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Lions Gate presents
Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (2006)

Captain America: What's his story?
Nick Fury: He flies, hurls lightning, makes rain, that sort of thing.
Captain America: People...can do that now?

- Justin Gross, Andre Ware

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: February 21, 2006

Stars: Justin Gross, Olivia d'Abo, Grey DeLisle, Michael Massee, Marc Worden, Nan McNamara, Nolan North, Andre Ware, David Boat
Other Stars: Fred Tatasciore, James K. Ward
Director: Curt Geda, Steven E. Gordon

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence
Run Time: 01h:11m:16s
Release Date: February 21, 2006
UPC: 031398187899
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BA- B

DVD Review

In an attempt to generate new readers and fresh takes on classic heroes, Marvel Comics unveiled their "Ultimate" line in 2000. Basically, the idea was to take classic heroes like Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers, and start them from scratch, without the decades of continuity that could be off-putting to a newcomer. It also allowed the characters to be re-interpreted in terms of today, tweaking things where needed. Marvel's premiere super team, the Avengers, came in for a revamp with The Ultimates, which recast the team in cynical if realistic ways. It is that series that has provided the inspiration for Marvel's first animated feature, Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (the "Ultimate Avengers" moniker makes no sense, as any fan of either book will attest). Unfortunately, the filmmakers only very loosely adapted The Ultimates for this film; the film defangs the source material to produce a limp, by the numbers superhero saga we've all seen before.

Like the original Avengers series, Ultimate Avengers details the gathering of a team of superheroes to battle menaces America's armed forces cannot handle. Captain America, who has been located and revived after falling into suspended animation at the end of World War II, leads a new team of heroes against first an alien menace that has been hiding since the end of the war, and then the more homegrown threat of the Hulk.

What really puzzles is the reasoning behind throwing away an exciting story as told in The Ultimates for something as warmed over as this. At 71 minutes, the story feels unbalanced, with nearly 50 minutes gone before the team has actually done anything. The final chunk of the story has some decent action, particularly in the fight against the Hulk, but even that turns somewhat repetitive. The puzzlement comes from having the source material already there, effectively serving as storyboards for a potential film. The comic version features a story vastly more dynamic and cinematic than what's used here, which is a pretty sad state for the film to be in. My only guess is that the powers that be decided they wanted to play it safe, and avoid the aspects of the comic that actually made it interesting, like the heroes having negative aspects to their characters (Iron Man's overweening egotism, Giant Man's physical abuse of the Wasp, Thor's potential insanity, etc). The worst you can say about the characters as presented is that Giant Man is a bit of jerk, and he's shaped up by the end.

The comic series used realpolitik in the way it handled the construction of the team and its use, which was a refreshing change. And the characters act like real people with real motivations: Thor only agrees to help out if the US government agrees to double international aid (he's basically a super-powered tree hugger); Iron Man owns part of the merchandising rights to the group, and gleefully comments about how they sold 15 million copies of the DVD featuring the Ultimates fighting the Hulk. There's plenty of other examples, but very little of that kind of depth is present in a film that plays like a glorified pilot for a television series. The animation looks little better than most televised shows, and given that the directors' worked on the X-Men: Evolution series, this doesn't come as much of a shock. The content is tame enough for TV, with perhaps a couple minor excisions. I wasn't expecting something radical, but this doesn't even show people getting killed unless they are vaporized (the opening scene's WWII firefight has no one actually getting hit with bullets), presumably a ratings cop-out. A trailer on the disc for the second Ultimate Avengers film, coming this fall, promises to go more in depth, but I have my doubts.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Generally speaking, this looks fine, but on several occasions, the mouths of speaking characters exhibited interlacing effects, and stepping through some scenes frame by frame shows interlacing. The transfer is framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The film has a fairly vigorous Dolby 5.1 mix, given the number of explosions and other action sound effects. A nice job all around. A Spanish Dolby 5.1 mix is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Battle Dice, Elektra
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Trivia track
Extras Review: A mixed bag, but kudos for the effort. The featurette, Avengers Assemble (23m:16s) is clearly geared toward the established fan, discussing as it does the original Avengers series, as well as the recent New Avengers revamp. Oddly, The Ultimates is barely touched upon, despite it being the ostensible source for the film. Instead, we get to hear from artist George Perez and writer Kurt Busiek about their period working on the book, and editor Tom Brevoort and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada about their side of the creative work. Ultimates writer Mark Millar makes a brief appearance towards the end. It's interesting enough, but doesn't seem to have a real focus or idea behind it, and it gets somewhat frustrating in that regard. Still, Avengers fans will enjoy hearing from the creators of the book.

The remainder of the extras are only so-so. Ultimate Voice Talent Search (05m:23s) is a collection of fan auditions to play the roles in the film, and they are pretty much all awful, some purposely so. At least it's short. A trivia track can be switched on to watch during the film, providing information about both the story and the background of the comic book. A good idea, but the comic dialogue bubbles used to present the info are somewhat annoying; a simple subtitle track would have sufficed. The info includes staff credits and some self-congratulatory stuff about the movie during the main titles followed by actual trivia, which is geared more towards the neophyte. I noticed the odd typo here and there.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

If you're already a fan of The Ultimates comic series, you'll probably want to avoid this watered down, compromised adaptation, which changes much more than it actually uses from the comic. The DVD is adequate, though the video has some problems. The extras provide some added interest for the neophyte and comic fan alike.


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