Monday, May 30, 2016

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008) direct to video animated movie

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

Focusing on the avengers' kids has turned a potentially relevant and deep story into juvenile Saturday morning cartoon fare.

The Good: simple story, some night time scenes of intricate artwork, conveys relevant themes of growing up, excellent voice work

The Bad: Sub-standard animation, generally simplistic art, cliche ridden plot, juvenile writing, 

3D Readiness: None


The Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes, have been defeated by the machine menace known as Ultron. Presumably the last survivor of that final terrible battle, Iron Man/Tony Stark takes it upon himself to hide the baby children of the Avengers in secret so that Ultron would never find them. He raises them hidden in a underground artificial paradise, constantly spinning them tales about the parents they never knew. Fast forward 13 years later and the children have grown up into fine youngsters, training their individual gifts but longing to find their place in the world. Following a surprise visitation by the Vision and an unfortunate accident, Ultron discovers the location of the Avenger's children and launches an all out attack. Separated from their mentor Iron Man, and on the run, these "Next Avengers" must live up to their family heritage while dealing with their individual inner turmoil and teenage angst.

First off, the story is very intriguing and engaging. It is a whole new world and whole new rules as our Next Avengers step out of their artificial perfect world and into the dystopia that our earth has become. There is a good amount of mystery and tension in the first act as the tragic past is slowly unveiled through stories and flashbacks. But the second part taking place in Ultron City falls a little bit into futuristic cartoon clichés. Machines have dominated the future, an underground resistance movement is made up of a rag tag team of misfits who look culled from every single dystopian genre anime there ever was. The story isn't as intense as the previous marvel animated movies, nor as character focused, and the writing does tend to tip a bit into the juvenile side of things. Although the stakes are high with Ultron having taken over the world, we never get a sense of danger from this adversary. The story feels safe; safe in the fact that it is predictable that good would eventually triumph, safe in the fact that any character "killed" would be back by the end of the movie. 
The Characters are a little less easy to get into than the story. The children are typical kid hero character stereotypes. The irritating youngest brat(Pym), the hot headed slacker turned leader(James), the feisty girl with daddy issues(Toruun), the token African American for political correctness(Azari) and the cold aloof flirty one(Barton). Aside from the clichés their individual story arcs play out very believably. The inner turmoil faced by the heroes alludes to many common problems face by average teenagers nowadays, such as living up to one's parents' expectations and finding a sense of self-identity. These are very heart warming themes that can appeal to young and old alike. Some of the dialogue may be a little too "saturday morning cartoon" for the older teenagers like myself but these superficial shortcomings can be forgiven thanks to good voice acting. It is difficult to believe that they got actual kids to voice the Avengers' children but there you have it: child actors conveying nuance and subtlety like any professional voice actor. These kids may go far in life.

It is in the animation department where this film truly suffers. The animation is very inconsistent here. The art varies from an intricate level of detail  to flat and cheap looking crap with no other detail other than the basic outlines and features. The daytime shots are the worst offender with quality coming across very poorly, not even an ounce of effort in the shading. But some of the night time shots are breathtaking with amazing lighting effects and full use of shadows.

A number of animation short cuts are jarringly visible and the fluidity of the animation usually varies indirectly to the art detail. This leads to a lot of the action lacking the dynamic energy that one would expect from such animated superhero showdowns. Add in the rather generic sounding soundtrack and you get some very underwhelming action. There is one sequence near the end of the movie where quality takes a bit of a jump but it ends up being too little too late. The overall animation of the movie has a low budget look; more fitting for a TV series than a movie. The character designs had a strong American anime feel to them. Not as exaggerated as Teen Titans but more on par with Ben 10.

On a whole, Next Avengers was an enjoyable movie with themes that are easy to relate to and can be watched by an audience of any age above 7. It has themes relevant to those growing up in the shadow of their parents and peers but all this is buried under writing that is more juvenile that i had hoped for. The cliches, simplistic artwork and occasional corny humour do not do NEXT AVENGERS any justice. If it were not for all that and the sub standard animation, I would have given this a higher rating.

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

Entertainment: B+
Art: C-
Animation: C
Story: B
Voice Acting (English): B+ 
Characters: C+
Music: C
Replay value: A-
"Brains": B

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