The weekend brought us to the store for a DVD copy of Thor: The Dark World and a stranger, peculiar animated relative (second cousin?) Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher.
Mixing Anime and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I think) made for a great sequel to the Madhouse produced Marvel Anime series, but underserved as a rally cry for this weekend’s live-action Winter Soldier. The Cosmic Treadmill ran with this on the HUD, and here’s what worked and what didn’t!
The Punisher, for better or for worse, has always been a favorite Marvel character. I grew up with his War Journals, his Armory, his War Zone and throughout the ‘80s. Artists like Jim Lee Mike Zeck drawing Frank Castle and his family’s murder was my raison d’être! One day, I thought, I’d be rich and sexy enough to buy Amazing Spider-Man #129. I thought wrong!
As for Black Widow, co-star of this movie and The Avengers, I’ve only been interested since Iron Man 2. ScarJo’s stoic yet sexy expressions and her trickery over Loki in The Avengers certainly puts her in the front lines of the squad, but ‘back in my day’ Black Widow was second string. I have more Mockingbird comics in my long boxes than Natasha Romanoff!
Either way, story wise, this is a great pairing. You know what you are going to get with Frank Castle. He’s the opposite of Batman—killer, judge, jury, executioner. Black Widow, a former Russian spy, now S.H.I.E.L.D. spy under the thumb of Director Nick Fury (Cinematic, Samuel L. Jackson version) is one who must answer to military protocol and her higher ups.
While tracking down some scum, Punisher is arrested by Widow and S.H.I.E.L.D. after a decent fight scene between the two, where Widow’s hand to hand combat training is showcased, while Castle relies on his guns.
Of course, Fury holds Punisher captive, only to reveal moments later that he may need his ‘special skills’ aboard the Helicarrier. A reluctant partnership is formed, as Black Widow and The Punisher target yet another one of the Marvel Universe’s crime syndicates, Leviathan. Leviathan has Eastern Bloc ties to Russia and was created by writer Jonathan Hickman for Secret Warriors in 2010.
From here on out, the movie gets a little clunky, and more like an Anime (not that there’s anything WRONG with that…) than a Marvel Zombie might be used to. I keep flashing back to the spy game Golgo 13 for the NES. I’d show my vast ignorance for the medium by citing other influences but Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell immediately come to mind!
Leviathan is planning something sinister in the familiar plot point of making a room full of super soldiers, abducted from the world and stuck in glass cylinders. Black Widow is betrayed by a former lover and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent while Punisher sneaks around the compound looking for answers. Cain, the businessman bad guy already is on crutches thanks to The Punisher, but narrowly escapes his clutches with a brain-wash scan.
For Marvel characters, we do get cameos from the Cinematic Avengers eventually, some great fight scenes but also some awkward CGI. For a cel-animated movie, I prefer the creators to stick with that if the computer images are going to stick out like a sore thumb—and a few times in this movie that happened.
Smartly, a lesser known Marvel property was used, Amadeus Cho (created by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa) is brought to life and a fun teenage sidekick that is natural to the genre. He even has his little coyote pup Kirby with him for the cute factor.
Keep an eye out for Griffen, too. Last effectively used by John Byrne in 1990, I think? I kid. He’s been around. Flapping his lion wings and what not.
This is a good movie, not great. If you can get this soon at a Redbox location or rent for cheap do it! The Venn Diagram for Anime and Marvel fans has to be pretty sizeable. Is it worth the Blu-Ray price of admission? Possibly for fans of Marvel Anime but not for die-hard Avengers/Captain America/Thor/Iron Man/Punisher movie fans.
The fight scenes are solid and fun to watch, and save for problems I have with inserted CGI, the animation from Madhouse is both cinematic and dramatic.