Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Ultimate Avengers: The Movie" (2006)

Starring Justin Gross, Andre Ware, and Michael Massee
Written by Greg Johnson
Directed by Curt Geda, Steven E. Gordon and Bob Richardson
Not Rated - Violence
Running Time: 72 Minutes

In the final days of World War II, supersoldier Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Justin Gross) leads an assault on a Nazi stronghold said to contain some kind of doomsday weapon.  He discovers the Germans are working with alien creatures called the Chitauri, but sacrifices himself to stop their weapon from destroying America.

Decades later, Nick Fury (Andre Ware), leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., searches the ocean floor for the remains of Captain America.  Dr. Bruce Banner (Michael Massee) and Dr. Betty Ross (Nan McNamara) believe the captain's DNA is the secret to restarting the supersoldier program in order to combat the Chitauri, which have remained in hiding on Earth since the end of the war.  They are shocked to discover, however, that Rogers is not dead - merely preserved.  Captain America awakens in the present, a man outside of time, who has lost everything he held dear... except his country.

When the Chitauri attack a S.H.I.E.L.D. satellite and kill three astronauts, Fury is forced to gather superpowered civilians in order to protect the Earth until Banner can create new supersoldiers.  Fury contacts Hank Pym (Nolan North), Janet Pym (Grey DeLisle), Tony Stark (Marc Worden), Black Widow (Olivia d'Abo) and Thor (David Boat) to form the Avengers.  Led by Captain America, this team will serve as the planet's front line of defense against the alien invaders... if they can just learn to work together.

But all the while, Banner holds a deadly secret.  Within him lies a creature more powerful than anything anyone has ever seen.  The Avengers may find that the Chitauri are not the greatest threat to planet Earth.

I first saw "Ultimate Avengers" years ago when it first came out, and I didn't think too much of it.  I still don't.  The animation is mediocre at best, with a script to match.  There's a bunch of subplots here, like Captain America's lost love, Stark's egotism and drinking, Hank Pym's resentment of Banner (and Stark), Banner's attempt to control the Hulk as well as his failed relationship with Betty, Thor's environmental activism, etc.  It's a lot of stuff to cram into a 72-minute action film, which leads to the script being an almost total mess.

The cast isn't all that great.  Justin Gross does alright with Captain America, as best as anyone can with the script material given. Michael Massee is also solid as Banner.  On the opposite end, David Boat is pretty awful as Thor, who thankfully only appears in two scenes.  Ironically, Thor gets some of the best action when he takes on the Hulk at the film's climax.  But his line readings are atrocious.  Anyone who though Chris Hemsworth needed any help should take a look at this version of the character.

The animation is also problematic.  It often attempts to be too detailed, sacrificing fluid motion in the process.  Honestly, I'd rather lose detail in order to get good, fluid motion.  In "Ultimate Avengers" you often see characters moving in strange, awkward poses because there aren't enough frames per second. It's unfortunate, because the action scenes suffer.  The movie really only looks its best at the end when the entire team bands together to defeat the Hulk, and even then, the DC Universe has done better.

It's a shame Marvel can't seem to get its animated act together like DC did.  The "Ultimate Avengers" movie is just mediocre all around.  While the script is based on one of Mark Millar's better efforts, it's a mess.