Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Avengers Confidential: Punisher and Black Widow (2014) direct to video anime movie

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: stunning visuals, highly detailed artwork, fast paced well choreographed fight scenes, intriguing story, Punisher stands toe to toe with the Hulk

The Bad: Animation short cuts, flat dialogue, mediocre screenplay, unremarkable voice acting

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none


Not content on dominating the big screen with a connected Marvel cinematic universe, Marvel now aims to create a connected anime universe. Avengers Confidential is a loose sequel to to Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. This time, Iron Man takes a back seat to previous supporting characters of Punisher and Black Widow. Following their debacle in Karachi, Frank Castle aka The Punisher, has returned to taking out organised crime lords. But when one of his hits crosses path with S.H.I.E.L.D, Frank is taken into custody. He has stumbled onto a vast international conspiracy involving an old Russian supersoldier programme and mind control. Unwillingly teamed up with s.H.I.E.L.D agent Black Widow, Frank has to deal with superpowered foes way out of his league while Widow must confront a shadowy figure from her past.

It is an intriguing story. Well written and feeling like it came straight out of the comic books. No surprise there that it was written by comic book writer Majorie Liu. This is a cool way to tie The Punisher into the greater world of Marvel anime characters, themselves already sharing a lot in common with the live action movie universe. In live action, The Punisher's gritty mafia/street crime stories just do not mix with the Avengers' high flying superheroics. If they cannot do it in live action, anime would have to suffice.

Credit goes to this movie for coming up with an interesting reason why the superpowered Avengers remain out of the picture. Since you have a villain who perfected mind control, the last thing you can risk is your most powerful heroes turning against you. So they get plain ol human Frank Castle, The Punisher, and plain ol human Black Widow. Except, the "plain ol human" bit is conveniently forgotten about 10 minutes in where both Punisher and Black Widow are able to go hand to hand with super soldiers, dodge bullets, punch people through walls and take injuries that would kill any normal human.

Now, this being japanese anime, Marvel has allowed Madhouse Studios (creators of classics like Ninja Scroll, Trigun and the rest of Marvel's anime output) to sprinkle their own eastern touch into this tale. The result......a mixed bag. First is the screenplay, written by Mitsutaka Hirota of Ramen fighter Miki and YuGiOh Zexal fame/infamy. It is a stiffled screenplay, cliched and lacking any of the wit or character interplay that marvel's live action universe excels in.

This is not helped by the mediocre voice acting from both japanese and english actors. Punisher growls and grumbles his way through the movie lacking chemistry with Black Widow; herself portrayed more as a straightforward hero with a tragic past romance than a sultry manipulative secret agent whom no one can guess what she is planning to do next. This same screenplay turns our main antagonist into some love scorned brat with a serious inferiority complex who subjected himself to experiments to become a superpowered stalker after his old flame.

Once again, Marvel anime serves as a showcase of what anime always gets wrong. Hyper detailed artwork is ruined by animation shortcuts. First time Director Kenichi Shimizu who watched one too many Michael bay movies peppers this show with shakey cameras, extreme close ups and long lingering shots focused on Black Widow's shiny leather clad chest and bum areas. Seriously, Madhouse seems to have taken great pains to highlight her reflective boob and butt curves.

Nonetheless, the character designs look straight out of Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust with long curvy sharp featured women, square jawed bulky men and a shadow for every nook cranny and crease on a character. They look beautiful.

So in keeping with the usual Marvel Anime standards, we have another visually stunning little movie with a decent story but little else in terms of the script, characters and animation. Better than Iron Man: Rise of Technovore of course, and much better than that CGI atrocity Iron Man/Hulk: Heroes United. Yet no where near DC and Warner Premiere's most mediocre efforts.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: B
Story: B+
Characters: C+
Animation: B-
Art: A
Music: C-
Voice work  (Japanese): C+
Voice work (English):  C+
Replay Value: B-
"Brains": C-

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