Review: Next Avengers

September 2nd, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A couple years back, Marvel released an animated straight-to-DVD movie Ultimate Avengers, based somewhat on the popular Ultimates comic. Softening the hard series put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but it did have some stuff going for it. It had that great Avengers vs. Hulk fight at the end and a sweet scene where Captain America realizes just which century he’s woken up in. All in all, it wasn’t so good.

A sequel came out soon after, featuring Black Panther. I remember very little of it due to how boring it was. The highlight of it being a fun segment where Tony Stark takes a walk through his cave of infinite Iron Man armors to settle on the War Machine design.

As much as I didn’t like Ultimate Avengers 2, that doesn’t compare to the outright disgust I had at Invincible Iron Man. Holy shit. That movie is so boring that, no joke, hermanos fell asleep watching it TWICE. It’s made up of endless talking, bad CGI, lots and lots of Iron Man getting his ass handed to him and a laughable climactic battle involving the Mandarin’s ghost floating over a mind-controlled naked woman who’s defeated by Iron Man yelling “REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!” It’s really bad. I feel sorry for anyone who purchased it based on the success of the Robert Downey Jr. movie.

Following that came Doctor Strange. This one had promise. As an origin for Strange, it went really well. The character development was tops. Too bad they decided to bog it down with so many unneeded things. They decided that magic wasn’t interesting enough, so they transferred nearly everything magic-related into kung-fu sword fighting. Then they gave Strange a squad of kung-fu action sorcerers for the sake of a body count. It would have been pretty good, ultimately, until they ruined it with the most laughable deus ex machina in movie history. The way Dr. Strange beats Dormammu is so badly written and lazy, I’m still in awe.

My personal order is Doctor Strange over Ultimate Avengers over Ultimate Avengers 2 over Invincible Iron Man. The new animated movie Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow steps over that list as the best. But does that mean it’s actually good? That’s a good question.

The earlier four movies were pretty bad because they took an established idea and tore it down with mediocrity. They take ______ and make it worse. Even New Frontier was a great animated movie, but people disrespect it because it’s nothing compared to the graphic novel it’s based on. Next Avengers has that advantage. They’re on new ground, building up rather than tearing down. Even though the idea has similarities to the comic Avengers Next and the team that came out of What If the Secret Wars Never Ended?, it’s different enough that it isn’t stepping on anyone’s toes.

The exposition is told to us by an older Tony Stark as a bedtime story. Years ago, the Avengers (616 style, not Ultimates) kicked enough evil ass that they could retire. They paired up and had some kids. Then Ultron showed up and killed the whole lot of them. Surviving the slaughter, Tony Stark took the children and escaped to an isolated paradise. For about 15 years or so, Tony raised the children as his own and trained them in using their abilities.

The leader of the team is James Rogers, son of Captain America and Black Widow. He lacks his father’s unbreakable shield, but does wield the holoshield that Cap had back in the 90’s. Torunn is the daughter of Thor. Instead of Mjolnir, she has a sword that only she may lift. She’s constantly praying to her father in Asgard and spends much of the movie refusing to run from stuff. Azari is the son of Black Panther and, judging from his electric powers, Storm. He’s the most loyal to Tony and appears to be the most level-headed. Finally, there is Pym, obviously the son of Giant Man and Wasp. I don’t think a single person can agree that he is without a doubt the most annoying child in the movie. He reminds me of Beast Boy from Teen Titans, but without any of the charm.

The plot device that pushes the story forward into danger is an odd one. As Tony Stark tends to the returning Vision (bringing the news that Hawkeye had a kid too) in his secret lab, the kids sneak in and come across a series of Iron Avengers. They’re much like the robot duplicates from Earth X, mixing the Avengers’ appearances with that of Iron Man. James accidentally activates them, causing them to fly off to fight Ultron. Just from being turned on, Ultron figures out where everyone’s hiding and easily defeats the robots before reprogramming them to serve him.

So, what? Tony Stark is secretly a moron? Why did he have those things in the first place? It’s pretty obvious that they’d only be a hindrance, so why even keep them around? It’s like having a phone lying around with nothing but Ultron on speed dial.

From there, the story is about the four children and the disembodied head of Vision going around, meeting Hawkeye Jr. and working on a plan to take on Ultron. After the halfway point, the Hulk shows up into the story, which would be a spoiler if it wasn’t for the cover and commercials making this public knowledge. It’s obvious that the movie was written with the summer movies in mind, considering how big a role Iron Man and Hulk have.

Now, the movie isn’t all that fantastic. The animation has taken a step down from the other movies, even though they don’t have the weird shading problems anymore. A lot of movement comes off as choppy. The children can come off as really grating at times, ESPECIALLY Pym. The middle gets very bland, despite a scene reminiscent of the grim “heroes vs. robot results” sequence in the Incredibles.

That said, if anything, watch this movie for the last twenty minutes. The climax is some awesome stuff. It’s the only climax in an animated Marvel movie that fits. Sure, Avengers vs. Hulk was pretty cool, but it was so tacked on. I don’t remember anything about the end of Ultimate Avengers 2 worth mentioning except Giant Man died and Iron Man wielded the Ghostbusters Proton Pack. Invincible Iron Man had a ridiculous final fight scene that Iron Man didn’t even win. The less said about Dr. Strange’s ending the better… unless you’re in the mood for a laugh. This movie hits just the right notes in its final minutes, including an awesome one-on-one battle that really needs to happen again and again in the comics. Hell, I’d read a 6-issue miniseries dedicated to it.

It’s very loyal to the Avengers mythos, except for a major origin change that they make with Ultron. It’s the kind of origin change that I wouldn’t doubt they’d do for the live-action Avengers movie. Other than that, there’s a lot of little pieces of fanservice for the comic-reading crowd. Captain America naming his son James is a nice touch. Thor’s daughter Torunn tells off Ultron in a way that should make the hardcore Avengers fans smile. There’s also a moment with the Hulk that’s an obvious reference to a certain popular comic miniseries that’s yet to be finished off.

If you’re looking for a rental and you need ideas, I’d say give the movie a chance. It has some mediocrity to it, but at least they tried. It’s not on higher ground than DC’s recent animated movies, but it is roughly on the same level as Superman/Doomsday. They’re getting better, which is a good thing. Hopefully their Wolverine vs. Hulk and Thor vs. Hulk movies can push the quality upwards.

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8 comments to “Review: Next Avengers”

  1. I raged just from seeing Kid Cap on the cover.

  2. Now lets be fair. The Ultimates cartoon isn’t bad because its “nicer” than the comic. Its bad because the writing is such total ass. Bad dialog, bad scripting, bad everything. And thats even in comparison to the comic its based on. And I can’t STAND Millar’s writing…

    But this NotYoungAvengers thing sounds worth Netflixing at least…

  3. Bearded Hulk looks completely ridiculous.

    Also, does this movie feature like fifty of Stark’s various lovechildren coming out of the woodwork?

  4. Yeah, I’m gonna skip this one for sure.

  5. Spectacular Spider-Man is soooo awesome, so hopefully that show will be the corner that Marvel’s animated stuff turns towards awesomeness (although yknow, this was probably in development at the same time if not later)

    Next up: Wolverine (featuring the X-Men) and Wolverine VS Hulk….

  6. Is Wolverine/X-men going to be the same “universe” as Spectacular Spider-Man?

  7. I just watched this and enjoyed it. Nothing was spectacular but it was all pretty solid, the dialogue, fights and character designs all had their nice points. I especially took a shine to Torunn and hope she’s used in some capacity in some form of media in the future.

  8. They may not have shading problems , but sometimes (like with Ultron) the coloring was weird. Not very good quality in our opinion. And why the change as you say from Pym’s creation of Ulton? Why make it Stark?

    We like a lot of kids animation because it is filled with good guys and bad guys and you can sit back and enjoy the fun. However we had a hard time doing that in this case.

    We felt as though they crushed on the originals for no other reason than to launch these juvenile wanna-bes.

    Anyway, here is our take on it with lots of pics and a few bits if wit if you are interested: