Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3 stars
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$9.99
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Ultimate Avengers Movie Collection (3-Movie Set)

Street Date:
April 24th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
April 17th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
2006
Studio:
Lionsgate
Length:
0 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Oh how I miss the days of comic book heroes ruling Saturday morning cartoon time. I fear that when my son eventually grows up there won't even be such things as Saturday morning cartoons, at least not how we knew them in the late 80s and early 90s. Yes, I know that these 'Ultimate Avengers' movies were made on the early 2000s, but they sure do bring back those wonderful memories of waking up bright and early on a Saturday morning and plopping down in front of the TV with a fresh bowl of Lucky Charms with nothing but four hours of great cartoons on the horizon.

I wasn't sure what to expect from these 'Avengers' cartoons (which are obviously being released on Blu-ray just in time to catch the wave of 'Avenger' fever that is going to pique when the theatrical live-action movie is released in a couple weeks). I was surprised that I liked them as much as I did. I was even more surprised when my wife exclaimed, "I actually really liked those 'Avengers' movies you were watching. I was really getting into it." Lastly, I thought the PG-13 violence and action gave the movies a much appreciated adult feel to them.

Lionsgate released 'Ultimate Avengers' and 'Ultimate Avengers 2' on Blu-ray in 2007. This set is being marketed as a 3-Movie Set, because it contains a movie called 'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow' which is loosely based on the first two movies, but it has been sanitized for a more kid-friendly viewing mostly because the main characters are the children of the Avengers themselves. Can't have little kids stabbing people and real blood being shown. This isn't 'The Hunger Games.'

'Ultimate Avengers'

A bit of backstory is provided in the first of the three films, which focuses on Captain America's past and how he came to be found in the future by General Fury and his secret government S.H.I.E.L.D. crew. Fury is putting together the team as the movie continues, trying to recruit the likes of Iron Man and Thor. Along the way he picks up some unwanted guests, like Hank Pym an annoying scientist known as Giant Man and his wife Janet who sports insect wings and is known as The Wasp. Black Widow and Bruce Banner round out the cast of oddball characters as they are quickly thrust into the show's main bit of action.

Clocking in at 71 minutes there isn't a lot of time to dillydally. The stage is set. Earth is facing impending crisis. A race of aliens is hell-bent on taking over the planet and only this team of superheroes can stop them.

Like I said before, the action is surprisingly brutal. This is an adult-type cartoon. Captain America is run through with alien blades, blood spurts, faces are bruised and bloodied. This may be a cartoon, but this is real-looking violence. It may be a bit much for the younger viewers.

What I liked about this first movie is that it seemed to get right down to business. No dawdling because time didn't allow it. Even though many of the chosen Avengers had reservations about joining the team they soon all come onboard and play their certain roles. However, it isn't until The Incredible Hulk emerges that the team has to fight an even greater threat.

The action scenes are intense for a cartoon, and the storyline is easy enough for non-comic book readers to follow. It's easy to stick in and watch, but it has some substance to it. The characters are quickly made into likable ones (except maybe Pym, who stays contemptible and annoying throughout the movies; later passing those same traits to his twit of a son). I enjoyed watching this movie much more than I thought I would.

3.5 Stars

'Ultimate Avengers 2'

Exactly like a cartoon series would, the second movie picks right up where the first one left off. A new Avenger is introduced, the Black Panther, but the alien threat is still very real. The aliens are now after a mysterious substance in Africa and it just happens to be buried under a hidden city ruled over by a king who moonlights as a costume-wearing, jungle-wandering superhero.

Even though the group of heroes is already gathered together this 73 minute movie seems to waste quite a bit of time discussing "should we, or shouldn't we" when considering the land of the Black Panther. A lot of bickering about them trespassing wastes precious minutes and seemed to bring the movie to a standstill.

However, like the first movie this one had moments of great amusement. The fight sequences are a lot of fun. The one thing you'll notice about these movies is that even the superheroes have a tough time defeating their foes. Iron Man, especially, gets the crap kicked out of him numerous times. Captain America takes a few beatings of his own too. Even though they have super powers, they're going up against enemies that are every bit as powerful. As with all superhero movies and stories, good eventually wins out, but I wasn't so sure everyone was going to make it. There's a good sense of dread added in for good measure.

3 Stars

'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow'

Created two years later in 2008, 'Next Avengers' is the kid-friendly title of this whole bunch. Its storyline is loosely connected with that of the first two movies, but not completely. Many years have passed, the Avengers as we know them are gone, except they've left behind a few supers of their own.

James Rogers is the cocky offspring of his father, and sports a hologram enabled shield with a bright white star in the middle. Torunn is the daughter to the immortal Thor, but is finding it hard to communicate with her godlike father who is, "Out there somewhere." Pym has wings like his mother, but can grow to immense size like his father. He's still just as annoying though. Finally, Azari is the Black Panther's cub who has all the agility and physical prowess as his father.

Together the kids live in a retreat with Tony Stark. Away from prying eyes. They have yet to find out that the world that their parents knew is a completely different place. One of Stark's robotic inventions has gone haywire. Ultron, is a sentient Stark-created robot who has gone rogue and has enslaved the world. Tony has hidden the children away hoping for a day when they'll be able to defeat Ultron.

'Next Avengers' is the longest of all the movies, but it still finishes in a brisk 78 minutes. The writing is more geared toward a younger audience. Jokes are easy, and sometimes cringe-worthy. Action is muted and sanitized for younger eyes. It isn't a bad movie, the storyline is still fairly interesting, but most everything that made the first two movies appeal to adults is lost here.

2.5 Stars

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

This new release is likely the same exact disc that was released in 2007 being packaged alongside the new disc for 'Next Avengers.' The first two movies are pressed onto a 50-GB Blu-ray Disc while 'Next Avengers' finds itself on a 25-GB Blu-ray Disc. They're both secured in their own hubs, within a standard size Blu-ray keepcase. It's a region free release.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Ultimate Avengers' and 'Ultimate Avengers 2'

Both suffer from the same problems that they suffered in their initial releases because these are likely the same exact discs and transfers used at that time. So, I think Kenneth Brown's review from 2007 should suffice in describing how they look.

Putting the quality of the animation aside, this high-definition video presentation is average for the most part. Brought to Blu-ray in 1080p with the MPEG-2 codec, these are the first feature-length 2D animation releases domestically in the US on either high definition format. Colors are bright and vivid (especially blues and reds), black levels are deep, and contrast is well rendered. Energy beams and explosions light up the screen, fast movement doesn't stutter due to technical inadequacies, and there aren't any compression artifacts to ruin the experience. Ported directly from its digital source, there isn't any grain or print defects and the picture is very clean.

There are some big problems though. For starters, both films are plagued by severe color banding -- dark skies look like patterned quilts, underwater expanses resemble stair cases, and vast white areas Lego their way into grays. For a perfect example of this, take a look at the battle between the Avengers and the Hulk at the end of the first film. On top of the color banding, thinner hand drawn lines at the edges of key frame animations are often pixilated, there's a slight motion blur to movement, and an occasional screen door effect occurs at random intervals. Unfortunately, these problems are very noticeable and often hinder everything that looks great about the colorful presentation.

3 Stars

'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow'

Instead of a MPEG-2 codec, this release has been given an MPEG-4 codec. There is a noticeable upgrade in visuals compared to the first two movies. Gone are the artifacts like banding and jaggies that plagued those releases. In their stead is a smooth, lush animated environment that looks much, much better. Banding was a big problem with the first two movies, but it's nonexistent here, which is very nice.

The animation itself has a much more refined look to it. Edges are more defined, shadows more distinct. Fast-moving motion features no hang-ups or snags. Where the first two films faltered this one succeeds with a great-looking presentation with minimal complaints. If I had one complaint there are one or two scenes with noticeable crushing, but when it subsides the movie is back to looking stellar.

4 Stars

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'Ultimate Avengers' and 'Ultimate Avengers 2'

There have been no changes in audio. The 7.1 uncompressed LPCM tracks still remain. Since that is the case, Kenneth Brown's review of that should suffice also.

Here audio quality is the one area where this disc really excels. The 7.1 channel linear PCM uncompressed sound mix was a very nice surprise. These are the first high-def films I've reviewed that have utilized all 7 of my surround channels and I have to say that that alone was heavenly, but even placed in a 5.1 environment on my other system, the 7.1 uncompressed track functioned well and was almost as impressive. Surround effects bombarded my ears from every channel and I've rarely heard rear activity at this level outside of the theater. While it did drift over the top at times, for the most part it seemed to match the tone of the films and I simply sat back and enjoyed the mix for what it was. There's also an impressive 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX track, but it's a bit more muddled than the uncompressed mix.

Aircraft whiz by with excellent channel movement, explosions fill the room, and accuracy is well handled. When I first picked up my seven channel system, I never expected to notice the difference as much as I did in this instance. Movement is so much more natural that I had a great time just listening to the audio mixes on these films. Bass tones are resonant and earthy, treble ranges are stable, and the dynamic range of sounds is impressive to say the least. The music and effects are prioritized perfectly (the downside being that I had to drop my main volume because the mix was just so overwhelming at my usual levels). There was also a nice ambiant presence that I wasn't expecting to find in low budget animated features and a lot of attention clearly went into the sound design -- clinking shrapnel, tiny hydraulic noises in the Iron Man armor, and the lightest effects are present. Don't get me wrong, it's still a cartoon -- if this two-dimensional sound design was placed alongside a live action release, I wouldn't be nearly as kind. But as is, it's one of the best technical sound presentations I've heard on a traditionally animated feature.

My only major issue concerns the dialogue -- compared to the rest of the soundscape, voices feel a tad thin and are almost always confined to the center channel alone. While it certainly lines up with my expectations of low budget animation, it seems out of place within the bombastic soundfield of the other elements in the mix.

4.5 Stars

'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow'

Even though this new 'Avengers' movie has been gifted a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, it's comparable to the 'Ultimate Avengers' audio presentations explained above. So much so, I'd venture to say that in impressiveness they're identical in just about every way.

LFE is deep and rumbling. Panning effects like robots whooshing by the frame seamlessly travel through the channels. Dialogue, like in the first two films, does take a bit of a hit when the action gets fast and furious, but it's only a minor complaint really. Everything said above could be applied to this movie as well. It's a rocking good time and will certainly test many of your sound system's limits.

4.5 Stars

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

    'Ultimate Avengers' and 'Ultimate Avengers 2'

  • Featurettes (HD) – The first, "Avengers Assemble" (23 min.), concentrates on examining the history of the classic characters as they appeared throughout the decades. The second, "The Ultimates" (24 min.), focuses on Mark Millar and Brian Hitch, the writer and penciler for the ongoing comic series that inspired the films. Both featurettes contain wonderful creator interviews as well as comments from editors and other famous names at Marvel. The reason I enjoyed each so much is that both featurettes generally stick to a handful of participants who offer a lot of precise but crucial information. The best of the set is the second featurette with Millar and Hitch -- both creators are adept at explaining the choices and inspirations they had in mind when they rebooted the Avengers for a more modern audience.

  • The Ultimate Voice Talent Search (HD, 5 min.) – A montage of videos submitted for a contest Marvel held to cast a fan as the voice of an Avenger. This group of misfits is so amusingly passionate (in spite of their awful voice work) that I found myself chuckling throughout.

  • The Ultimate Gag Reel (HD, 4 min.) – A series of clips from the first film that have been redubbed and edited to include humorous dialogue and imagery. I thought the clips were great and I laughed out loud more than once.

  • Trivia Track (HD) – A trivia track is available that can be played over the top of both feature flicks. The trivia track functions like an old episode of VH-1's "Pop-Up Video" and is solely written for the comic fan crowd. It got too detailed for my taste, but uber-Avenger fans will probably enjoy it quite a bit.

  • Trailers (HD, 4 min.) – Trailers for 'The Invincible Iron Man' and 'Dr. Strange' are provided.

  • 2 Stars

    'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow'

  • Kid Power - Next-gen Marvel (HD, 5 min.) – The movie's writers talk about how kids want and relate to younger heroes.

  • Trailers (HD, 4 min.) – Trailer for 'Hulk Vs' is included, plus the trailers that were mentioned above.

  • 1.5 Stars

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided.

Final Thoughts

This is a thinly-veiled attempt to cash in on the impending box office success of 'The Avengers' live-action movie. While I liked these movies, the only attempt here to conceal Lionsgate's real motives is adding on 'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow.' Otherwise, they've simply repackaged old discs hoping to score some quick bucks when everyone gets bitten by the 'Avengers' bug.

However, the movies themselves are enjoyable. They feature varying quality when it comes to the visual department, but the audio pyrotechnics are just what your high-def sound system ordered. If you didn't pick up the 2007 release, maybe you should consider picking this one up. If you did pick that release up then this one really isn't necessary unless you find you simply cannot live without 'Next Avengers.' It's worth a look, but that's about it.

Technical Specs

  • 50-GB Blu-ray Disc
  • 25-GB Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC ('Next Avengers')
  • 1080p/MPEG-2 AVC ('Ultimate Avengers' and 'Ultimate Avengers 2')

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English: LPCM 7.1
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, Spanish

Supplements

  • Featurettes
  • Trivia Track
  • Trailers
  • Gag Reel

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