Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and The Punisher Blu-ray Review

After interfering with a top secret mission, The Punisher is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and Avenger, Black Widow.  At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop LEVIATHAN, a global terrorist organization that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the Avengers, hangs in the balance.
Film  (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Lately Marvel has been ramping up their animated features with some of them turning out pretty good and others that should have been a lot better. Most of the time, the scripts have been pretty good but if they aren't executed well, it makes a difference. There seems to be a trend now towards making the films animated in an anime style which I'm sure some will appreciate but I'm not one of them. Black Widow and the Punisher falls into that category, but the concept was still intriguing to me and the cast was a plus too. Black Widow is played by Jennifer Carpenter, ("Dexter") and Brian Bloom ("The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes) voices the Punisher.

When a terrorist organization named Leviathan starts to cause problems for SHIELD, Director Fury sends in Black Widow to bring in the Punisher to assist them. As tough as Frank Castle is, he's not used to dealing with opponents as highly trained as Natasha Romanov and it's not long before he is in SHIELD custody. Black Widow and the Punisher are tasked to track down and retrieve some stolen SHIELD technology before it's sold to the highest bidder. With Widow being the consummate spy and Castle being an unstoppable presence for vengeance, they will prove to be a force to be reckoned with. 

This film was much better than the last couple of Marvel's direct to video animated films. The action is solid and pulls no punches and the characters are well defined. I wouldn't have thought of teaming these two characters up, but they really work well together as they both share a pragmatic world view that incorporates a lot more grey in it than Black Widow's Avenger pals' more black and white outlook. And speaking of the Avengers, it was great to see them come to their friend's aid at the end even if it doesn't last long. I wish Marvel would make some animated films with all of the Avengers instead of being satisfied with just a cartoon on Disney XD. We also get to see some well known evildoers too in cameo roles but the overall effect is to make this fit into the Marvel universe even more.

There were some plot points incorporated to flesh out Black Widow's character that I didn't care for, but I'll leave it at that to avoid spoiling the movie. I did like how the characters remained true to their personas from the comics and weren't changed due to a lack of understanding on the part of the writer. Even though I'm not a fan of the anime style used for the film, I still thought it had good production value and the animation was pretty solid too. I really hope that Marvel keeps on making these films but I wish that they would make them more in house and use the actual writers from the comics and make the characters look the way that they were originally drawn. All in all, this is a fun film that can help you bide your time in between now and the next Marvel film.
Video  (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is decent but nothing special. The animation looks clean and solid, but the colors aren't too bright and the detail isn't that sharp either. There are some scenes that look better than others, but there isn't much consistency throughout the film. Black levels aren't as dark and inky as they should be which is a shame considering that the film involves the two characters who are most likely to keep to the shadows to get their job done. 
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and the Punisher's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also serviceable but nothing to write home about. It has its moments but overall this mix plays it safe as is often the case with these direct to video efforts. The score is decently presented as are the sound effects, but they aren't as accurate as I would have liked. There's only a token effort to offer good cross channel directionality, but the dialogue is clear and easily understood. This mix is acceptable but could have been a lot better.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
Both of these extras are pretty light on content but I guess they're better than nothing.
  • Espionage and Punishment - This featurette looks at the exciting versions of these popular Marvel characters as adapted in this stunning style of anime. From early concept art and storyboards to the final film, all aspects of creating the compelling story of this unique anime feature are explored.
  • The Vigilante Vs. The Spy - A look at Marvel's Frank Castle (The Punisher) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow). Each of these characters feature dark and complex origins that led them to extreme action and extraordinary lives.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and the Punisher is a good concept but it could have been executed better. On the plus side, it is better than a lot of the more recent Marvel direct to video efforts with some good action and it has a script that's true to the characters. The Blu-ray itself could have been better too as the video and audio quality are only average quality and the extras are very limited. Fans of the characters should still enjoy this movie though, but I do wish that Marvel would step up their game and put as much effort into their animated films as they do their live action films which are amazing.

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