Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Quick Review - Avengers Confidential

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher is a new animated movie from Marvel, featuring the Avengers and spotlighting Black Widow and the Punisher (who is not part of the team).  The story revolves around Widow and Punisher working together to stop an organization called Leviathan that is cresting super soldiers to sell on the black market to the highest bidder.  The Punisher is not a member of the Avengers or SHIELD, and is known for resorting to methods that don't fit in the SHIELD playbook.  To be blunt, his M.O. is to hunt his adversaries down and kill them, whereas SHIELD and the Avengers only kill when the situation makes it the only choice.  This makes for a clash of personalities and some terse exchanges between Frank Castle (Punisher's real name), Nick Fury of SHIELD and Black Widow.  There's also a subplot between Widow and an member of Leviathan who is a turncoat SHIELD agent and former almost love interest of Widow.    The main action involves Widow and Punisher, while several members of the Avenger team make cameos.

The movie opens up with Castle taking down a group of thugs in an attempt to take down an international arms dealer.  He's interrupted by Widow and Fury, and his target gets away.  Castle is reluctantly brought in to work with Widow and SHIELD to get inside Leviathan and shut down their plot before they can get their super soldiers out to various criminal organizations.  Along the way, the discover that corrupted SHIELD agent, named Elias, was brainwashed by a device that temporarily gets to Castle and causes him to kill some SHIELD agents.  Ultimately, Widow has to take a now fugitive Castle with her to take down Leviathan with the eventual help of Avengers Iron Man, War Machine, Captain Marvel, Thor, and Hawkeye.  We close with the big battle.  We some Avenger action versus a platoon of super soldiers and some super powered bad guys, a fight between Widow and Elias, and the ultimate resolution of it all.

How was it?  I'd give a C-.  It starts well with some good action, but after 10 minutes or so we're back at SHIELD headquarters from some boring dialogue between Widow and a lab guy who embodies every nerd stereotype, down to being willing to do whatever Widow asks him in return for a kiss from a hot babe.  Castle getting switched on by the brainwashing device is supposed to be a jarring, dramatic scene but it goes over with a thud.  The voice talent doesn't help at all; Widow sounds more like a college student playing secret agent than an actual agent, and Nick Fury is voiced like a graduate from Soul Brother No. 1 school.  The final act is underwhelming also.  The super soldiers are talked up like some huge threat to the world but fail to live up to the hype in the final battle.  And we don't get enough Avenger action for my tastes.  They show up in the last six minutes or so and serve little purpose beyond clearing a path for Widow and Castle to get to the boss of Leviathan, who is a whole other problem.  There's little real info given as to who this person is.  It's possible that he's someone who Marvel die-hards recognize, or he could be some guy they made up for the movie.  We don't know for sure, because they didn't really explain it.

The next big problem:  not enough Avengers.  For roughly 70 of the movie's 82 minutes, the only Avenger we see is Black Widow.  In the final big battle scene we finally get Iron Man, the Hulk, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, War Machine, and Thor, each of whom get a few seconds here or there of screen time and not much else.  The nerdy SHIELD scientist guy gets more lines than Iron Man and all the other Avengers combined...in an Avengers movie.  And no Captain America, which is inexplicable since the final battle is against a group of.......Super Soldiers.  The boring part in the middle at SHIELD headquarters could have used some Tony Stark ribbing or Steve Rogers challenging of Frank Castle, and would have built nicely on the exchange Castle had with Nick Fury early on.  And finally there's the love story subplot between Widow and Elias that was totally unnecessary and poorly executed.  The conversation between the two right before they engaged in one on one battle was some high school, emo treacle. 

So with all of these complaints, why not a failing grade instead of a C-?  Real simple: I made it to the end of the movie.  I can't say the same about the other Marvel animated movies I've tried to watch.  If you have some time to kill, it's fine to check out through an On Demand rental or Netflix stream.  But it's not deserving of a second viewing.  This could have been handled better as a multi episode arc of the Avengers animated series rather than a standalone movie.

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