Friday, May 05, 2006

Ultimate Avengers is ultimately...crap

While maybe not as timely as it could have been, due to the release pre-dating the launching of They Came From Earth-K by quite a bit, Tate and I felt compelled nonetheless to voice our opinions on the recent Ultimate Avengers DVD. You know, it's just this sort of post that keeps us from being full-fledged members of the Loyal Order of the Rolling Head of Pantha

Click here for our review.

The Ultimate Avengers movie is just bad. In fact, it’s so bad it’s terrible. I mean, I made it through it, but it’s barely more than an hour, so that's not saying much. It’s like the bastard child of the 616 Avengers and the Ultimates put together by someone who is either autistic or isn't sure what the word pacing means and what it has to do with story telling.

Now, I was a little prejudiced going in, since I'm a fan of the old school, Earth-616, 1970s and 80s Avengers, and have felt that The Ultimates was, on the whole, horribly over-hyped. And as I watched Ultimate Avengers, the word which popped into my head the most was “Why?” Why did they decide to take some things from Earth 616 Avengers, some things from the Ultimates, and then make other things up out of whole cloth? Ultimates + Avengers = neither fish nor fowl.

A caveat from me as well. I've been a fan of the Avengers in the past. The Ultimates are a clever, well executed idea by and large, but I don't feel any prejudice anymore than I do between the Spidey and Ultimate Spidey books. I like Avengers and Ultimates for different reasons.

Being a guy who is only hit or miss with Millar, I can agree with the over-hype. MAYBE if they'd done Ultimates before Authority, it would have been shocking and really ground breaking. Post-Authority, it read like Avengers that really wanted to be the Authority but Corporate wouldn't let them. I think that's why it’s darker than the other Ultimate books but not as dark as other stuff we've seen that's similar.

That being said, with two amazing properties between the Avengers and Ultimates, why they decided to make this bastardized homogenization of the two is beyond me. It ended up not playing to either set of strengths.

I know that adapting anything from one medium to another is a crap-shoot, and there are things that may work well in a serialized, printed format that wouldn't carry over into a film, and I can accept changes made for that reason. But then there are changes that make you go “What the heck were they smoking?” For example, why add the whole “mystery” element to the Iron Man/Stark connection?

The one thing that has been consistent in any and all Iron Man incarnations is that Stark is Iron Man's patron; playing this silly cat and mouse came in the cartoon left me scratching my head

Actually, I'm not sure I'm willing to accept the crapshoot proposition on this property. Ultimates was billed as being huge and cinematic, that was the book's big hook or draw. The thing could have been a storyboard for the movie (ala Sin City) with very little lost or changed. But Marvel got cold feet, the movie had to be rentable by kids and the Ultimates is decidedly not kid friendly.

The Iron Man thing is a good example of that. I think Thor is too. I love the goofy, Kirby Thor and I love Ultimate Thor but for completely different reasons. I want to take a god of nature seriously when he stops whalers or hates a military-industrial complex for polluting the earth, but it simply isn't possible when he says “yeah, verily, I don't want to work for your military-industrial complex. Huzzah.”

While the mix-n-match Thor didn't bug me as much as the Iron Man thing, I agree that bastardized hybrid of the cartoon lost a bit of its impact by putting in a bit too much Asgardian into what, in the comics, felt more like an eco-nut.

To wrap up Thor, not just an eco-nut but a psychotic eco-nut with very destructive powers. A real weirdo wild card that they want to have around and then wonder what to do with him.

What about Black Widow? I was disappointed that her job appeared to be looking hot and going in two-guns-blazin'. What a disservice to the character.

Oh, and the awful accent. I was not the only one thinking she called Nick “Genital Fury.”

Ah, yes, “Genital Fury”: comedic gold, right there. This seems to be a weakness of most cartoon adaptations with Eastern European women: I cite every single cartoon version of The Scarlet Witch as evidence. While watching this, I kept having that line from “My Name is Earl” going through my head: “Say 'Moose and squirrel', say 'Moose and squirrel'!”

Having rewatched it with a group of likeminded wiseasses, you weren't alone. It was the second thing said about Black Widow after the “genital” business.

We haven't even talked about the slip shod production values yet. I think you summed it up best in your first comment to me after watching it: “Was it put together on some sort of bid system where whoever could do it for the least amount of money got the gig? And if so, was it odd to anyone that the whole production was going to be done for a super sized filet o'fish with extra pickles?”

Ah, I do love to be quoted. Yeah, as smart mouthed a comment as that is, I still stand by it. I admit that it’s possible Justice League (and previous WB animations) has spoiled me, but this is Marvel the supposed House of Ideas and alleged media powerhouse. Did they really think it looked good or was it under-funded? If the former, how? If the latter, why? Was Joey Q. going on and on about how cool it was total lip service or did he mean it? I want to be a fly on the wall for these conversations.

Bottom line, it’s shoddy and there's really no excuse for shoddy animation these days. The only explanation, to my mind, is that they just didn't care. But if they didn't care, why bother in the first place? Questions within questions.

For the first 20 minutes or so I was too distracted by the worst mouth synching I've ever seen in a cartoon to pay much attention to what was going on; I don't expect perfection from a direct-to-video production, but I do expect not to be taken out of the action by such blatant problems.

The best part of the DVD was the god-awful open talent search for voices. After I saw that, I couldn't help wondering why they didn't open the animation up to amateurs. I've seen better than that show done on flash for FREE. Probably by 13 year-olds.

Wish I'd known about the comedic potential of that feature before I sent it back through Netflix, although I think the film as is pretty much fulfilled my "unintentional comedy" quotient for the month. The only special feature I watched was the documentary on the history of the Avengers, which was notable for focusing on pretty much every aspect of the team that wasn't featured in the film (i.e. the good stuff), including several scans of scenes straight out of the George Perez penned issues during the Serpent Crown Saga which first got me hooked on Earths Mightiest Heroes. Well, that and pointing out the fact that I've apparently been mispronouncing Kurt Busiek's name for a good 10 years.

I'll tell you, it isn't a surprise to those who know me, but Marvel isn't really setting my world on fire. Still, when I heard about this project, I was excited and I'm probably not the only one. They screwed the pooch on this one, there's no credibility left for the sequel.

I think your comment about the DC cartoons was spot on: after the Batman, Superman, and Justice League (and, to some extent, Teen Titans) cartoons did such a spectacular job of translating their products to animation, I couldn't help but be let down by this train wreck.

My final point, which is a bit of a reiteration, is that we didn't have to be dissapointed and I, for one, wasn't expecting to be. Which made it all the worse when I was. I feel like anything else I say is just kicking puppies.

Final thoughts? I'm not sure we've done the thing justice. I wish I could say something good about it but there wasn't much.

I was just thinking that we should probably come up with *something* positive to say. For example, I actually kind of liked the whole “Avengers vs. Hulk” sequence

Yeah, and I like what they did with Captain America. I felt like the opening sequence was the strongest part of the film. Plus, they actually treated Cap like an early twenty-something guy thrust into weird situation and asked to lead crazy people with super powers. He was a little hesitant, thought he wasn't ready, but brought his A game when it was needed (the Hulk sequence being the best example).

Hey, look at that! We did say something nice!

Will wonders never cease?


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