Property review: Ultimate Avengers (animated)

Photos courtesy of the Marvel Database Wikia

ULTIMATE AVENGERS

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.

Casting: 9/10

Plot: 9/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 8.6

Otaku Corner #08: All-New Tenchi Muyo Vol. 2

Face alien doom with the second volume of Tenchi

Brandon Beatty, contributing editor

Welcome back to another segment of “Otaku Corner” where my job is to review anime and manga for your leisure. In a previous OC review, I covered the first issue of Viz Medias’ adaptation of the “All New Tenchi Muyo!” graphic novel series in which good times of watching Tenchi and Co. on Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” block were revived. “Long live the Absolution Revolution,” I say. Now, with my shoutout to a legendary show complete, let us board Ryo-oh-ki Airlines, Flight 803 to check out the second installment of the “All-New Tenchi Muyo: Doom Time.”

In this second volume, Tenchi and Co. are at it again doing what they do best: Flirting, bickering to no end, and keeping Earth and the rest of the universe safe from the most outlandish and roguish villains ever known though seven chapters. In “Doom Time,” hence the subtitle, Washu invents a very cool device to alter time; trouble is, everyone except Ryo-oh-ki and a cute little visitor named Taro are trapped in time where Team Masaki is literally fighting against the clock to stay alive and keeping young Taro safe. Next, our favorite goofball in uniform, Mihoshi, finds herself in the middle of a bank robbery that quickly goes beyond awry when the proposed robber grabs Mihoshi ‘s gun resulting in teaching would-be criminals why crime does not pay at all.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Poor Sasami has three chapters in which she is the star; only she is helping the others to fight against cute-yet-murderous building restoration robots and to somehow keep her father from annihilating her fellow classmates. Finally, Washu and the gang face off against an old enemy, Dr. Clay, and his newest weapon: an evil clone of Washu. Programmed at first to strike at Washu, it has the entire household facing off against not one but five clones known as “Dark Washu,” setting off a “to be continued” storyline for Vol. 3.

While reading this second installment of “Tenchi Muyo,” I found that everything that pulled me to this series is still here, keeping the sprit of the Tenchi anime and manga series intact and introducing a new generation of anime fans to harem manga that isn’t just girls domain. The action elements are superb in feeding adrenaline junkies their lust for action without overuse of “Gundam” or “Dragon Ball Z” elements. I must inform you that there is fan service abound in this issue. Ryoko’s cover shot, while alluring, passes the standards and practices rules.

Viz Media has earned the respect of Tenchi fans by having the English adaptation team of writer Fred Burke, translator Lillian Olsen and editor Eric Searleman dive into the Tenchi Muyo phenomenon, understanding that Tenchi Muyo is a cornerstone of Japanese animation and not the latest moneymaking franchise. Hitoshi Okuda’s talent in the storyline and art areas will make you feel as if you’re watching your own personal episode of TM without any commercial breaks.

My favorite scenes of the manga were in chapter five when King Jurai tries to teach one of Sasami’s classmates about manners in his own way, and in chapter seven when Washu and Dark Washu engage in intellectual and physical combat. I felt the action and the intense rivalry seeming from the pages. Anyone who is fortunate to pick a copy of a Tenchi Muyo manga will definitely get their money’s worth as great care in the English adaptation and the combination of excellent art and storyline ensures a great time for all without compromise.

As I close out this edition of Otaku Corner, I would like to take this time to say thanks to you, the readers, for reading this column; it was something that Lyndsey, Jamie and myself thought about for a while within GI and finally added to the video game realm in which anime and manga have a strong connection with Japan. Again, I say thank you, and now must fasten my seat belt per stewardesses Mihoshi, Ayaka and Ryoko as Ryo-oh-ki Airways Flight 803 has safely landed and awaits its treat of all things carrots. I wonder where was she when I needed a veggie wingman?

Brandon Beatty is contributing editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #09: Cable

REAL NAME: Nathan Christopher Charles Summers

AFFILIATION: X-Men, New Mutants/X-Force, Six Pack

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Telekinesis and telepathy. Enhanced eyesight through his techno-organic eye and enhanced strength and durability in parts affected by the virus. Cable is also proficient in most weaponry created.

BACKGROUND: Cable is the son of Scott Summers (the X-Men’s Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor, a clone of the X-Men’s Jean Grey. When Cable was born, Pryor tried to sacrifice the child who was already supposed to be a weapon for Mr. Sinister to use against Apocalypse. Sinister had created Pryor to continue his manipulation of the Summers bloodline. Shortly after Pryor committed suicide, Cable was infected with a techno-organic virus by Apocalypse. To save the child, Cyclops sent him to the future with the Clan Askani, headed by a future version of Cable’s sister, Rachel Summers or Mother Askani.

While in the future, Mother Askani did two things: First, she halted the spread of the virus so that it is just on the left side of Cable’s body; and two, she created a clone of the child. This clone, later stolen by Apocalypse, was raised to become Stryfe. Once the child was healed, and had been raised by Scott and Jean in the future, he defeated Apocalypse and Jean and Scott returned to the present time. Cable later was framed for an assassination attempt on Professor Charles Xavier by Stryfe, who lead a rebel group against him. Cable married and had a child, Tyler, but his wife was killed by Stryfe. Cable then traveled to the 20th century when Stryfe fled there. He founded Six Pack and reformed the New Mutants into X-Force. He also destroyed the present-day Apocalypse and rescued and cared for the mutant messiah infant Hope.

RELATIONSHIPS: Madelyne Pryor (Goblin Queen), mother; Scott Summers (Cyclops), father; Jean Grey (Phoenix), mother; Rachel Summers (Phoenix), sister; Alex Summers (Havok), uncle; Christopher Summers (Corsair), grandfather; Katherine Summers, grandmother; Gabriel Summers (Vulcan), uncle; Nate Grey (X-Man), genetically identical alternate reality version; Stryfe, clone; Aliya, wife; Tyler, son; Hope Summers (adult), wife; Hope Summers (infant), adopted daughter

FIRST VERSUS GAME APPEARANCE: Marvel vs. Capcom 2

APPEARANCES IN OTHER MEDIA: X-Men the Animated Series (television), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (Sony PSP), X-Men 2: Game Master’s Legacy (Sega Game Gear), X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse (GameBoy Advance); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (multiplatform)