Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
While there may be some argument over who is making the better live action movies, Marvel vs. D.C… I personally don't think there is any real argument since I kind of think Marvel is trouncing D.C… but there really can't be much of an argument over who is making the better animated movies.  At this point the D.C. animated features have lapped the Marvel animated features three times.  But we are holding out hope for the Marvel features to make a comeback, hopefully starting with this one here, 'Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher'.  After watching Black Widow & Punisher', let's go ahead and assume the Marvel Renaissance starts with the next animated feature.

Frank Castle (voiced by Brian Bloom) has had enough of these gun runners flooding his city with all of their illegal contraband, and he's in the process of punishing these suckers.  Then SHIELD and Nick Fury (John Eric Bentley), as well as the Black Widow (Jennifer Carpenter) swoop down and completely wreck Frank's punishing activities.  Apparently SHIELD has this all under control, they have an operation taking place and the Punisher is messing things up.  Nick needs Frank to stop.  Did Nick Fury just meet Frank Castle or something?  Regardless, The Black Widow and the Punisher engage in a spirited battle and eventually this rift gets ironed out.

After some tense conversation, and after Nick comes to realization that Frank isn't going to listen to him anyway, he decides to put Natasha and Frank on the mission together, contingent on Frank following Natasha's lead.  Did Nick just meet Frank Castle or something? 
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What Nick and Natasha find out is that the evil conglomerate known as Leviathan has some kind of wicked Super Soldier plan going on, with Frank going off on his own to do his own thing, but this time there are repercussions to Frank's brashness which will play out in a very tragic way when he makes it back to the SHIELD helicarrier.  Natasha has her own issues with this situation as she discovers her former lover Elias (Grant George), whom she thought was dead, is the brains behind Leviathan's evil super soldier plan with Elias turning himself into a super soldier.  Something along the lines that he didn't think he was badass enough to be Natasha's man or something… wah, wah wah….

Eventually Natasha and Frank figure out where Leviathan is holed up with these Super Soldiers that they plan to auction off to the super villains of the world, and they are going to take them down.  Even the Avengers show up to help.  What the Avengers needed to do was take some time out to beat up Natasha and Elias.  Their whining is literally driving me crazy. 

The animation for 'Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher' was handled by the anime house Madhouse and they are easily amongst the best in the business at what they do, and the animation here is top notch… I'm just not sure it works for this particular brand of superhero movie, just like I'm not sure it worked in 'Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore'.  It could be the exaggerated lines, the typically over-developed women, or the fact that the animation is so obviously anime styled… there's something inherently off putting about it. 

But if the only issue that we had with 'Black Widow and Punisher' was the animation, which will readily admit was excellent despite our issues with it, then we'd really have no issues with this animated film.  Such was not the case.  First off, I really could've done without the overwrought melodrama that the filmmakers brought to the table.  I understand the need to humanize our characters somewhat… or maybe I can't since I already know stories behind The Punisher and The Black Widow… but let's assume I can understand the need, but the soaring soap opera levels the filmmakers took the relationship between Natasha and Elias felt like overkill. 

Another thing which I think affected this melodrama, and how we related to it, was the dialog.  It felt forced and stilted and not a lot that came out of these animated characters mouths felt anywhere near anything anybody human would say, or non-human for that matter.  Bad dialog gives the illusion that we are dealing with bad voice actors, but I've heard a lot of these actors in other animated dramas and I know they aren't this bad.  So all the blame has to go to the scripting for this one.

There was plenty of action though, and we will admit that a lot of the times while Natasha and Elias where whining about their failed relationship, at least they were doing it in the middle of kicking one another's ass.  Plus one of the Avengers who showed up was Ms. Marvel, even though she didn't get any lines.  Hopefully she'll get her own animated feature soon.

The bottom line is that the D.C. animated features has set the bar pretty darned high for these animated features, and the Marvel animated features haven't yet risen to the occasion.  We would like to say that 'Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher' was a step in the right direction, but unfortunately we can't even say that.
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