Lionsgate/Marvel Animated Features, 2006
Ultimately awesome: Avengers cartoon passes test
We should start out by saying that we’re longtime comic fans. We’ve followed Marvel’s heroes for years and we’ve read issues of the Ultimates when it debuted. There’s one word that describes the Ultimates perfectly — cinematic. From the dramatic art to the epic storytelling, the comic had all the makings of a great film. We always hoped they’d make a live-action version of it, but it’s easy to see why Marvel would choose it as the first of their adult-oriented animation.
So, how did it translate from the printed page to the small screen? Not too shabby in our opinion.
The first thing any fan of Marvel will note about this animated movie is that the dark and violent edge has been taken off of Mark Millar’s story. This is understandable since they want to market this film to the widest audience possible, but it also removes some of the plot points that made it unique.
For example, Hank Pym doesn’t abuse his wife, Janet. They bicker, but there’s no domestic abuse anywhere. Captain America doesn’t beat the crap out of Hank and break his jaw. The Hulk is also violent, but he isn’t the embodiment of the male psyche run amok. (He doesn’t want to kill Freddie Prinze Jr. for being on a date with Betty.) That being said, though, elements of that edge are still present mainly in the action scenes. The Hulk breaks Giant Man’s knee. The Wasp flies into Hulk’s ear in a memorable moment. We also see Captain America fly a plane into a German base from the spectacular opening of the comic. So, though it has been watered down to a degree, there’s still a little bit of the edge left.
The film takes a few key scenes and the overall alien invasion plot and reshuffles it around to fit the needs of people with attention deficit disorder. For example, you have memorable scenes like the Hulk’s rampage (now at the end of the story), Captain America’s opening battle and Steve Rogers’ revival. However, you also have some changes like a new action scene involving a battle at a SHIELD base, a plane rescue scene by Iron Man and the alien invasion set in New York. There are also some changes to the characters. In the comic, Iron Man had a huge staff helping him maintain the suit while in this film Tony Stark works solo and anonymously. Thor is also a little different: He’s still an activist, but this time, the Norse god is saving the whales, which is ironic since Norway is one of two countries still hunting whales. You’d think Vikings would like whale burgers.
The animation in the film is a bit different. The character designs and backgrounds look pretty good, and the characters are highly detailed and full of color. There are times when the animation is spectacular, mainly during the fight scenes, however, the quality seems to waver between a Saturday morning animation and big-screen animation. It never quite achieves the level of excellence that most adult audiences have come to expect. They seem to be aiming for anime level of quality, but it never quite reaches it. The end result seems to be just what Marvel intends — animation that is just good enough to tell the story and cheap enough that they can crank it out quickly cash in, then move to the next film.
The voice actors of this movie did a great job. Each voice seemed to fit with each character. There is some heavy star power for this project. And you feel that experience in every line and scene. Fred Tatasciore, who voices Hulk on many projects is here. He makes you think that he has always been the Hulk with every roar, scream and referring to himself in third person. Justin Gross (Captain America) is Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden series and the Dead or Alive series. Nolan North has made his name known all over the place, notably as Deadpool in “Hulk VS.” The voice acting works great and nothing seems dry or out of place. And if you think you can make a better Thor, you should watch some of the other people try out for those parts and see if you add up to these experienced actors.
The Ultimate Avengers is a great movie for superheroes fans of all ages. There is something for everyone here: There’s a love story, someone trying to find their place in this world, a guy who wants to protect the world from the people in it, and a story of friends from different world. This is what the kids of all ages look for in a superhero story.
HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.
Like the comics?: 8/10
Overall rating: 8.6