If you read Ultimate Avengers by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, you probably felt like I did when you heard this animated movie was being released. Even the cover, reminiscent of Bryan Hitch's work, promised something special. I should have set my bar lower. Actually, I should have sent my bar back to the 70's.
Any single Justice League animated episode makes this film look like the Superfriends from the 1970's, and there simply is no excuse. Animation studios with amazing talent are everywhere, and Marvel certainly has enough cash after successes like the Spiderman and X-Men films. Though they tried to put in elements from the brilliantly developed characters in the Ultimates comic series, each scene was rushed, giving no time for emotional involvement. That, combined with chunky animation, leaves you with little ability to suspend your disbelief and really feel for these characters.
The animation of Giant Man's growth was unimpressive, when it should have been awe inspiring. Wasp's growth, having her wings disappear into nothing only after she's fully grown shows a ridiculously poor understanding by the animators and directors of how her power is supposed to work.
Outside of the animation issues are the pacing, directing and editing of this film. Each segue was hard and roughly paced. Camera angles were sharp and characters badly proportioned--possibly in an attempt to be stylized. Scenes were poorly framed. Character dialogue was unrealistically fast and either emotionally shallow or over the top. The best voice actor in the film was Andre Ware as Nick Fury, but he's had a lot of experience in the DC animated universe, and it's apparent that experience helped him here.
Marvel studios haven't shown an increase in technical or storytelling skill from the Spider Friends, Spiderwoman or original X-Men animated series in any way and it's unfortunate, because with Mark Millar's incredible storytelling and Bryan Hitch's innovative character design, this could have launched a whole new era for Marvel animation.
I even tried to give this a 2 star rating, just for seeing these characters on the screen, but I can't bring myself to do it. JLU and the DC animated universe have raised the bar on both storytelling and animation quality.
Step up to the plate, Marvel. Play time's over.
Originally posted on Amazon.com in February, 2006
Addendum: Since this review was published, Marvel Studios has stepped up to the plate. "Wolverine and the X-Men" is an original and engaging interpretation of the X-Men myth, with modern animation techniques and excellent voice acting. A separate review will be posted, but I can't point out the flaws in Ultimate Avengers without giving credit where credit's due.
The more recent Marvel productions "Black Panther: The Animated Series", "Iron Man: Extremis", "Doctor Strange" and "Planet Hulk" are also strong offerings to the animated market. Here's hoping they keep it up.