Ultimate Avengers

Starring (voice): Justin Gross, Grey DeLisle, Michael Massee and Olivia d'Abo
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: PG
Available 02 October 2006

During the war Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, seemingly makes the ultimate sacrifice in a successful attempt to stop a German nuclear weapon based on alien technology. Frozen in ice, for over forty years, he is rescued by S.H.I.E.L.D. Rogers wakes up to a world still at war with his old adversary Kleiser, agent for the alien Chitauri...

The Ultimate Avengers is an animated film based on the successful re-imagining in the Marvel comic universe, which started with The Ultimates written by Mark Millar and drawn by Bryan Hitch, which began its print run in 2001. It was notable for its adult themes and excellent art work. Nearly all of the Avengers characters appeared, but the tone of the story had more in common with the team's previous title The Authority, than any other Avengers title.

A strong theme running through the story was the uses and abuses of power. Many of the characters went through changes: Captain America is a man out of time and has difficulty in coming to terms with the loss of his friends and the state of the world; the Hulk is a psychotic killing machine who is not above a bit of cannibalism, if the situation presents itself; and Thor is an Eco-warrior who claims to be the son of Odin, even though his records show that he is an ex-nurse who suffered a psychotic break.

Marvel and Liongate obviously had to make the decision on how much of the comic could be transferred to the animated film and still stay faithful to the source material. I would presume that Henry Pym's decent into wife beating went straight out the window. So ultimately what we have here is a compromise between the need to appeal to the widest audience and the comic book fan's desire to see a grittier story. Some elements have survived the transition. The Pym's marriage is obviously on the rocks; we are introduced to Thor menacing a boat; and Bruce Banner still hasn't quite got to grips with being the Hulk. And, for those of you that haven't read an Avengers comic in the last ten years, Nick Fury is now an African American.

The story is fairly straight forward, with a renewed attack by the Chitauri. Nick Fury initialises Project Avenger, which brings together a number of super powered beings, under the control of S.H.I.E.L.D. Some come willingly - others have to be coerced.

The animation, whilst good, is still somewhat lagging behind the level that many anime films achieved a decade ago. The show often contains a lack of detail, especially in the backgrounds, though this may have been a deliberate choice to keep the style in line with previous animated shows and to give it, presumably, a more comic book feel. I say presumably, as comics themselves have come a long way in their graphical style.

So is it any good? If you think your going to see The Ultimates on film then your in for a disappointment. However if you're just after an exciting and well constructed animated film then this just might be for you. In the end I have to admit to liking it. There is a follow up film, that came out this year [2006], which wasn't quite so good. Given that one of the best characters was Iron Man it will be interesting to see what happens in his up and coming solo film.

Although the PR blurb assures me that the final package will include a first look at Ultimate Avengers II, a DVD-Rom Game, something called a voice talent search, a featurette and some collector's cards, I was only supplied with the bare bones film. So I cannot comment on their relevance or quality, hence this is reflected in the lower mark that the film was awarded.

The film is presented in a very clean print with 5.1 audio and an aspect ratio of 16:9 and has a running time of sixty-nine minutes.

Charles Packer

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