Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (2006) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence
Running Time: 73 min.
Cast (voices): Justin Gross, Jeffrey D. Sams, Andre Ware, Michael Massee, Marc Worden, Nolan North, Nan McNamara, Grey DeLisle, Olivia d'Abo, David Boat, Jim Ward, Mark Hamill (cameo), Chi McBride (cameo)
Director: Will Meugnot, Richard Sebast
Screenplay: Greg Johnson (based on the comic book, "The Ultimates" by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch)
Review published August 5, 2006
Released just six months after the Ultimate Avengers, this sequel continues the look and style of the first film in terms of the cinematic feel and production design, but it is a slight step down in terms of the tight plotting and level of excitement. However, it is still worthwhile for fans of the Avengers as well as for those that enjoyed the first entry, and while the writing and art work may pale by comparison to that which is in the Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch comic book (this entry mostly ignores the print version altogether), it does stack up well when compared to other animated comic book feature films that have come before.
In this chapter, in the enigmatic, advanced African nation of Wakanda, the king there is killed by WWII Nazi maniac, Herr Kleiser, who is leading the alien Chitauri invasion of the land. This leaves young T'Challa as the next successor to the Wakandan throne, while the Avengers are assembled again in order to infiltrate Wakanda on a fact-finding mission. It turns out the secret to the Chitauri invasion lies in the rich Vibranium resources they possess, which will make the Earth invasion they are planning nearly impervious to modern weaponry. With the help of T'Challa, now going by his monarchal identity of the Black Panther, the Avengers must find a way to stop the Chitauri before the Earth as we all know it is destroyed.
While I am pleased overall with the continued production value of Marvel's first animated adventure series, Ultimate Avengers 2 doesn't quite live up to the potential it could have had now that the series isn't encumbered by the introductions to each member of the team. While there could have been more character development, the only personal story which we are allowed to witness at great length is that of Bruce Banner (the Hulk). There are a few minor developments thrown in, such as Giant Man's problem with growing and shrinking, and some very minor character touches in the epilogue that will probably develop into something more in future entries, This film is even slimmer in terms of getting us to understand the characters than the jam-packed, plot-heavy debut. What attempts are there feel tacked on rather than naturally progressing through narrative momentum.
What this sequel does deliver on is plenty of action, and quite violent action for an animated feature that will primarily appeal to younger audiences. Just a warning to parents that this is not exactly the kind of thing one might find on after-school television, with a few grisly deaths, and the characters can even get killed. Not that I'm complaining, as it is refreshing to find an animated series willing to actually kill off main characters, probably liberated because the "Ultimate" series isn't considered canon to the mainstream Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, with the miniscule character development employed, we never feel the impact of the deaths like we should, which makes this an interesting but emotionally vacant experience on some levels.
The source comic book, "The Ultimates", was created with the supposition, "What if the Avengers were to be made into a $150 million blockbuster", creating a cinematic experience with gargantuan battles and exciting character touches. If the cartoon series could be as bold as its print counterpart, it would have come a long way into becoming a classic among Avengers fans, as well as those unfamiliar. Unfortunately, the risk-taking of the print series is mostly lacking here, favoring more action and explosions than in getting to know these people who team up to become the saviors of the Earth. It remains modestly entertaining, but far from thought provoking, becoming more of what people normally associate as typical comic book fare than an adequate representation of the groundbreaking work that made "The Ultimates" so popular and acclaimed.
-- Followed by the prequel spin-off, The Invincible Iron Man (2007).
©2006 Vince Leo