Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Adam thinks Ultimate Avengers is anything but ultimate!

Marvel Comics took a big risk a couple years back and put some of their best creators on a set of books that rebooted their famous characters. The Ultimate line started off with versions of their most famous characters, Spider-Man and the X-Men. But, sooner or later, they had to bring the Avengers into the fray.
Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch made The Ultimates one of the most distinctive and memorable of the Ultimate line. Millar's incisive, hard-nosed writing defined Earth's Mightiest Heroes for a new generation. And Hitch's artwork... Well, to say it was beautiful beyond words was an understatement. His redesigns of the characters made the book more than just a mean-spirited reimagining. He made The Ultimates cinematic and truly epic in its scope.
So, Marvel decided that their first direct-to-video movie in collaboration with Lion's Gate was going to be an adaptation of this revolutionary book. The posters, aping Hitch's designs, weren't bad at all.
The final result, however, is just a giant leap backwards. If the last 20 years had never happened...if The Ultimates had never been published...if we weren't introduced to other styles of animation other than the shoddy, cheap Saturday morning cartoon...Ultimate Avengers: The Movie MIGHT have been passable. Maybe.
The movie is allegedly based on Millar's work. Aside from the character names and the Triskellion, nothing at all came from the pages of The Ultimates. Nothing.
The laziness of Ultimate Avengers is almost immediately apparent, since it starts off sort of like the comic, with a battle in the North Atlantic between a group of American commandos and a battalion of Nazis with a super weapon. The problem: you never feel any of the adrenalin rush of reading the comic. You don't feel ANY of the soldiers, let alone Cap, is ever in danger from the Nazis or their alien compatriots, and you're bored to tears with the execution.
From there, the movie veers wildly from the original storyline, from little details like Cap riding the transport plane into the fortress (he ditches early and just sort of floats to the ground) to Thor no longer having a hippie beard (though they try to back up his claims of being an environmentalist by having him attack a whaling ship). None of the changes work.
The whole thing is a mess. The animation isn't up to the par of a good TV program. Instead, it feels like a pilot for a quickie Saturday morning cartoon -- and it's not even as well-animated as some of Marvel's previous efforts (the original pilot for an X-Men cartoon series, Pryde of the X-Men, kicks the ever-loving shit out of Ultimate Avengers). Hell, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends was better -- and more accurate to the source material.
If this is any indication at how Marvel's self-produced efforts are going to turn out, let me be the first to say that I look forward to seeing how DC comics fares with the Marvel characters in their stable. Ultimate Avengers is a failure from the get-go and only gets worse. If this is Marvel's future, then they might not have any future at all.

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