Review: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher

Avengers ConfidentialDirected by Kenichi Shimizu

Sony, August 4

Anime Avenger Antics.

If later this year is too long to wait until the next series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and next May seems like ages away for Avengers: Age of Ultron (especially after the teasers at San Diego last weekend), then have no fear: new animated release Avengers Confidential should fill the gap nicely, although it focuses on a pairing you might not expect.

Beginning with a raid on an arms-dealer’s operation by Punisher Frank Castle – which, much like him, doesn’t pulls its punches – we soon find out that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Enter Black Widow (played in the movies by Scarlett Johansson, but here looking facially more like Heather Graham and ably voiced by Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter), who tells the blundering vigilante that S.H.I.E.L.D has been monitoring the situation in the hopes that they’d uncover a bigger scheme. Unable to see past this one mission, Castle refuses to hand over the dealer and instead he and Widow proceed to slug it out… while said dealer escapes.

Castle is taken into custody – it turns out he and Nick Fury (John Eric Bentley doing a pretty decent Samuel L. Jackson impression) have, surprise, surprise, a history – but then grudgingly agrees to work with the organisation. The aim? To take down Leviathan, a terrorist group who’ve had a hand in all things evil since the dawn of time apparently.

It’s the start of an odd pairing that, while on the face of things shouldn’t work, actually does because of the similarities in their characters. Both loners, both with blood on their hands, both bloody-minded. But as they get deeper into Leviathan’s heart, there’s a nasty shock in store for Widow and a threat that means the other Avengers have to be called in for a slam bang finale. Will they manage to defeat such a foe? You’ll have to watch to find out.

I’m a big fan of the anime style – I was one of the original champions of movies like Akira over on these shores – and as such I for one welcome Marvel adaptations like these. The fight scenes, though obviously stylised, are well handled and the overall designs are traditional yet fresh; I particularly liked this take on Thor. As can be expected, some of the emotional stuff is a little heavy-handed, and the story does massively riff on Captain America (Leviathan soldiers even dress a bit like Hydra’s troops), Avengers Assemble and The Winter Soldier, but all in all it’s a decent watch – and a chance for two characters who don’t very often get centre stage to shine. But that’s also its main problem, because the title and cover especially makes it look like it might be more of an ensemble affair – whereas actually the rest of the Avengers don’t really enter into the equation until very late in the day. But as long as you go into this with your eyes open…

The DVD also contains a couple of 10 minute featurettes, tackling the origins of the characters and the production of the film by Madhouse studios.

Confidentially speaking… 7/10

Paul Kane

Click here to order Avengers Confidential – Black Widow And Punisher from Amazon.co.uk

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