Ultimate Avengers Collection [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (12th October 2007).
The Film

Lionsgate has been producing a series of animated Marvel films for the last two years, they've included "Doctor Strange" (2007) and "The Invincible Iron Man" (2007) but it started with "Ultimate Avengers" (2006) and its sequel "Ultimate Avengers II" (2006). These animated films are direct-to-DVD productions based on the Marvel comic book "The Ultimates". The appeal is that they are relatively easy to produce, low in budget and appeal to comic book fans and since there's no chance of an "Avengers" live action movie in the near future these films can happily fill the void for the time being.
The first film in the series gathers it plot from the first two story arcs of the comic book with some alternations made and cinematic license applied.
Serving in WWII Steve Rogers, dons the mantle of Captain America (Justin Gross) a super solider developed by the United States. Captain America puts his life on the line saving countless people by stopping a nuclear weapon however as a result he is feared dead when in fact his body plummets into the sea and is frozen in ice. 60-years later his body is discovered and revived only to awaken to changed world. Adjusting to modern times Captain America possess a vital element within his blood stream, the super solider serum which Doctor Bruce Banner (Michael Massee) has been after for his research and plans to recreate it. But his plans are halted when he stops taking his medication and uses the super solider serum to devastating effect; turning into the Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) once again he goes on a rampage. Meanwhile Nick Fury (Nick Fury) attempts to team up Iron Man (Marc Worden), Thor (David Boat), Giant Man (Nolan North), Wasp (Grey DeLisle), Black Widow (Olivia d'Abo) and Captain America into a super team to stop the Chitauri aliens from taking over Earth.
In the second film "Ultimate Avengers II" the Black Panther (Jeffery D. Sams) is introduced and carries on the Chitauri storyline from the first film, this time the aliens have gathered around the African nation of Wakanda. This country is an isolated land that holds its culture and society in high regard and is protected against all outsiders. But the Black Panther must act against the decree of his people and get help from the Avengers who have previously battled the aliens. But this time the battle takes its toll on the team.
Although some changes have been made most fans will recognize the formula and the themes are similar (although the film takes a more light approach for the kids). The characters are all well represented, the filmmakers are clearly fans of the comic and the characters are sincere interpretations, which is also evidenced in the solid voice acting.
The animation isn't that great, the 2-D style varies in quality with a few shots that stand out in terms of detail and action but a vast majority seem quickly done without much detail added. The further inclusion of CG mixed with the 2-D seems a little out of place, the animators didn't really take the time to blend the techniques instead they look like two styles of animation in the frame.
Each film is short running around 74 minutes, this doesn't allow enough time to develop the character fully but rather the time is focused on the action elements of the plot. This leads me to believe that these films were made for a built in audience that already has an understanding of Avenger's history (at least very brief understanding anyway), which makes sense since I don't really see these films appealing to anyone that isn't either a kid or a fan of the comics.

Video

Both films are presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this high-definition transfer is presented in full 1080p at 24/fps and has been encoded using MPEG-2 compression. The result is a little mixed, while the colors are vibrant, blacks are bold and deep and the image displaying some nice detail I spotted some banding, I also spotted some blurriness in a few shots and pixilation against some of the animated lines. These problems are unfortunately quite noticeable and do interrupt the viewing experience, often resulting in an unpleasant groan from this reviewer. It wasn't quite what I was expecting from Lionsgate.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included for these films, they are in English uncompressed PCM 7.1 as well as English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, for the purposes of this review I chose to view these films with the PCM 7.1 track. Unlike the image the audio quality is a solid effort, with deep range and depth capable of immersing the viewer into the action. The dialogue is clean and distortion free but it's the action sequences that get the most attention making effective use of the sound space, while ambient sound fills in the gaps to provide a robust sound mix. Finally the music adds yet another layer to this active, overwhelming and impressive sound track.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

Lionsgate has included a three featurettes, a gag reel, a first look clip, a trivia track and a bonus trailer as extras on this release. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

On the second film only is an advanced trivia track, this track features pop-up information regarding the settings of the film, characters, story elements and backgrounds from the Marvel universe among other things. It's interesting for newcomers to the series but there's nothing surprising or new for established fans to learn from this track.

The first featurette is entitled "The Ultimates" which runs for 23 minutes 46 seconds and takes a closer look at the comic in which these films are based on as the creative team take through the work they've created and the challenges in re-launching these characters and the freedom of not having been held down by past continuity established over the many years in which stories have been written about these characters. The aim was to target a younger audience with the books and provide a fresh look at the characters. The second half of the clip is devoted to the process of taking the stories and creating an animated film.

Next up is "Avengers Assemble" a featurette which runs for 23 minutes 16 seconds, this takes a look at the various Avengers books over the years but primarily focuses on the collaboration between writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez and how he was involved with the Avengers in the 70's and using that book to showcase his art as an emerging talent and also the work leading up to his most recent run on the series. Finally the clip also takes a look at the launching of "The New Avangers" and where the creators are taking the super group and the stories developed for that book.

Also included is "The Ultimate Voice Talent Search" featurette which runs for 5 minutes 22 seconds, in 2004 Marvel, Lionsgate and MLG Production put out an online search for voice actors to take part in these films. Hopefuls where encouraged to download a portions of the script and submit an audition video. The Following are some of the videos submitted and while the other featurettes are very informative, this clip is by far the most entertaining to watch. Included are some hilarious performances, and by that I mean unintentionally so, it feels like watching the sacred home videos of passionate comic book geeks.

The ultimate gag reel follows and runs for 3 minutes 45 seconds, and this is another clip that put a smile on my face. These are animated outtakes; much like how Pixar have done in the closing credits of their films here are some funny sequences that include a running joke about getting some ribs to eat among others.

Featured on the disc is "The First Look at Dr. Strange (extended)" video clip which runs for 7 minutes 2 seconds, the filmmakers briefly talk about the appeal of the character and then viewers are treated to the opening scene from the film.

Rounding out the extras is a start-up bonus trailer for "The Invincible Iron Man" which runs for 1 minute 23 seconds.

Overall

Ultimate Avengers : B-
Ultimate Avengers II : B-

View the comparison for these films here:
Ultimate Avengers.
Ultimate Avengers II.

The Film: Video: C- Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: B-

 


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