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 screw on head

Be warned that the bulk of this review deals with spoilers, so if you haven't seen the film and don't want to be spoiled then the end of this sentence is about as far as you should read.

Ultimate Avengers 2 is just about as strong as the first film was, but overall this sequel just doesn't surprass the original. Having said that, this second installment is a very fun ride that is well worth the purchase price.

So how is the story? On the whole I enjoyed it a lot, both as its own animal and as a continuation of the first film. I think I would've liked this more if I hadn't seen the first film. Having seen the original as I came into this one, I was very much looking forward to seeing how the Captain America and Kleiser batlle would come to a resolution. In other words, I wanted to see the two fight one on one to the death at the end of the film, but that isn't what I got. In this film Captain America isn't the only one with a grudge against Kleiser. This sequel introduces Black Panther, whose father, the King of Wakanda, was killed at the hands of Kleiser. Naturally, Captain America and Black Panther face off against him by the end of the film. Given that Cap has a whole other lifetime's worth of history with Kleiser I was a bit disappointed that he had to share the victory with Black Panther. Ideally, I would've liked Panther to be knocked out and that it was all left up to Cap to finish their tag team fight with Kleiser. Having said that I'm still happy with the way both heroes' grudges were put to rest, and I very much enjoyed Black Panther's role in the film.

The rest of the cast gets some cool character struggles, such as Thor's disagreement with the gods, but the most notable of the bunch is Hank Pym/Giant Man for my money. To cut to the chase, his death was the most satisfying end to any of the character arcs that were continued or started upon in this film. Hank's selfless sacrifice redeemed his character to me. In the first film Hank was a cliche wise-ass with issues about his mental stature, and in this film, while still a wise-ass, you could see that he was heading toward a point where he had to change his ways with Jan rather than continue on as before. Having him go out as a hero was a strong resolution to his rocky relationship with her.

Alongside Hank Pym's struggle is Bruce Banner's, which didn't work for me. Quite honestly I thought his screentime was stretched out way too long, and I didn't care for Banner's anticlimactic death, as we've all seen Hulk in the previews and on the back of the DVD case, so we know he has to survive so Hulk can arrive. Hulk's screentime in this film is so miniscule that it almost feels unfair for him to be advertised in previews, as all he really does is have a blink-and-you'll-miss-it fight with the aliens and has a passing glance at Betty before hopping away at the end. What scenes we have with Banner aren't horrible, but I do wish his plight was sped up so it wasn't quite so drawn out through the movie.

The animation in this film is pretty slick overall, though it does seem to lack any outstandingly impressive shots like the ones in the first film. Are there any fights in this film that hold up to the Hulk fight from the first? I can't really say there are, as there isn't any one set piece that jumps out at me. Don't get me wrong, the action in this film isn't bad at all on the whole, but there just isn't anything that stood out to me, aside from Captain America's well animated bout with Hydra agents toward the beginning. Perhaps the large scale action just didn't do it for me, or maybe the change of directors from the first film's team just doesn't hold up quite as well.

The score to the film is just as cool as the first film's was. As with the animation there aren't any musical sections that spring to mind for me as notably powerful. With the first film I can picture Captain America lunging at Hulk with his shield and hear the soaring musical cue that accompanied it, but with no notable visuals for me in this film I have a hard time bringing any of the score to mind.

On the whole I enjoyed this film enough that I know I'll watch it for repeated viewings. There are fun little story and character bits that are worth watching again, such as the revelation that when Captain America brings the Black Panther and a Chitari soldier onto Avengers' ship, he's actually welcoming aboard trouble in Kleiser and a Chitari soldier. That bit fooled me the first time and I still appreciate how well planted that twist was. Mostly all of Iron Man's screen time is enjoyable and is many times worth a chuckle. On the whole the character design, art direction, and background design are lush and very pleasing to the eye. While it has its flaws, Ultimate Avengers 2 is a welcome continuation to the first film, and I know I'm not the only fan that would welcome another go 'round with "Earth's Mightiest Heroes!"