After the events of “Secret Invasion”, the Avengers became the foremost international peace-keeping force in place of SHIELD. Marvel then re-launched some of its “Avengers” books and introduced new titles such as “Secret Avengers”. One of those comic book series (“Heroic Age: The Avengers) then presented a story about a possible alternate future where Ultron, The Avengers and Kang were locked in a never-ending war, and their battles do threaten to collapse the time stream. Then, we got to glimpse what the future wave of Avengers are meant to be, under the guidance of an elderly Tony Stark and Bruce Banner in his older “Merged Hulk“ persona.
Well, consider that story arc as the more mature, darker and well developed storyline that could’ve been inspired by this direct to Dvd animated movie “Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow” and where the “Next Avengers“ finally made their comic book debut. This movie also has references to “A-Next” as a similar team of Avengers under the age of 15.
Thor has permanently left for Asgard. Hulk is absent. With their most powerful members gone, the remaining Avengers lie completely defeated by the murderous automaton Ultron and the world trembles under its feet. Iron Man (Tom Kane), tasked with keeping the children of the Avengers safe, and so he brings them to a hidden fortified arctic refuge. James (Noah Crawford) is the son of the Black Widow and Captain America, Henry Pym Jr. (Aidan Drummond) is the son of Giant-Man and the Wasp, Torunn (Brenna O’Brien) is the daughter of Thor and Sif and Azari (is the son of the Black Panther and Storm), all of them, raised and trained by Tony to someday fulfill their destinies. But the arrival of the Vision (Shawn MacDonald) signals the beginning of the end, as Ultron (Tom Kane) sets its sights in permanently terminating all traces of the Avengers. It is up to our young heroes to find their destiny along with Francis Barton, the son of Hawkeye. They will need all the help they can get, even when it means asking Betty Ross and an imbalanced Bruce Banner (Nicole Oliver and Fred Tatasciore) for their aid.
To understand and appreciate “Next Avengers”, one needs to throw away everything he knows about current Avengers continuity and see this story as something that came from an alternate universe. There are different changes in this universe, the Black Widow and Captain America are married, Stark is the creator of Ultron, and well, Ultron is not made of the truly indestructible material it had made from the metal of Captain America’s shield and adamantium. To its credit, even if it was a little too kid-friendly for my tastes, Christopher Yost’s screenplay does present a pretty coherent and credible story.
Yes, there are some missing details, and admittedly the script has some minor problems. But, for a kid-friendly flick, I have to admit that it held enough depth, layers and good pacing that I am certain the movie will be able to hold its own as a stand alone film. The way the plotting flowed easily may be a little too easy, but it was brisk, entertaining and has enough fun homage to make the usual fan smile. The film does have its slight touches of darkness, and even though the story wasn’t as ambitious or as maturely intricate as I would’ve liked, “Next Avengers” does give Marvel’s premier team justice and even captures a little of the essence that made “Avengers” successful.
I suppose while the characters were easily to be dismissed as ‘Mini versions”, the script does manage to add some layers to characterization. Torunn is easily the most interesting of the bunch as she is the only one whose parents are still alive. It makes for something to wonder about as to why she had been left alone on Earth. There is an inner struggle within Torunn, as she exhibits that sense of abandonment. Torunn also seeks to talk ‘flowery’, which her companions find odd. Torunn by herself may have been trying to be the worthy daughter of the Norse God of Thunder. Azari does appear to be a more stronger, and updated version of the abilities of the Black Panther, the animation on him was very cool. I also liked the way the film manages to draw out some details from the source material as with the “Pym Particles” and Cap’s energy shield.
The battles in the film had all the action that a rated PG movie could muster. I know the body count that Ultron had racked up was never fully brought into its script and the deaths of the Avengers were told in the form of a bedtime story, but the movie does have some bloody effects (if a little light) and the battles are more intense than the ones we’re used to seeing in past Saturday morning cartoons. The stakes were also well-defined, and admittedly they felt that those stakes got bigger as we see the young heroes engage Ultron in one final climactic encounter. The “Iron Avengers” did feel like a tribute to Alkema’s “Imperative Avengers” and it was nice to see them engage these young heroes. Yeah, it lacked the bleaker and darker stakes, but this Ultron did feel as menacing as the Ultron I have read about in the 70’s. Despite the ‘cutesy’ animation, it was to the director’s credit that the movie never felt as if it was merely appealing to a different viewer.
Sure, the film may feel like another plug for the Hulk (this was released during the time when Marvel was pushing to promote the Green Goliath and Shellhead) but it sure was nice to see Hulk resemble the Maestro. I know, there are misses in the script as to how Azari’s mom never got her time in the script, but fans would know exactly who she was by her bracelet. The new Hawkeye’s mom was also never talked about. I know, it does deviate from the source material, (Stark inventing Ultron and Cap married the Widow bothered me) but hey it was fun. It was a playful rendition with some ridiculously good fight scenes. It is a definite lightweight when you compare it to stories such “Ultron Unlimited” and I found it hard to believe that an "Odin-forced" Thor did not join in the battle, but in a way, it does make sense. It is the kind of movie that you can watch with a kid and feel good while doing it.
RENTAL to Fans, Recommended for Kids and Teens [3 Out of 5 Stars]
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