Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther
Studio: Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Marvel Animation
Release Date: August 8th, 2006

Synopsis: Earth's mightiest heroes reunite to save humanity once again. Mysterious Wakanda. It lies in the darkest heart of Africa, isolated and unknown to most of the world. Brutal alien invaders are coming, soon to fill every sky and control every land, seeking what is buried beneath its lands. That leaves Wakanda's young king Black Panther with a single option: The Avengers.

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Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther 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 have reteamed on "Ultimate Avengers 2," the continuation of the first movie: "Ultimate Avengers: The Movie." With an enjoyable script and some great animation, the movie manages to be an enjoyable affair, though not as fun as the original.

As the synopsis goes: Mysterious Wakanda, an unknown land hidden behind closed borders, lies in the darkest heart of Africa and is fiercely protected by its young king, The Black Panther. But when alien invaders attack, the Black Panther must go against the sacred decrees of his people and seek help from outsiders. And so he turns to...The Avengers - Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, Wasp, Black Widow and the Incredible Hulk. These mightiest of heroes have battled the aliens before and barely survived. They thought it was over. They were wrong.

While the synopsis may sound lame (especially that clichéd "they were wrong" quip), we can be thankful it does not make for an equally lame movie. Is it a good movie? Yes. And it also acts as a fine continuation of the first feature, though as it's own movie? Sadly no. The addition of the Black Panther and a few new elements do add a bit of flair to the story.

The movie does briefly recap the events of the first movie, but the movie essentially picks up where the last one concluded. After a quick trip to Wakanda for a brutal pre-credit teaser, we're thrown back to The Avengers, and Black Panther's attempt to get their aid despite initial reluctance from both the team and from the Panther's own advisors. As with most stories, the heroes collide before they decide to team-up to defeat a shared threat. Some character development, and a neat twist or two, help keep this story from going stale.

The movie is also able to expand a bit on the characters who may have been pushed aside in the first movie. Simply a "deus ex machina" in the first movie, Thor's background is given more time here, as is the relationship between Giant Man and the Wasp. We also get a great look at Tony Stark's vast collection of Iron Man armor as well as his faulty heart. The movie may focus a bit more on Black Panther, but Captain America's struggles in adapting to this new world heavily reflect in the theme of the movie. We see more flashbacks to his World War II adventures, including another tussle with Herr Kleiser. Despite not really being the main character of the movie, it still feels like it, to be honest. His character remains just as engaging as it was in the first "Avengers" feature.

More importantly, this movie really pushes away from "The Ultimates" comic book, creating their own unique universe. The movie does pay tribute to the series, such as Giant Mans inability to grow more than 60 feet and mentioning the charges brought up against Bruce Banner (as a result of the first movie) for example, but a new universe is firmly established with this feature. I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually see an "Ultimate Avengers 3" given the rather open-ended conclusion of the movie.

Much like the first movie, the voice actors do justice to their respective roles, although Justin Gross, who plays Captain America, really excels in the second feature. He really plays up the heavy nature of Captain's character, adding more depth to the famed World War II hero. And of course, special props once again to David Boat for just absorbing the role of Thor. With the expanded look into Thor's background, he's able to play up the character's mythology more, and just has a blast with that sometimes clunky dialogue. It's an easy role to mess up, but Boat just sails with it (horrible pun intended).

The story, while good, is a solid continuation of the first movie. As a stand alone movie I don't think it would be as strong, but since this feature continues the story from "Ultimate Avengers: The Movie," the story seems like a natural progression. Even including The Black Panther and Wakanda, which does feel forced at times, the movie does provide a definite conclusion to the story, though leaving it open for further exploitation of the characters.

The animation is on par with the first movie, though sometimes not as strong. The very fluid action scenes with Captain America features in the first movie are lacking here. The quiet scenes, however, seem to be handled much better this time around The action scenes, for the first part, are also well done. Scenes involving alien ships seem to suffer once again. The animators, for one reason or another, are unable to really animate those ships well, making for some awkward action scenes, especially in the conclusion. More intimate battles are handled better, and even provide a little humor. There are a few moments where run cycles and walk cycles look incomplete or jumpy, and a few of the action sequences seem to be missing the odd frame or two, but overall the animation remains the good quality first seen in the original feature.

Overall, the movie is a fine follow-up to "Ultimate Avengers: The Movie," allowing us to see a little more of the characters. Some characters have added personality which works for some (Tony Stark and Thor) but falls flat for some of the others (like Giant Man and The Wasp). Even though The Black Panther is front and center, this still feels like Captain America's story, which makes the gives the movie a natural flow from the original. If you enjoyed the first feature, you'll enjoy this one. If you didn't like the first one? Well, unless the addition of Black Panther, I'm unsure if this would change any minds. For Marvel fans, this movie comes recommended. For others? Much like the first movie, it's well worth a shot.