Director: Jay Oliva
Cast: Noah C. Crawford, Aidan Drummond, Brenna O’Brien, Dempsey M. Pappion, Adrian Petrew, Tom Kane, Fred Tatasciore. Ken Kramer
Watch Next Avengers – Heroes of Tomorrow online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
On Sunday mornings, we like to watch cartoons. So we’re working our way through animated superhero cartoons on Amazon Prime Video UK. We call it Superhero Sundays.
Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is the fifth of the direct-to-video animated features produced by Marvel Studios and Lionsgate. Though nominally set in the same universe as the two Ultimate Avengers movies (the first two in the Marvel animated features series), it’s a standalone tale that takes place in the future. As such, despite centring on five entirely new heroes, it’s surprisingly entertaining.
The film opens with Tony Stark (Tom Kane) telling four sleepy children a bedtime story about the defeat of the Avengers at the hands of Ultron (also Tom Kane). However, before they fell, Captain America told Iron Man to take the children of the Avengers to a safe place, where Ultron would never find them. 12 years later, we meet them: James Rogers (Noah C. Crawford), son of Captain America and the Black Widow; Torunn (Brenna O’Brien), daughter of Thor and Sif; Azari (Dempsey M. Pappion), son of Black Panther and Storm; and Henry Pym Jr (Aidan Drummond), son of Giant-Man and The Wasp.
The four children live with Old Man Iron Man in a secret compound in the Arctic Circle, where he has been training them to use their powers. However, one day, a battered Vision (Shawn MacDonald) arrives at the compound to tell Tony that Hawkeye’s son, Francis Barton (Adrian Petrew), is also alive. While eavesdropping on Tony and Vision, the kids accidentally release the Iron Avengers (robot versions of the Avengers, created by Tony) and inadvertently reveal their location to Ultron, who reprograms them to kidnap Tony. With their mentor held captive in Ultra City, the Teen Avengers set out to rescue him and defeat Ultron, getting help from Francis Barton and Old Man Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) along the way.
It’s fair to say that anyone expecting a line-up of actual Avengers in Next Avengers is going to be disappointed, but there are plenty of compensations in the form of Old Man Iron Man and Old Man Hulk, while The Vision is pretty much the same as always, what with being a synthezoid and all. Scriptwriter Christopher Yost (who wrote several other Marvel animated features and cartoons) tries to get round the absence of the main Avengers by using the robot versions, which at least allows for the visual of the young versions battling their older counterparts.
As for the Teen Avengers themselves (both Teen Avengers and Avengers Reborn were considered as titles during production), they gel nicely as a team, with Torunn making an engaging and likeable prototype for Female Thor (her appearance here pre-dates the comics version of Female Thor), and the script getting in some nice moments of humour, including James advising Pym to “Make fun of his pants!” when they’re trying to get Old Man Bruce Banner (Ken Kramer) to turn into Old Man Hulk.
However, while the personalities and voice performances may be sufficiently different to tell them apart, the animation style unfortunately makes their facial features too similar, so much so that you could conceivably mistake James, Torunn, Francis and Pym for siblings.
On the plus side, the film’s depiction of Ultron is excellent, skewing closely to his depiction in the comics. It’s also a nice touch to have Tom Kane voicing both Tony and Ultron, since Tony created Ultron in this continuity (as opposed to the comics, where Ultron is Hank Pym’s creation). The animation on Ultron is also impressive, particularly in some of the lighting effects, and there’s a nice level of detail in Ultra City, a robotic construction that continually shifts around, a bit like a Transformer.
The film scores highly in terms of its action sequences too. The battles between the Teen Avengers and the Iron Avengers are genuinely exciting, while it’s a thrill for old school comics fans to see Old Man Iron Man and Old Man Hulk take on Ultron. The depiction of the Hulk is particularly enjoyable, boosted significantly by the casting of Fred Tatasciore, who plays the Hulk in most Marvel animated properties (he’s the Hulk equivalent of Kevin Conroy’s Batman).
On top of that, the script pulls off an effective little bit of emotion in Torunn’s subplot – she feels abandoned by Thor, who left Earth for Asgard when his father die. This is an engaging and surprisingly entertaining animated adventure, with likeable characters, dash of humour and exciting action. On the evidence here, Marvel could do worse than give the Teen Avengers their own spin-off series.
Next Avengers – Heroes of Tomorrow is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription until 31st August 2019.
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