Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reel Low - Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)

Imagine a world in which the costumed heroes collectively known as the Avengers have seemingly vanquished all evil from Earth, turned in their tights and started families, only to be brought together once more to battle a reinvigorated Ultron, hellbent on world domination. It does not go well. They lose. They die. But their children are saved from the calamity. So begins Marvel's Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, an interesting entry in their new animated feature series.

How exactly the world's mightiest heroes are defeated is unclear. But this is not their story. It is the story of their kids becoming the next generation of Avengers.

The surviving four kids are raised by Tony Stark in seclusion over the course of 12 years, training to live up to their parents' mantels. They do plenty of dumb things along the way that their parents would never do in a Marvel story, but because they're sheltered kids thrust into new situations, they are completely believable.

This film is aimed at a different audience than the other animated features Marvel has released thus far. While they have all been rated PG-13, Next Avengers is PG. The brief synopsis at the out-start of the film is all viewers really need to know before stepping into this world, which is a good thing for youngsters and non-Marvel zombies alike. That said, there are plenty of Marvel easter eggs for the fanboys out there, too. Granted, I can see how the more well-versed fans out there will complain over the pairing of Captain America and the Black Widow, but I'm fine with good 'ol Steve liking Natasha enough to put a ring on it, and seeing as the result is a nice mix of Cap's leadership with a hint of the Widow's nasty streak was enough to seal it for me.

And that's probably the real fun of this flick: seeing how these kids are so much like their parents, but at the same time something new because of the combination of powers and personalities of their folks.

While there is that element of fun in Next Avengers and it's only rated PG, there is also an undeniable darkness to the movie. Everything these kids are going through reminds them of the parents they didn't know and how they were defeated by the very adversary who is attempting to kill them now. And through that darkness, they must persevere to become heroes with each awkward step they take. I find that universally appealing.

Now not everything is perfect. Henry Pym, Jr., son of Giant Man and the Wasp, is the biggest problem. His character annoys throughout the entire film, serving as comic relief that is commonly dished out in other cartoons through the animal sidekick. Henry is the youngest of the group, probably 12, so perhaps kids watching the movie will relate to him better, but his act ran will likely run thin on adults.

Also, Azari is severely underdeveloped as a character and is the least compelling of the group. He is the son of Black Panther and presumably Storm, who is not mentioned by name but by the otherwise unexplained electricity powers he possesses (that is, unless you think T'Challa got mixed up in some genetic A.I.M. experiment gone awry with Electro). There is plenty of material to mine for him from that combo, but was never delved into.

I have not watched the two Ultimate Avengers movies or Invincible Iron Man, all of which may serve as prequels (my research proved to be inconclusive). It'd be interesting to see if this continues the events in those movies in any way, but I have heard mixed things, at best, about them and have refrained from checking them out thus far.

However, I would welcome additional Next Avengers films. They would certainly continue to be produced with children in mind, but that underlying darkness that made this one more compelling than expected would continue to resinate in future installments.

2 comments:

Hapi said...

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Kal said...

Yes, it is not the orginal Avengers story, but we found their demise so lightly covered... inadequate.

We like a lot of kids animation because it is filled with good guys and bad guys and you can sit back and enjoy the fun. However we had a hard time doing that in this case.

We felt as though they crushed on the originals for no other reason than to launch these juvenile wanna-bes.

Anyway, here is our take on it with lots of pics and a few bits if wit if you are interested:

http://fortresstakes.wordpress.com/2009/09/03/next-avengers-heroes-of-tomorrow-2008/