And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006)
"Alright, I'll give. Just don't review that Albert Pyun film. That's all I ask."

"Alright, I'll give. Just don't review that Albert Pyun film. That's all I ask."

Even the simplest of superhero sequels can be its own kind of hell. Sagas about superhero teams are even easier to screw up. At worst, they end up looking like an amateur plate-spinning performance at some lame high school talent show. Ultimate Avengers 2 isn’t quite that bad…but it’s verging on territory the Fantastic Four films would explore at length to their (and our) eternal detriment. For thirty minutes Ultimate Avengers 2 held me. Then it all fell apart in the act of wrapping itself up. There’s some irony in there somewhere.

Animated direct-to-DVD superhero movies have this bad habit of taking on more water than they can reasonably carry through their truncated running time. It’s an old story but I’ll tell it again: when you have seven characters with seven back stories, seven arcs with seven conclusions, and only a hundred and nine minutes to run them all…you get a disappointing sequel. Continue reading



Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

He's a saa-aad Batman...The day I discovered NOVA’s The Elegant Universe was a grand day at around this old Batcave o’ mine. I rejoiced that physicists had finally figured out what we comic book nerds have known for over fifty years: our world is but one of an infinity of universes, operating on parallel levels of what we so blithely call reality. Bully for you, Science. Welcome to the party.

As with so much else, superheroes had a large part in popularizing what was once the esoteric pipe dream of clever sci-fi authors. The Justice League first met their “evil” dopplegangers, the Crime Syndicate of America, back in 1964. And while those original Silver Age comics have…shall we say…mellowed…in their old age, I still respect the CSA’s original motivation for jumping dimensions: sheer boredom at the ease with which they’d conquered their own world. (with the exception of one Alexander “Lex” Luthor). The Justice League cartoon series updated and expanded up this plot to great effect in its second season two-parter “A Better World.” And while this Justice League cartoon was originally meant to be a transition into the series’ third season, life, and a tight production schedule, intervened. It still works as such, but feels oddly out of place coming so far down stream, after I (for one) thought Warner’s Animation department had run this idea into the ground. {More}



Hulk Vs. (2009)

Lionsgate Entertainment and Marvel Comics have quite the partnership going on. Hoping to tide us over between summer blockbuster seasons, the (I don’t quite feel right about calling them “dynamic”) duo of media conglomerates have put out a steady stream of direct-to-DVD cartoon features starring Marvel’s heaviest-hitting heroes. I’ve already spoken about Ultimate Avengers. The fact that I’ve seen it’s sequel, along with the animated Iron Man, and was not impressed enough to write either of them up, should tell you all you need to know about those two. You can understand why I went into tonight’s subject with a mixture of high hopes and lowered expectations.

My love for the Hulk knows few bounds, and I’ve been disappointed by most of his live-action outings. I’ll defend Ang Lee’s Hulk until the day I’m forced to save humanity from the despotic rule of my power-mad future-self, but last year’s Incredible Hulk left me cold. Desperate, I once again looked to Ultimate Avengers and the 1970s Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno live action show for my genuine Bruce Banner fix.

I still do. {More}



Ultimate Avengers (2006)
Yeah, guy wearing a flag into battle. That's not an easy target.

Yeah, guy wearing a flag into battle. That's not an easy target.

Best to begin this with what Ultimate Avengers is not. It’s not the movie I’d hoped it would be. What is these days, right? It’s not a shot-by-shot recreation of the similarly named, and much more thematically complicated Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch comic book miniseries upon which it is based. It’s not necessarily a major milestone in American animation. (No Fritz the Cat’s here, folks, keep walking.) It is not Marvel’s answer to Paul Dini’s spectacular Justice League series, which did more with more characters, smaller budgets, and the Ever Present Eye of Cartoon Network’s Standards and Practices.

Ultimate Avengers is not a great movie at all…and it shakes and shutters on the cusp of being good. By any objective or technical measure it’s not really that, either. The reasons why become quickly apparent. But first: plot synopsis.

Ultimate Avengers opens (like so much else in the Marvel Universe) during the winningest days of World War II. Hitler is dead, his armies in retreat, Germany safely carpet-bombed back to the Middle Ages. “But what,” asks the radio announcer, “are these rumors of a secret Nazi super weapon aimed at Washington? Categorically false, says the War [nee, Defense] Department. And we believe them!” {More}