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Awesome: 8.7%
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3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Ultimate Avengers 2
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by Mel Valentin

"Straight-to-DVD fodder mostly for comic book fans."
3 stars

First seen six months ago in the direct-to-DVD "Ultimate Avengers" directed by Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon, the "Ultimates" are back in "Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther." The Ultimate Avengers are part of a parallel Marvel universe, Ultimate Marvel. Marvel kick started the Ultimate line with Ultimate Spider-Man six years ago, followed by Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Avengers. Writer Mark Millar ("Civil War," "Superman: Red Son") and artist Bryan Hitch ("The Authority") stepped in to create the Ultimate Avengers. Ultimate Fantastic Four followed soon thereafter (plus assorted mini-series and one-shots tied into the four comic books). Marvel wanted to bring new readers to their superhero comic books, but without the complex, decades-long continuity that made backstories and character relationships difficult to understand.

With superheroes on the big and small screens, live action (e.g., Smallville) and animated (e.g., Justice League of America/Unlimited), it made smart business sense for Marvel to move the Ultimate line into other mediums. The first Ultimate Avengers wasn't half-bad, focusing on Captain America/Steve Rogers (voiced by Justin Gross) and his reawakening into the modern world after sixty years in suspended animation. While Captain America adjusted to a different world, General Nick Fury (Andre Ware), the head of Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate (S.H.I.E.L.D.), recruited Captain America to head up a superhero team, the Avengers, to confront an alien menace, the Chitauri, bent on world domination.

At the behest of General Fury, Iron Man/Tony Stark (Marc Worden), Giant Man/Hank Pym (Nolan North), Wasp/Janet Pym (Grey DeLisle), Black Widow/Natalia Romanoff (Olivia d'Abo), Betty Ross (Nan McNamara), and Thor (David Boat) signed up with the Avengers. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Michael Massee/Fred Tatasciore) was less an Avenger than a double-edged sword, difficult, if not impossible to control, but necessary to the Avenger's world-saving efforts as well. Together, they defeated the Chitauri, but not before the Hulk went on a rampage destroying property and injuring several members of the Avengers. Finally subdued, Banner is taken into custody where doctors keep him constantly sedated.

Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther introduces T'Challa (Jeffrey D. Sams), the heir to the throne of Wakanda, a small, little known African kingdom located on an isolated plateau. The Wakandans favor traditional dress and weaponry, but the elites have access to advanced technology. As the prologue ends, TíChalla has inherited the throne and the role of protector in the guise of the Black Panther. Confronting an anachronistic Nazi who calls himself Herr Kleiser (James K. Ward), TíChalla discovers that Kleiser is a shapeshifting Chitauri (apparently the deadliest, most powerful kind of Chitauri).

Seeking help contrary to the laws and traditions of his isolationist kingdom, TíChalla leaves Wakanda. Having found newsprint detailing a connection between Kleiser and Captain America, TíChalla zeroes in on Captain America. Misunderstanding leads to (what else) a rolling fist fight until TíChalla informs Captain America about the return of the Chitauri and Herr Kleiser. For a still traumatized Captain America, the news isnít good, but heís more than eager to exorcise a demon from his past. General Fury, though, puts the Black Widow in charge of the mission to the wary Wakandans. Before long, the Wakandans and the Avengers are facing a full-scale invasion by the Chitauri.

Not faced with the usual problems of origin stories, Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther has several things going for it, beginning with the deeper-than-usual exploration of Captain Americaís emotional problems, and continuing with the tortured relationship between a guilt-ridden Bruce Banner and Betsy Ross, and on to the difficult relationship between the egocentric Hank Pym and his long suffering wife Janet. Thatís not to suggest that character-centered drama takes precedence over superhero action/adventure. It doesnít, but the screenplay by Greg Johnson at least makes an effort to engage adult viewers along with the presumably younger audience Marvel had in mind when they agreed to put Ultimate Avengers into production.

Animation wise, Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther wonít leave much of an impression with discriminating animation fans. For the most part, the animation is serviceable, better than Saturday morning cartoons and coming close to the quality found on the Cartoon Networkís Justice League of America/Unlimited. Character designs are less detailed than found in the comic books (a function of budget presumably) and fans of the Captain America character will find his costume slightly off (e.g., stars on his shoulders, no wings on his mask). As expected for a direct-to-DVD feature, character movements tend to be jerky (again a function of budget), but generally excusable, especially once the action kicks into high gear.

If "Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther" has any drawbacks (besides the less-than-impressive animation, that is), itís in the decision to feature TíChalla/Black Panther as a central character. TíChalla and the kingdom of Wakanda were, to be kind, created in a simpler, more naÔve time, tapping into long held ideas about a backwards, primitive Africa. More likely than not, the decision to make the Black Panther a central character in the sequel has more to do with the current line of comic books where the Black Panther is a prominent player in the regular Marvel universe (he has his own comic book and is romantically linked to one of the X-Men, Storm). Too bad Marvel didnít find a way of envisioning Wakanda minus the usual stereotypes about Africa or Africans.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14816&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/27/06 20:17:01
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User Comments

8/05/09 Trent G. It hurt to watch! Pointless... 1 stars
9/08/06 michael first one was better but still worth seeing 4 stars
9/02/06 Crash Dummie Awesome! 5 stars
8/14/06 Anastasia Beaverhausen How many films will it take to be as captivating as animated Batman?? 3 stars
8/07/06 Tara H. This movie is awesome. 5 stars
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  N/A (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Aug-2006



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