Ultimate Avengers 2

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 07/31/06 16:08:13

"Still far from 'ultimate.'"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Despite my not caring that much for “Ultimate Avengers,” Marvel Comic’s first attempt at producing direct-to-video animation titles themselves, I still found myself looking forward to “Ultimate Avengers 2,” a sequel which lands on video store shelves just over five months after its predecessor. After all, the first one had potential - potential that was squandered on mediocre storytelling, unimpressive animation, and a disheartening lack of direction, but potential nonetheless. If the first movie couldn’t deliver the superhero thrills it promised, maybe its follow-up could?

Turns out the sequel’s just as bland as the first. The story’s typical, substandard comic book fluff: those Nazi aliens from the first movie (don’t ask) have returned to invade the secluded African nation of Wakanda, where the Black Panther has just taken over as king following his father’s murder by the same shape-shifting immortal Nazi (again, don’t ask) who once fought Captain America back in World War II. It’s up to the Avengers to save the day, but only if they can get their act together and learn to work as a team. (Hey, didn’t they already learn that in the last movie?)

“Ultimate Avengers 2” suffers the same fate as its predecessor - namely, a handful of terrific ideas and a healthy dose of ambitious storytelling get bogged under cheap, half-baked plot points. The weakness of the Saturday-morning-generic laser-shoot-outs-with-aliens bits undermines any maturity the filmmakers might be aiming to achieve. Too often things here are put in the context of a kiddie cartoon (Black Panther can turn into a real panther, for no reason other than little kids will think it’s neat), which contradicts the movie’s goal, which is to provide a more grown-up superhero adventure yarn.

Worse, the script (from Greg Johnson, working from a screen story by Boyd Kirkland and Craig Kyle, all of whom adapt plotlines from Marvel’s “Ultimates” comic line) is far too disjointed, as most evident in its handling of the Hulk subplot. The Hulk, you see, went on a rampage in the last film, and his human alter-ego, Dr. Banner, now remains locked in a cell, analyzed by grumpy scientists. This side story comes and goes in an awkward rhythm; aside from a critical point in the finale, all of this stuff could have been edited out with no effect on the final picture.

The whole thing feels rushed, with ideas never fully formed and characters never reaching their full potential. The filmmakers try to make up for this by offering up some big, important moments (including the killing off of a few key players) that intend to provide a boost of emotional impact. Yet it’s all so slapdash that these moments are never properly earned, and they come off as little more than storytelling cheats.

The “Ultimate Avengers” line is supposed to launch a new video age for Marvel - “Iron Man” and “Dr. Strange” cartoons are due next - yet from this series, things do not look promising for the comics company’s new movie department. “Ultimate Avengers 2” is as cluttered, confused, and uninvolving as the first feature, only this time, everything feels just a bit more assembly-line, thrown together with little verve (and, sadly, little imagination). Comics fans will find themselves yawning instead of cheering. Not quite what Marvel had intended.

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