Well, color me surprised. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is the newest release from Marvel Animated Features, released to both DVD and Blu-ray. It also happens to be the first PG-rated movie in the line, a line consisting to date of PG-13 titles, so naturally, that must mean this is a very tame kid flick, right? Not so! I was absolutely surprised at the amount of action, coupled with an enjoyable story and some pretty cool characters. For those fans that plan to dismiss this title as nothing but a kiddie release, well, you may want to rethink that. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow manages to deliver both a fun all-ages tale paired with some very intense action sequences that stays true to the Marvel style. Onward to the movie synopsis!
Whenever the forces of evil threatened mankind, Earth’s mightiest heroes the Avengers were there to stop them — until they made the ultimate sacrifice in their final fight with the indestructible robot, Ultron. But all was not lost for Tony Stark (Iron Man) kept the children of the Avengers safe and raised them to become the teenage heroes of tomorrow. Now James (Son of Captain America and Black Widow), Torunn (Daughter of Thor), Azari (Son of the Black Panther), and Pym (Son of Wasp and Giant Man) must finish the fight their parents started. Soon the arrow-slinging son of Hawkeye will join their ranks but it will take more than five teens to destroy the machine that defeated their parents. If these young heroes have any hope of winning they must find the missing Hulk and come together as… the Next Avengers!
The film opens with a brief pre-credit sequence, as Tony Stark tells a story to four very young children, a story about The Avengers and their final battle against the evil robot Ultron and how, at the last minute, the children of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were spirited away to safety while their respective parents perished. Naturally, this story serves to explain the entire backstory of the film, in a very cool, very comic book-esque sequence of still images resembling the classic Marvel art of yesteryear. From this sequence it’s quite obvious this will be a film steeped in Marvel history and, as the film progresses, we see more and more nods to the classic mainstream Marvel continuity. This continuity serves as a backbone to the movie, helping it achieve a level of quality that I’m sure many people did not expect.
Now, like I said, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow really surprised me. To be honest, I was already looking forward to this film. I thought it was going to offer something new to the Marvel fan, something light-hearted and fun. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the previous Marvel Animated Features, all of them, but I think Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is exactly what the doctor ordered. Especially when you consider that the next title, Hulk Versus, is going to be an uber-violent flick, a little light-hearted fun is probably called for. And, make no mistake, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is fun. Very fun. In fact, it was more fun than I was expecting, and this was primarily due to the great chemistry of the main cast.
James Rogers, Azari, Henry Pym, Torunn, and Francis Barton make up these Next Avengers, and, for the most part, each character is well developed and each kid seems to be written as kids. Sure, it might seem a little hokey at first, but within minutes, it all comes together when these kids, well, come together. Even Henry, who I thought was going to be just the annoying comic relief, is actually funny. I found myself chuckling at some of his jokes (and then surprised when he turns around and just dishes it out in the final fight sequence). Fans will likely gravitate toward James and Francis the most, but don’t be surprised if Henry and Torunn manage to get a bit of a fan following. In fact, when we first see James in action, it’s in a cool little sequence as he tussles with Torunn. However, Azari seems to be given the least development and face-time out of all the characters. We’re introduced to these characters after the main title sequence, save for Francis who appears later in the film, and also given a quick tour of the compound they live in with Tony Stark. We see Torunn calling out for her father amidst a memorial site for the fallen Avengers, Azari and Henry playing a game of “Tag,” and James, tucked away in his bungalow.
Of course, things go array quickly and the film’s main plot kicks in. The children find themselves in danger when Ultron discovers their location and, from there, the movie is rolling.
And this movie manages to keep the momentum going up until the end credits, tossing in more than a couple surprises along the way. For those who have managed to avoid spoilers for this title, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised in the movie, especially concerning appearances late in the feature. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow does a great job at tossing us into the future, to an undisclosed time, and giving us the potential fate of the Marvel Universe. The movie presents us with a rather bleak outcome, but, in the end, provides a bit of hope, too. When we see what has become of the world after Ultron decimates The Avengers, well, it’s not pretty. Oddly enough, the design for the future, and Ultra City, is really eye-catching, but still, it can’t hide the predicament that the world is now in.
Like I said, it’s a fun film that fans of all ages will enjoy. It presents a cool and thoroughly enjoyable vision of the future, one that I actually hope is revisited sometime down the road. Many fans have been critical of my reviews, stating I’m too easy on these movies. Personally, if I enjoy a film, I am going to recommend it, plain and simple. To different degrees, I’ve enjoyed every Marvel Animated Feature to date, no matter how flawed they may be, or the risks they take. And, when you think about it, this movie is a risk taker. Just consider for a moment. This film opens with comic-style sequence that recalls the style of the classic Avengers stories, and then takes it all away and plops a group of unknown kids in front of us. For the older fans, this could very well be a slap in the face. But, to me, and I am a fan, I saw it as the next chapter, about a new story starting as one came to an end, and it’s a fun story dripping of the “classic Marvel style.”
I also think that the character of Tony Stark deserves a special mention here. Chris Yost, who penned the screenplay, was able to transform Stark from the playboy bachelor to the concerned father figure in a believable way. We see him trying to protect and effectively raise these kids and it works. This seems like a natural evolution for the character, and Yost makes him a great supporting character.
To me, this film also embodies the spirit of the Avengers. Yes, they’re different than their parental counterparts, but, when pushed to a corner, they really do feel like the Avengers. Chris Yost does a great job with these characters, and how they deal with being put into such a predicament. I know, I know, all of that sounds cheesy and even like a bit like press fluff, but it’s not. The fight sequence, particularly the final one, is flat-out awesome, especially when the Hulk gets tossed into the mix. I was surprised at how intense some of the scenes where, particularly an early one when Ultron faces off against a group of Iron Avengers. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I think my jaw actually dropped when he takes out the first Iron Avenger. One can assume that since the main villains in this piece are robots, they were allowed a little leeway in what they could do.
Fans of the classic Avengers should be pleased. Many were critical of having The Ultimate used as the basis of the first two Avengers movies from Marvel Animated Features, but this film really drips with that old-school Avengers fun. Plus, it’s a good story, it has excellent characters, the action is incredibly intense at times, and, and I think I’ve said this fifty times, but it’s just fun. It’s a great all-ages story that isn’t patronizing in the slightest. The film approaches some very serious topics without talking down to the audience at all. Plus, for the hardcore fans, the film has countless nods to the Marvel Universe. There’s one sequence in particular, when our heroes stumble upon Ultron’s trophy room that fans will just love. Seriously, there’s so much I could go on, but I really don’t want to spoil some of the surprises. As someone who was pretty tuned into the movie since it was announced, I was surprised at what they managed to keep a secret.
If I had any complaints, I do thing the climactic battle sequence ends a little too quickly. Still, if you consider the advantage the Next Avengers have here, it does seem plausible within the Marvel Universe realm. Still, I’m sure many can construe the ending as somewhat of a cop-out. I won’t go into specific details, but upon viewing, it should be easy to figure out what I’m making reference too. It seems like it was a little too easy, but, still, the movie does sort of address that, which leads to an absolutely cool sequence involving Torunn. Again, I really don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a great little sequence and a good way to cap off Torunn’s story-arc in the movie.
To wrap up this rather erratic review, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow surprised me and I guarantee, if you give it a fair chance, it’ll surprise you, too. For those expecting an 80-minute Saturday morning cartoon, think again. It’s surprisingly intense, has a solid story, an excellent score, likeable and fun characters, and countless nods to the mainstream Marvel Universe. For those disappointed that it’s an Avengers tale without the classic “616” characters, that’s it’s “PG” instead of “PG-13,” well, give this a chance. I believe the movie does justice to both the characters and their legacies. Plus, they make Ultron an awesome bad-guy. Again, how he takes out the first Iron Avenger? And awesome and brutal visual. In fact, out of all five Marvel Animated Features to date, this one is probably the most going for it, in terms of nearly perfect story-telling and complete character development. Now, there are a couple spots of iffy animation, particularly one sequence when Torunn destroys an Ultron sentinel robot and another involving the Hulk, but those are few and far in-between.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I really enjoyed this movie. I wasn’t even the target demographic, but I think Marvel Animated Features hit it out of the park with this one. It’s a fun movie that’s that really well put together, plain and simple. The story is great, the animation is on par with previous Marvel Animated Features efforts, and it’s a movie that both the life-long Marvel fans and the younger demographic can enjoy. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is a fun movie with compelling characters and a solid action-filled storyline. It’s suitable for everyone, and is definitely an animated movie I would Highly Recommend to anyone, comic fan or not.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has released Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow on both Blu-ray and DVD. The packaging for the Blu-ray is the standard blue clamshell with an insert and inside cover artwork (a practice from Lionsgate Home Entertainment that I really like).
The audio and video for this release is probably the best transfer the Marvel Animated Features have seen. On past movies, I’ve noticed compression and image ghosting, resulting in sometimes block images or movements that would ghost across the screen. Here, I saw none of that. Everything looked absolutely perfect. The animation was crisp and clear, without a hint of any defects to be found. The audio, as you could expect, is also great! Considering the 7.1 audio mix, it’s loud and clear. And, yes, it does get loud! Marvel Animated Features have never looked so crisp here, a definite step-up over the previous Doctor Strange and The Ultimate Avengers Movie Collection releases.
As for the extras, well, we get a bit more than usual, but not much. We have two features, totally about 21 minutes overall, two previews, and an overload of trailers. The amount of pre-credit trailers on this release is probably the most I’ve ever seen for any release to date. Lionsgate Home Entertainment seems to notoriously stack a plethora of trailers on their DVD releases, and they do the same here for their Blu-rays. They had previews for the four previous Marvel Animated Features releases on top of trailers for other releases as well. When we get to the menu, we’re treated to the standard Blu-ray pop-up menu, making the main menu screen the only real menu screen. The layout is simple and navigation is a breeze.
The extras, well, are your standard EPK-type features, called “Legacy: The Making of Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow” and “Kid Power: Next Gen Marvel.” They’re short, seem sorta fluffy, contain a mix of production art mixed with footage from the film, and that’s it. They’re somewhat informative, though, personally, I could have used more information on the development for the film and why they opted to do this “PG” film. However, I do appreciate that they also focus on the comic book roots here for a bit, and actually spend a good amount of time on why introducing new younger characters is helping with bringing in new readers. However, I do have one nitpick, and, well, I don’t really think that one comic they talk about, New X-Men, is really suitable for younger readers. Still, it’s the standard EPK featurettes that are worth a quick breeze through.
The main draw in the extra features, and the ones I checked out first, are the two extended Hulk Versus previews, Hulk Versus Wolverine and Hulk Versus Thor. Both of these movies look absolutely amazing and just over-the-top brutal. But, they look just great! The previews do have some spoilers, particularly for the Hulk Versus Wolverine preview, but these two upcoming movies look just amazing and absolutely no-holds-barred. Hulk Versus is going to be an absolutely that looks to actually push the “PG-13” rating (at least for the Hulk Versus Wolverine segment). Hulk Versus Thor looks equally epic and fun. For those who want a rock ’em, sock ’em over-the-top violent Marvel cartoon that you won’t see on Saturday morning, well, here you go!
Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is a fun movie and a great addition to the Marvel Animated Features line. It pays respect to the legacy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes while creating a new one, one that I hope continues into the future. It really does evoke an old-school sensibility, of the classic Marvel comics. For those who originally dismissed this movie, I truly believe this movie deserves to be checked out. I Highly Recommend this movie and believe that it definitely deserves a spin. I know there are some stubborn “616” fans who are absolutely appalled by the idea behind this film, but it does deserve a chance. It’s a fun movie that has a solid story, likeable characters, doesn’t speak down to the viewer, and has some pretty great fight sequences. I would definitely be interested in seeing more installments of the franchise. Lionsgate Home Entertainment has done a respectable job on the audio/video aspect of the release, though, personally, I’m still hoping that they’ll beef up the special features. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is a fun movie and a great addition to the Marvel Animated Features line. It pays respect to the legacy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes while creating a new one, one that I hope continues into the future. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is a great movie for all ages, both the younger viewer and a fan of comics, and is quite possible the best Marvel Animated Feature to date.
Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow hits DVD and Blu-ray on September 2nd, 2008.