Sunday, February 19, 2006

Movie Review: "Ultimate Avengers"

Or: "The Ghost of Suckiness Yet To Come"

Okay. I can see the appeal of adapting Millar's "Ultimates" to movie format. It's accessible, it's written with a cinematic flair, and any quasi-mature moments can certainly be retooled without losing too much impact.

What I don't understand, though, is why Marvel and Lion's Gate Entertainment would perform such a hack job on what was ostensibly supposed to kickstart an entire line of animated features. If this is the model subsequent films will follow, it's not very encouraging.

Basically, "Ultimate Avengers" is a compressed version of the entire first volume of "Ultimates" - you've got Captain America, the Chitauri and the Hulk all mixed in there. Unfortunately, the movie is barely longer than an hour, and when weighing the importance of story vs. Big Ship Go Boom... well, have a guess as to what was prioritized.

It's barely coherent: characters jump in and out with zero motivation and even less personality (ie: What's Tony Stark doing in an Iron Man suit? Why does Thor have such a big gay crush on Captain America?). There's almost no exposition: what are the Chitauri doing on Earth? What is SHIELD? When did the whole Hulk situation happen (it takes place before the movie begins). It's basically seventy minutes of explosions, cool animations and largely awful voice acting, occasionally punctuated by displays of superpowers.

Now, I imagine this is less of a problem for readers of Millar's "Ultimates", since most of the blanks can be filled in by referring to the original stories. But taken on its own merits, "Ultimate Avengers" falls very, very short. It's a disappointment, really, because it's probably one of Millar's best works (considering he usually writes with the depth of Malibu Stacy, that's saying a lot), and it's not like there's some quality to it that defies conventional adaptation. Incompetent writers and editors aside, there's really no reason for this project to fail the way it does.

That's two strikes for Lion's Gate, also responsible for the abysmal "Man-Thing" debacle last year. I imagine prospects for upcoming projects don't look very good right now.