For the continued excellence that is the Marvel Studios films, the animated movie wing is similarly consistent in its mediocrity. Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher easily maintains that not so proud tradition with another weak, uninspired effort that once again proves that if you want fun, exciting adventures featuring The Avengers your local theater is the only option worth considering.
Punisher (Brian Bloom, who provides the best voice performance) goes on a ninja-like bad-guy shooting spree and in the process, ruins a carefully laid out S.H.I.E.L.D. operation. To make amends, Nick Fury (John Eric Bentley, a suitable stand-in for Samuel L. Jackson’s Fury), recruits Punisher to team with Black Widow (Jennifer Carpenter) to prevent terrorist organization Leviathan from using S.H.I.E.L.D. tech to create a new brand of super soldier. Because clearly in an operation that requires a certain level of tactful precision, agents able to be a team player and follow orders, Punisher is the first name that comes to mind.
For a film featuring two of Marvel Comics’ most bad-a$$ heroes, Mitsutaka Hirota’s screenplay is far too melodramatic and silly. Punisher isn’t an especially deep character, but this is the second Marvel animated film he’s appeared in and this time he’s got an expanded co-starring role instead of a far more appropriate cameo. With his lack of powers and single-minded obsession with stopping gangsters and common street thugs, he’s a character that’s ripe for a live-action show not a budget-be-damned animation film.
Hirota can’t settle on a tone for Widow’s character either. One moment she’s overly aggressive, the next she’s trying to peacefully resolve conflicts. Of the cast, Widow is the most frustrating to watch because of how inconsistent she’s written. The tacked on romantic subplot, borrowing from Black Widow’s comic book past, is a dud too. It also doesn’t help that the filmmakers over-sexualize her every chance they get. She seriously looks like she’s concealing two missiles in her leather outfit.
Kenichi Shimizu, one of the key animators for Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, makes his directorial debut here and his work reflects both the best and worst of anime projects. The action scenes are dynamic with the final battle especially capturing the mayhem of an Avengers-style epic throwdown. On the other hand, the annoying amount of battles between Punisher and Black Widow; the unnecessary comedic characters; hard rock soundtrack and exaggerated video game-like fights, specifically the numerous punch stand offs, makes it hard to take seriously.
The box-cover image prominently features Iron Man, Thor and Hulk alongside the titular characters and along with Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and War Machine, they come in near the film’s conclusion to help save the day, but alas far too late to rescue the film.
With such a vast collection of outstanding stories in the Marvel Comics library, I’m really hoping that the masterminds behind these animated features stop cranking out these lackluster original stories and just adapt some of the classic Marvel storylines into films. Maybe then we’ll finally get an animated Marvel movie worth watching.
Rating: 3 out of 10