Starring Justin Gross, Grey DeLisle, Michael Massee, Marc Worden, Olivia d’Abo, Nan McNamara, Nolan North, Andre Ware, Dave Boat, Fred Tatasciore, James K. Ward, Jeffrey D. Sams, Dave Fennoy, Howlin’ Mad Murdock and Luke Skywalker.
Directed by Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon.
Before I launch into my review of Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther, I want to mention that my seven-month-old son, Kyle, loves the Ultimate Avengers series, as evidenced by this photo. ((I’d say he eats it up, but that would be going too far.))
And another thing: if spoilers make you want to smash puny humans, you may want to stop reading now.
Rise of the Panther is the sequel to Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, which was based on The Ultimates a re-imagining of Marvel Comics’ popular long-running series, The Avengers. If you were a fan of The Avengers or other Marvel (Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) titles between the mid-1960’s and the turn of the century, these aren’t quite the heroes you may be used to.
The story continues where the first Ultimate Avengers movie left off: after defeating the alien Chitauri, Captain America is haunted by events from his past, Hank and Janet Pym continue to have marital difficulties, Thor is rebelling against his father, and Bruce Banner is imprisoned in a special S.H.I.E.L.D. holding cell to ensure that the Hulk will not wreak further havoc.
Unbeknownst to the heroes, Herr Klieser—the Chitauri shape-shifter who has taken the guise of a Nazi officer—survived his encounter with the Avengers. Kleiser has surfaced in Wakanda, a small, insular African nation not unfamiliar with the alien invaders. Kleiser clashes with T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda who—in the guise of the Black Panther—also acts as its protector. T’Chaka is killed in his encounter with Kleiser and his son, T’Challa, ascends to the throne.
T’Challa travels to the West to solicit the advice of Captain America. The Avengers are only too eager to eliminate the Chitauri threat in Wakanda, but all outsiders are treated as enemies. T’Challa risks losing the throne if he allows the Avengers to set foot on Wakandan soil.
The Avengers, aware of the threat the Chitauri represent, are determined to help the Wakandans fight off the alien menace. This leads directly to the Avengers getting their collective butts handed to them on a vibranium platter by the crafty Wakandans.
To make matters worse, Kleiser masquerades as the Black Panther in order to gain access to the Avengers’ ship. The Chitauri causes all kinds of trouble before escaping in a small landing craft just before the ship is destroyed. The Avengers go limping home with a major morale problem, Janet Pym in a coma and Iron Man needing some serious body work.
Eventually, the Wakandans come to their senses, thanks largely to the giant Chitauri ship that parks itself directly over the country and covers the sky with a translucent green membrane from which descend thousands of ships and multi-legged ground assault vehicles.
Of course, the only way to defeat the Chitauri mothership is to fly into the belly of the beast and cut out its heart. There are two analogies to this: the assault on the second Death Star and Will Smith’s assault on the mothership in Independence Day. In this case, Iron Man is the Milennium Falcon and Hank Pym is Jeff Goldblum. Or maybe Iron Man is Lando Calrissian, the gamma cannon is a computer virus and Hank Pym is Nien Nunb. It’s also possible that Hank Pym is Pinocchio, but then things start to get complicated. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s been done.
In the end, Hank Pym sacrifices himself just to show Janet that he’s a real hero, the Chitauri are defeated, Thor defibrillates Iron Man with mystical lightning and an Uru hammer, Bruce Banner hulks out and escapes his prison, and Captain America starts macking on the Black Widow. Hello!
All in all, Rise of the Panther isn’t bad. The animation is on par with the first installment, if not a little better; the voice acting is just as good, but the story could have been stronger. I’m also noticing a pretty significant departure from the story presented in the comic books (though I am a few issues behind on The Ultimates 2, as I’m waiting for the next trade paperback to be released), particularly in the areas of “babes with whom Captain America is hooking up” and “heroes who are not breathing anymore.”
There is no commentary track on the DVD, nor is there a trivia track such as there was on Ultimate Avengers: The Movie. Special features include a featurette on The Ultimates with commentary by creators Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada and others, “The Ultimate Gag Reel,” which contains some amusing “outtakes” from Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, the “What Avenger Are You?” DVD-ROM game, ((This appears to be identical to the game that was included on the Ultimate Avengers: The Movie DVD, right down to the fact that I’m Iron Man. I. Am. Iron Man.)) and first looks at two upcoming Lions Gate/Marvel animated features: Iron Man and Doctor Strange.