical Mjolnir that we’re used to as it has an axe blade on one end. I did watch this with my daughter Jena and she didn’t care for the film at all, she thought it was stupid, she thought that Black Widow sounded too weird, and that Black Widow didn’t look right. I’m not too far behind her, though I do think it still deserves a spot in my 100 Essential Superhero movies as it is fascinating to look back at this film to see how far Marvel has come in such a short amount of time. It’s not an awful film, but it’s not nearly as good as anything that has followed it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.