Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (2006) Written by Greg Johnson Directed by Will Meugniot and Richard Sebast Runtime 73 min. 4 out of 5
Picking up pretty much right where Ultimate Avengers left off, Ultimate Avengers 2 starts off in Wakanda and the kingdom falls under attack from Herr Kleiser, who kills the king and sends the prince, T’Challa, into action by taking up the mantle of the Black Panther. Black Panther then heads to the city to find Captain America. The Avengers are assembled and head to Wakanda to stop the Chitauri threat, resuming their battle from the first movie.
I liked the first movie a bit better, but probably because it was the birth of the Avengers vs them in full swing but that’s just me: I like origin stuff. Ultimate Avengers 2, however, is still a solid flick and falls right in line with its predecessor. (Always recommend watching these two back-to-back if you have the time, and with a little-over-an-hour runtime each, that’s definitely doable.)
The battles in this flick are awesome and showcase some all-out superhero-vs-alien mayhem. Like the first, each character gets their moment to shine and it’s like being reacquainted with old friends.
I love the depiction of the Avengers in this. Everyone is their stereotypical selves, something that they captured in the live action movie, but, to me, got even more right in this flick. Totally adds to it.
Like the first, the art direction is top notch. Everyone matches the way they looked in the first movie, giving it that sense of continuity. They had the same voice talent as the first for this as well. I love it when animated flicks keep the cast consistent outing-to-outing.
Watching this flick along with the first makes it a good final act to a stellar movie, but can also stand just fine on its own.
Glad I have it as part of my superhero movie collection.
Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (2006) Written by Greg Johnson Directed by Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon Runtime 71 min. 4 out of 5
In World War II, the Nazis tried to launch an intercontinental missile and was thwarted by Captain America, but at great cost: Captain America fell into icy waters and was presumed dead. Some sixty years later, he was found and revived by S.H.I.E.L.D., who ends up convincing him to join their fight against the alien Chitauri. When the Chitauri attack, S.H.I.E.L.D. implements Project Avenger and begins assembling together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to take on the Chitauri and put a stop to them once and for all.
This ensemble flick is one of the greats and is a solid introduction for the uninitiated to the Avengers—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Giant Man, Wasp and Hulk—all led by Nick Fury.
It’s evenly paced, exciting, and gives each member of the team enough screen time to give them a chance to lock in with the viewer and make that viewer-character connection before moving on to the next guy.
Marvel’s direct-to-video efforts have been lacking and haven’t been that great because they’ve been very busy—albeit very successfully—focusing their efforts on bringing their heroes to the big screen. Ultimate Avengers and its sequel are the major exceptions to their animated shortcomings and this movie is every bit as good as their live action counterparts. I also think that’s the secret to making a good animated movie: treat it with the same care and seriousness as a live action film and you’ll hit it out of the ballpark every time. It works in Japanese animation. No reason why it wouldn’t work here in the West.
This movie was good start to finish. Had a story that spanned decades, and made you care about what was going on from first frame to last.
You have multiple plotlines going on, ranging from the Avengers dealing with the Chitauri to Bruce Banner trying to find a cure for the Hulk, to Captain America trying to find his place in the world. The amazing thing is they fit all these plotlines into a very short runtime (just over an hour).
The art direction was superb and I enjoyed how everyone looked in this, especially Hulk. (For me, he’s one of those guys that don’t always come out well.)
While there’s a pretty good dose of violence in this movie, it’s much more kid-friendly than the majority of DC’s animated features and is safe for kids (depending on your household rules for this sort of thing). Personally, I let my kids watch it but don’t let them watch the DC movies.
Whether a Marvel fan, an Avengers fan, or a superhero fan in general, Ultimate Avengers is a fantastic flick worth watching many times over. What’s cool is it’s basically part one of two and goes right into its sequel, Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther, without missing a beat, so if you have both, you’re in for a doubly-good time.
Iron Man 3 (2013) Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black Directed by Shane Black Runtime 130 min. 3.5 out of 5
An evil mastermind terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is wreaking havoc via a rash of bombings, holding the world in his grip. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) gets on the case and discovers the bombings are initiated by people exposed to the Extremis program, something Stark Industries could’ve had ties to a long time ago, but chose not to. Turns out those Tony Stark knew back then are neck-deep involved with what’s going on now, have re-entered his life, and are making things complicated.
While trying to pinpoint the location of the Mandarin, Iron Man aka Tony is also dealing with the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion of New York in The Avengers. Having trouble sleeping, he’s been spending all his time constructing various Iron Man armors to help himself cope. This brings tension to his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who he’s now living with and is dedicated to.
Upon discovering the location of the Mandarin and his true identity, Iron Man and his almost-sidekick the Iron Patriot aka War Machine aka Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) head up against a battalion of Extremis-infected warriors and must pull out all the stops to put an end to their reign of terror. The problem is these Extremis soldiers are so powerful that victory doesn’t seem likely.
Can Iron Man prevail against an army as strong as he is?
I’m not sure what to make of this movie. Sure, it was entertaining and the storyline was fine. I like the idea of making it a direct follow up to The Avengers, and showing how Tony Stark’s world—never mind the rest of the world—had been affected by the Chitauri invasion and the presence of the other Avengers.
This flick was loaded with solid action, tough bad guys, cool tech, guns and everything else that makes an Iron Man movie a lot of fun. I just wasn’t sold on the presentation. This might be harsh, but this flick came off as the Batman Forever of the Iron Man movies. I’m all for humor in even the most serious of movies, but it seemed the jokes were either too forced or too slapstick to make me take this flick seriously. And that’s the secret with superhero movies: they need to take themselves seriously—even if they’re meant to be a comedy—otherwise they’ll never work. There was an awful lot of getting in and out of the Iron Man suits in this film, both by Tony and Rhodey, never mind Pepper getting a shot at wearing it, the President, the Extremis guy—there were so many suit changes that the novelty of watching someone don the Iron Man armor was quickly spent after the first three times.
This film was not directed by Jon Favreau, which might have had something to do with it. Just seems this movie was weighed down with not enough Iron Man and a storyline—which was solid in and of itself—that moved slowly. I realize Tony’s aftermath and post-traumatic stress from The Avengers was the focus, but the same goal could’ve been accomplished had there been more Iron Man. I don’t necessarily mean more action—as action-filled movies that are nothing but explosions start to finish get boring after a while—but perhaps him having a love/hate relationship with the suit because being in it nearly killed him at the end of The Avengers, or maybe take the robo-injections to summon the suit to a new level because he’s trying to make himself super to be on par with guys like Captain America or Thor and have him deal with that?
The extra scene at the end of the credits with Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) picked up on the bromance from The Avengers. A nice touch. Didn’t move the Marvel Cinematic Universe forward in any way, but was nice nevertheless.
If you’re a Marvel movie completist, then by all means, check it out. Likewise, pick up the Blu-ray when it comes out to complete your set. For me, I think I’m going to have watch it again and perhaps I’ll warm up to it a bit more. I felt let down when I watched the first Spider-Man in 2002, but got more into it with subsequent viewings. Iron Man 3 might be one of those movies.
The Avengers (2012) Written by Joss Whedon Directed by Joss Whedon Runtime 143 min. 4 out of 5
When Thor’s mischievous brother, Loki, makes a deal with the alien race the Chitauri to help them secure the Tesseract Cube so they can conquer the galaxy, the Earth suddenly falls into great peril. With even the powerful top secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D. having difficulty containing Loki, there is only one call S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury can make: Avengers Assemble!
The team is gathered—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye—and they set out to do battle with Loki and his alien cohorts. If they don’t overcome their differences and learn to work together as a team, the Earth will fall and Loki will rule the planet.
The Avengers brings together Earth’s mightiest heroes to combat a force of evil so great they either stand together or fall together, with the fate of the planet—even the galaxy—hanging in the balance.
The Avengers is a difficult movie to review, more so, give a proper rating to because this movie is very much black and white between its story and its presentation, so that said, I’m going to quickly go over both and you’ll see where I’m coming from at the end.
The story: This is a single-plot movie, very much an A-to-B narrative and incredibly simple—too simple. Aliens are coming, we need to stop them so we’ll get the Avengers to do it. That’s it. From a storytelling perspective, it’s too simple and too predictable. Big bad guy, big good guy(s), let’s fight, good guys win. The end.
However, if you view The Avengers as an end cap/final act to all the movies leading up to it: Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America—then you have something that definitely serves its purpose and more or less lets each character shine for the same amount of time. In this case, a simple story works despite, um, the many continuity flaws from the previous movies (i.e. Thor is somehow now able to come to Earth, which renders the ending of Thor’s movie moot; Tony Stark called upon to be Iron Man in The Avengers despite being banned from doing so in Iron Man 2; the characters communicating to each other without earpieces or any communication devices. Maybe they’re telepathic?).
The presentation: this movie is a nerd’s dream come true from start to finish. Assemble your favorite superheroes—of which each were spotlighted in their own movies, almost—put them together and have them go toe-to-toe with a larger-than-life threat that will squash the planet if they don’t come through.
From an eye candy perspective, this movie nailed it. Huge battles, lots of explosions, combat action, hammer throwing, Hulk smashing, shield boomeranging, repulsors firing, arrows shooting, girl fists punching—yeah, it has it all.
It’s also very important to point out that the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk was an amazing choice. I honestly wasn’t too thrilled with the news when I first heard it, with Ruffalo being more of a chick-flick romance guy, but he got the role done so well that if there’s a spin-off, I hope he gets the job. He’s definitely earned it.
Chris Evans as Captain America—a Superman performance, which is good and brought a traditional superhero element to the team. As the running joke was throughout the movie, a little “old-fashioned” was what was needed.
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man—do I really need to talk about this? He’s the same Tony Stark from the first two Iron Man movies, the only difference being he’s mellowed out a bit because, despite his arrogance, he understands life isn’t all about him and there are other people out there, too. This bit really comes through in this movie.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor—bold, poetic, commanding, everything his character is supposed to be so kudos to him for carrying on with a great performance from the stand-alone movie.
Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye—I don’t know much about the comic character other than he’s like Green Arrow, but perhaps with a more military-mind-set, so I can’t comment. Renner did sell me on Hawkeye though, but why couldn’t they give him that awesome mask? Maybe in the sequel.
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow—she really comes into her own in this flick because in Iron Man 2, it was more a back-up appearance so we didn’t know much about her. I’m glad she got the screen time she deserved and, come on, her fight scenes were fantastic.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki—he’s the bad guy you love to hate, the one that, even just looking at him, you want to punch in the face. I appreciated how Loki, to a degree, was a villain to sympathize with because of his exile, but you also get mad at him for being such a jerk about it.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury—an excellent portrayal of Samuel L. Jackson being Samuel L. Jackson—but under a fictitious alias. Yeah.
The Avengers is a solid good-times-turn-your-brain-off-action-fest that is great for escape and is recommended for that reason. As a spoiler warning, if you want just the action parts, start the movie around thirty minutes in.
Honest assessment is 3.5 out of 5, but because it’s the first movie of its kind and because of all the building up to it that has been going on since 2008, I’ll give it a 4.