Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and The Punisher Blu-Ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2014
While Marvel has enjoyed tremendous success with their big screen theatrical films, they have lagged in recent years when it comes to animated features. Marvel had partnered with Lionsgate to produce eight, direct-to-video films from 2006 – 2011. In 2011 Marvel entered into a new partnership with Japan’s Madhouse animation studio to produce several anime TV shows including Ironman, Wolverine, and Blade. But in terms of features fans have been limited to the motion comic DVD releases produced by Shout Factory. As of 2013, Madhouse began to produce full-length features in the same Anime style with Ironman: Rise of Technovore. The second Madhouse feature is Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher.
The title is somewhat misleading and an obvious attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Avengers film. While the Avengers DO appear they don’t show up until the last 15 minutes of the film. The part of the title to concentrate on is Black Widow and Punisher as this is most like an old issue of Marvel Team-Up. From the very beginning it’s evident that this is geared to more adult comic book fans. The first time we see the Punisher he is grabbing a thug from behind and cutting his throat. He then wades into a group of armed bad guys, mowing them down with precision. The Punisher is on the trail of a man called Cain who is selling stolen weapons and weapons technology to a terrorist group called Leviathan.
The Black Widow appears on the scene informing Frank Castle that he has blown a S.H.I.E.L.D. operation that has been tracking the arms dealer. Naturally, Castle doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Nick Fury soon shows up along with a company of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to subdue The Punisher. Aboard a Helicarrier Castle learns that the technology was stolen from S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fury orders Punisher to work with Black Widow to take down the terrorists. While The Punisher is none too pleased about partnering with S.H.I.E.L.D., he grudgingly accepts the mission.
Punisher and Black Widow infiltrate a Leviathan base only to discover that they are creating an army of super-powered, bio-soliders. One of the men in charge turns out to be Widow’s former love, Elihas Starr who in the comics was known as the minor villain, Egghead. The battle culminates when Leviathan puts on a demonstration of their weapons for several villains including Gravitron, The Griffon, Baron Zemo, and The Grim Reaper. Outgunned, the cavalry arrives in the form of The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and Captain Marvel.
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher is a mixed bag. I have no problem with a film starring these two characters that typically prefer to work solo. But a grittier plot involving more espionage and crime elements would have fit better for these two non-super powered characters. There really was no reason to involve the Avengers other than ride the coattails of their popularity.
The anime is done with a more realistic style as opposed to the cartoony look of things like Dragon Ball Z and it fits nicely with the tone of the film. Comparing it to the comics it would definitely be a Marvel Knights kind of title. While there was no swearing it was quite violent and bloody. Still, I think there is a certain segment of fans that are just not going to like the anime look no matter what. As a comic fan you want to see these stories written by comic writers or at least based on stories that have appeared in the comics.
One area where DC Comics’ animated films have excelled over Marvel’s has been in the voice talent. While DC has utilized a lot of well-known Hollywood actors in the films Marvel has typically used actors who primarily work strictly as voice actors. That appears to be changing a bit. This film features “Dexter” veteran Jennifer Carpenter as Black Widow and character/voice actor Brian Bloom as The Punisher. Not a “senses shattering” (as Stan Lee might say) cast but a move in the right direction.
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher is an average to a slightly better than average film but at least it seems to portend of better projects to come.
Espionage and Punishment (9:11) – This is a making of featurette with interviews with Joe Quesada and other Marvel Animation Execs. Includes overviews of both The Punisher and Black Widow.
The Vigilante Vs. The Spy (10:09) – Looks at the two different ideologies of the main characters. Includes comments from Director Kenichi Shimizu.
Concept Art Gallery
Mania Grade: B-
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Brian Bloom, John Eric Bentley, Eric Bauza, Fred Tatasciore
Written By: Mitsutaka Hirota, Marjorie Liu
Directed By: Kenichi Shimizu
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 2014
Special Features: See Below