Ultimate Avengers: The Movie
Studio: Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Marvel Animation
Release Date: February 21st, 2006

Synopsis: In 1945, Humanity was on the brink of annihilation as sinister forces pushed to seize control of the free world, and only one man rose up to stop them. When a nuclear missile was fired at the Capitol, Captain America managed to detonate it in the upper atmosphere, but in the process he sacrificed himself, falling miles into the icy depths of the North Atlantic, where he remained lost for over sixty years. Now, with the world facing the very same evil, Captain America must rise once again as the last hope for survival, and lead a strong-willed team of today’s superheroes:

Iron Man, the billionaire bachelor used to doing things his own way
The Hulk, the destructive force Bruce Banner hopes to turn into a useful team member
Thor, a hero who has responsibilities to both the world of man and the world of gods
Wasp, a petite powerhouse who sees the team as a fresh start for her and her husband
Giant Man, sixty feet tall with an equally large chip on his shoulder
Captain America, a star-spangled idealist resurrected from a 60 year deep-freeze because this team needs a super-soldier to lead them

Individually, they are superheroes. United, they are The Avengers. Ultimate Avengers: The Movie is the extraordinary story of six very independent heroes who must – like it or not – fight as one to save the world. Little did they know that their biggest threat would emerge from within their very own ranks – The Incredible Hulk!

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Ultimate Avengers: The Movie Feature Review
By Jim Harvey

Drawing inspiration from both the classic “The Avengers” mythos and the recent “The Ultimates” series, Marvel Entertainment and Lionsgate Home Entertainment has released the wildly entertaining “The Ultimate Avengers,” their initial effort, on DVD and PSP. With a solid script and some of the best animation to grace these great Marvel characters, the first of two Avengers-themed video features, “The Ultimate Avengers” is a great sign of what’s to come from the House of Ideas.

The storyline is one that comic book fans are already familiar with, but a few liberties are taken to update and style it to this new interpretation. Frozen in ice for 60 years after defeating an international menace, World War II-era superhero Captain America thaws out in a drastically different new world. After learning of an immediate threat, Captain America dons the red, white and blues once again and teams up agents Nick Fury and Black Widow and fellow costumed crusaders Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Giant-Man to fight those same menacing forces from the 1940s. And if that wasn’t enough, Dr. Bruce Banner and his green alter-ego are also here to cause a couple problems.

For anyone who has read “The Ultimates Vol. 1” will find a lot of familiar material here. While based on the first six issues of the first volume, “The Ultimate Avengers” draws inspiration from the entire series. The alien threat that wasn’t revealed until the later half of the initial volume of “The Ultimates” is pushed to the forefront here. Given the direction hinted at in the sneak peek for “The Ultimate Avengers 2,” it’s the logical decision. We’re still going to see plotlines from the second half of “The Ultimates Vol. 1” in the sequel, set for a summer release, but some manage to sneak their way into this movie.

And what are they? The set-up from “The Ultimate” comics is basically duplicated here, with a few changes made. We see Captain America revived, the team come together, and the Hulk go on his rampage. Now, there are changes made by the creative team of this movie, and they work. And, of course, some things had to be toned down. You can’t have The Hulk rampaging through New York in a blind rage to penetrate and kill Freddie Prinze Jr., but a previous rampage by the creature is mentioned many times in the feature, possibly a nod to that infamous rampage from the comics. But there’s much more to The Hulk’s plight in this feature, and his motivation is completely changed. To say anymore would ruin the twist’s genuine surprise.

The voice actors do justice to their respective roles. Despite being criticized as a bad casting choice, Michael Massee brings a very calm, yet creepy quality to Bruce Banner. I’m still partial to “The Incredible Hulk”’s Neal Mc Donough myself, but Massee brings what is needed to the role, and it definitely comes out during some very tense scenes in the movie’s climax. Special props to David Boat for just completely embracing his role as Thor. You can just tell he’s having fun with every bit of dialogue he spews out, no matter how ridiculous it comes across as. Those two mentions aside, the entire cast fills their role appropriately.

The animation is simply excellent. From the opening sequences set during World War II, to Captain America waking up in a new world, and the climactic battle between his dreaded foes, the animation manages to stay on target for almost the entire feature. While the animation is pretty consistent throughout the entire feature, there are a few moments where it’s jumpy. Thankfully they’re brief, but given the high level of animation the feature is able to maintain, they do stick out like sore thumbs. It was a bit jarring, but repeated viewing made them less noticeable. The quality is easily on par with “The Batman Versus Dracula” as one of the best looking DTVs in recent years (“Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” remains the king). The online clips and trailers just don’t do the movie justice at all.

The story is a straight-ahead superhero piece, where one costumed gladiator is the crucial piece for the team to band together and defeat evil. Greg Johnson, along with Craig Kyle and Boyd Kirkland (with additional help from Chris Yost), add some extra flourishes to make the script rise above its own premise and become just engaging. However, a little more development could have been made used on The Wasp and Giant Man. Since they’ll be getting more screen time in the sequel, I’m sure their story will come to light. We get a small hint of some of their marital problems in this movie, and you can tell it’s heading for something big in the next issue (and if you’ve read the book, you might have an idea where this will all lead).

I have to make special note of the opening of the movie. As the company logos for Marvel and Loinsgate roll out, we hear an old-time radio newscast play, leading into this great shot of an airplane over the ocean, the soldiers inside ready for battle. That touch, with the old radio playing, just immediately sold me on the movie, and thankfully I wasn’t let down in the remaining 70 minutes. It’s just a very classy way to open the movie.

The animation is excellent quality, and exactly what I’d expect from a direct-to-video feature. I’ve noticed some people have already started taking baseball bats to this movie based on the online clips and trailers, others who have seen the movie exclaiming some ludicrously out of control expectations, but just ignore it. Expectations are very high for this feature, and I think this movie definitely meets them, possibly exceeding them. I’ll admit I was wary of the feature when first seeing the new trailer and clips, but I was very surprised by the final product. There may be a couple slips, animation-wise, but it’s a first-rate feature. Overall, this is a tremendous way to kick off a reported collection of eight direct to video movies between Marvel and Lionsgate. “The Ultimate Avengers 1” is a great sign of what’s to come.