ULTIMATE AVENGERS 2:
Rise of the Panther
While the Ultimate Avengers DVD was an adaptation of Marvel Comics’ The Ultimates, this sequel is an original story. The tiny, secluded nation of Wakanda comes under attack from Herr Kleiser and the Chutri, shape-shifting aliens who bring to mind the Skrulls. After the Wakandan king is killed fighting Kleiser, T’Challa, his son, assumes the throne and is given the mantle of the Black Panther. Realizing his people are doomed to defeat, he breaks with tradition and seeks help from the outside world, namely The Avengers. Award yourself a No-Prize if you can guess who prevails.
The group works through S.H.I.E.L.D. under the guidance of Nick Fury. The team is comprised of Captain America, who acts as their leader, Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, Wasp, and Black Widow. Dr. Bruce Banner also appears in the movie, but he is kept in a controlled environment, so the Hulk is not unleashed.
While growing up as a Marvel Comics collector in the late 70’s/early ‘80s, I was very familiar with the characters, but this was my first encounter with the Ultimate Avengers. They are completely recognizable, yet slightly different, due in large part to a marketing decision to introduce characters whose histories are over 40 years old to a new, young audience. There are small changes like Betty Ross being a scientist, Jarvis the butler wearing an earring, and The Wasp appearing, though it is not dealt with, to be of Asian ancestry, but the most obvious example of a difference in this universe is Nick Fury, an African-American with a strong resemblance to Samuel L. Jackson.
In the featurette about The Ultimates, the comic creators, writer Mark Millar and artist Brian Hitch, act like this is an impressive achievement, but it is no different than every other cop show that has black lieutenant. What would have been more interesting is an African-American in a non-traditional role, such as scientist Giant Man, or as millionaire inventor Iron Man. And if they had really given it some thought, they could have opened up a number of dramatic possibilities and really challenged the way people think by changing the race of Captain America.
While the movie does make some bad creative decisions like Black Widow’s accent, the aliens walking around in machines from War of the World (2005), and the clichéd scene of the Wakandan tribe nearly defeating the Avengers, making you wonder if they could have beaten the aliens on their own, the worst is the way the women are drawn. They all have unnaturally large breasts as if they had augmentation work done. I am aware this has long been a standard in the industry, and but it always comes off as cheap and a pathetic way to garner attention. The comic creators talk about redesigning the costumes with practicality in mind, yet don’t explain the practically of the cleavage revealed. I am not prude and in fact have been a fan of breasts for a long time, but if more individuals in the comic book industry got to have sex with women rather than whiling away the hours masturbating to Heavy Metal magazine, we wouldn’t have to constantly be subjected to their juvenile and insulting views of women.
The Ultimate Avengers featurette contains interviews with the movie’s creative team, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, and the comic creative team of Millar and Hitch, who come off as slightly full of themselves. Hitch talks about the characters being “bogged down by continuity”. I’ll skip over the bizarre notion that history is a bad thing to learn about, but I would think from a marketing standpoint you would want consumers to go back and seek out the old books. While it may open up new possibilities, it sounds like a cop-out that they couldn’t handle coloring inside the lines.
The Special Features also include previews of upcoming DVDs Iron Man and Dr. Strange, a fake gag reel that is not unfunny, and a DVD-Rom game that lets you discover what Avenger you most resemble. I’m Hercules.
Ultimate Avengers 2 is certainly better than the Anime Avengers that was on Fox Saturday mornings in the late ‘90s, but I would have preferred a smarter story. There is good action, and it was refreshing to see sacrifice from the group, yet I had a mixed reaction. For every smart, interesting choice made there is one equally groan-inducing and foolish. I didn’t hate it while watching, but I wouldn’t watch it again, so my neutral reaction makes me unable to recommend it, although I won’t dissuade if you want to see it.