Avengers Assemble Episode 1 Review
Marvel’s new Avengers cartoon is out with “The Avengers Protocol Part 1” and it is incredibly underachieving in every department. Made by Man of Action (the team behind Ben 10 and Generator Rex) and Jeph Loeb they tried to create a cartoon more in-line with the live action movies for marketing synergy, and to make toys. While part 2 doesn’t come out till the weekend there is enough in the first part to comment on how this new series is going to be.
The episode opens on Avengers Tower from the movie as Tony Stark is staking his former Avengers members while saying it wasn’t a bad thing that they split up. We don’t get any reasons why they’re not a team anymore other than “they didn’t work well together” genericness. As he’s watching the other heroes fighting bad guys he sees Captain America’s having trouble fighting the Red Skull, who is dying from generic plot disease, and flies to help. He sees the Skull vaporise Cap and MODOK appears and incapacitates Iron Man; then they teleport away instead of killing him since that would’ve been sensible. Tony assembles the Avengers to avenge Cap and in-between summoning them and them getting to the Avengers Mansion (for some reason they have a mansion and tower block in this show) Tony has managed to get a statue made as a memorial for Cap. They go fight Hydra, find Cap isn’t dead but the Red Skull has switched bodies, and voices, with him; they fight some more and switch them back in about six minutes. At the end Skull uses MODOK to remove Tony’s armour and put it on himself in order to keep himself alive. Tony’s now dying because his arc reactor in his heart has been removed to power the suit, and it’s “To Be Continued” for set-up on the same basic plot we’ve just seen.
The entire thing is just rushed. This plot could have been two parts with greater emphasis on getting the team back together in part one; then part two is about the Red Skull body swapping with Captain America. I’m not even sure what the point of starting them off as disassembled if the entire thing is resolved rather quickly and without much effort. There’s not much of a plot but they go through the characters and beats so fast that none of it truly registers with the audience. For a two parter the entire thing is a fairly self contained story, excluding the Red Skull escaping. They foiled his scheme and he’s off to start a brand new one and I imagine that the next episode will be more of the same with the team now once again barely able to work together till the last few minutes despite the ending of this episode. I’m not even sure how an electromagnet meant to keep shrapnel out of a heart is meant to keep the Red Skull alive, but that’s me thinking harder than this show wants me to think.
The characters are just cardboard cut outs of the Avengers. Tony’s arrogant and a bad leader, Hulk is angry and doesn’t play well with others, Thor has a hammer and likes to fight, Hawkeye makes jokes, Black Widow is flawless because she’s a girl, and Falcon is the new guy. Because everything is so rushed no one is given time to themselves to set up their characters beyond two dimensions. Falcon is really badly treated since he’s meant to be the point of view character yet we know nothing about him; he’s a SHIELD agent that moonlighted for Tony in some capacity (the hows and whys are never gone into and probably never will be) and he gets fired from SHIELD for no real reason other than a bad gag. As a first episode it really does nothing to get the audience invested in these characters and instead hopes they’ve seen the movies.
The big problem is that the characters have no real chemistry with each other. I’m not sure if they’ve been miscast or that the voice director is terrible, or both, but the result is rather bland character interactions. The writing certainly doesn’t help either, such as Hulk and Thor fighting just because it’s what they do, with little rhyme or reason given as to why. Good voice acting could’ve saved some of that and we don’t have any of that here. Nothing really stands out as terrible from the actors, who are all talented in other works, but they all feel a little phoned in here. Even Fred Tatasciore, Marvel’s Hulk voice actor from many of their recent shows including the previous Avengers cartoon Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, just feels a little lifeless here. So I am willing to say this is just bad directing.
The animation certainly doesn’t help matters either. The character designs are bland and lifeless. While stylised designs seem to be a love them or hate them thing they at least gave shows a unique look and feel while giving the characters life. More detailed designs can be used to add more depth to characters by adding in little things, like body armour to non-powered characters or padding in places to those that need it. This show has neither of those qualities. It’s more detailed because that’s what’s expected of an action show; that really effects the animation given the clear limited budget. Everything’s stiff and there’s even points where they move a static pose of a character across the screen. There’re shows made ten years ago on a lower budget that look better than this. They also add a widescreen effect at times in order to try to add a cinematic feel to it, and sometimes for a more comic book look. It doesn’t really add much of anything to the show.
The series was meant to be more in-line with the movies than the other Marvel cartoons so they could merchandise them better. Which is why Falcon is in the cast since he is in Captain America 2. They even integrated parts of the Avengers movie into the series, specifically famous lines and actions. This is very evident in it’s marketing which reworked the movie poster and verbatim took dialogue from the movie to use in the trailer:
However that immediately fails because the movies will be doing more and changing established elements while the series will be fairly static in comparison; therefore making this show outdated very quickly. That is quite evident given it’s been released only a little while after Iron Man Three came out. Not to spoil that movie but the ending to it makes it impossible for the plot of episode two to work. So by trying hard to have a series more like the movies they’ve handcuffed how they series must look but that also made it obsolete even before the first episode aired.
Overall this is a rather poor opening to a show that is rather bland and derivative of other Avengers material. I can’t think of any redeeming feature as this is pretty much an 80s cartoon made today. Insipid story, lacklustre (at best) animation, 2-dimensional characters, though at least an 80s cartoon would have better voice acting, There’s much better Avengers material that’s far more worth your time than this show.