ULTIMATE AVENGERS: You Were Supposed to Understand

Ultimate Avengers (2006) – A Marvel Animated Feature – Directed by Curt Geda, Steven E. Gordon, and Bob Richardson.

I don’t know what to do with ULTIMATE AVENGERS.

It’s certainly not a bad animated film, but it’s not a very pleasant one to watch, either. In my review of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man the other day, I made the point that the movie had done its job in the moment it was released but we’ve now moved past it. I feel the same way about ULTIMATE AVENGERS, a dark, depressing action movie that adapts Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Ultimates comic into a story full of unlikable characters and a violence-driven plot.

When ULTIMATE was initially released, I liked it enough that I bought it and watched it a handful of times. It was nice to see an animated movie that was decidedly made for mature audiences, and as it was the first release in the Marvel Animated Features line, it was a powerfully symbolic film that seemed to signal that Marvel’s animated division was ready to step up and compete with DC’s animated features.

The downside of ULTIMATE, however, is that Marvel has gone on to make better animated films and a better AVENGERS film, and so if given a choice, why would you watch ULTIMATE AVENGERS?

Like AVENGERS, ULTIMATE is a team-origin tale. The central character here is Captain America, and the film opens with seeing him get frozen back at the end of World War II, then recovered, then awoken, and then put in charge of the team. There’s some nice character bits with a de-frozen Steve Rogers and the elderly Bucky Barnes and Cap’s old love who’s become Bucky’s wife, but the development of Steve isn’t enough to offset the fact that almost everyone else is a jerk.

In the comics, it worked that Pym was such a complete dick and that Banner was such a complete train wreck, but here it just makes them unpleasant to be around. Stark is a jerk, too, and Fury’s a jerk, so we’re left with a film in which Captain America, Black Widow, the Wasp, and Betty Ross are the only characters I can get behind. Thor’s an interesting character but he’s the most insignificant member of the team.

The Chitauri are back as the bad guys but they’re not developed. They’re just a threat to be punched. After the Chitauri are defeated, the team has to battle the Hulk, and this fight scene is pretty good, but the appeal of the fight is the level of violence, not the actual fight or the teamwork or the outcome. The selling point is the brutality, and yeah, at the time it was something new, but now, it just feels tired and unpleasant.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch, but it will be a long time before I watch this movie again. Between Whedon’s AVENGERS and all the solo movies, and between AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES and SUPERHERO SQUAD, there’s just too darn much good AVENGERS-related shows to watch now for me to eagerly look forward to watching ULTIMATE AVENGERS again.

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5 thoughts on “ULTIMATE AVENGERS: You Were Supposed to Understand

  1. I recently rewatched both Ultimate Avengers films on Netflix. I enjoyed the first one for the most part but the second didn’t do much for me. But I couldn’t agree with you more — after so many other better adaptations of Avengers (when this came out, all Avengers had was the absolutely horrid Fox show from the 90s), these just don’t hold up. It owes a lot of that to the source material — The Ultimates was cool when I was a college student, but now it just feels heartless.

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  2. Excellent review and you whacked that mole right on the head: when you have a movie as spectacularly heroic as “The Avengers” why watch the dark and depressing ULTIMATE AVENGERS?

    Like

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