DVD REVIEW: AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL – BLACK WIDOW AND PUNISHER / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: KENICHI SHIMIZU / SCREENPLAY: MITSUTAKA HIROTA / STARRING: BRIAN BLOOM, JENNIFER CARPENTER, JOHN ERIC BENTLEY, GRANT GEORGE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The latest Marvel effort to be animated by the guys at Madhouse, Avengers Confidential looks to give some attention to Black Widow (Carpenter) and The Punisher (Bloom), two characters often left in the shadows of Captain America, Iron Man, et al. After Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, interferes in a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission, he’s taken prisoner by Nick Fury (Bentley) and his organisation. Then, when the Leviathan terrorist group gets hold of some S.H.I.E.L.D. plans, Fury’s only option is to team The Punisher up with Black Widow in the hope that the feisty duo can save the day.
Avengers Confidential is a feature that certainly shows some promise, although it ultimately feels a little flat when all is said and done. Key to the film’s charm, though, is the use of erratic, violent lone-wolf Frank Castle. After appearing in a supporting role in last year’s Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, also from Madhouse, Castle gets to take centre-stage here. And with Black Widow thrown in for good measure, this animated fare shows off two of the darker heroes that reside within the Marvel world. Whilst Widow has a few moments to shine, it’s the dirty, brutal, and trigger-happy Punisher who steals the show. Widow takes her orders from Fury, whereas Castle has no hesitation in giving S.H.I.E.L.D. the finger.
The dynamic between The Punisher and Black Widow works relatively well, and Castle’s anti-authoritarianism and single focus makes for a refreshing change in a Marvel movie. Unfortunately, when Castle isn’t on screen the film starts to trip over itself and become formulaic, repetitive, and dull. The threat of Leviathan, plus a unique adaptation of Marvel villain Elihas Star (George), never comes across as anything more than just fodder for Fury, Widow, and Punisher to butt heads over and merely acts as a convenient plot point.
In terms of animation, Avengers Confidential looks very impressive, although the feature has issues with the fluidity of its characters, and a lot of the action just comes off as being ripped straight from an anime movie of twenty years ago. Additionally, the English dub seems to suffer massively in terms of synching audio to visual, helped none by various musical samples that sound as if they’ve been pulled from an early '90s video game finale.
Despite throwing in several familiar and not-so familiar Marvel faces, Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher never becomes anything more than just okay. In what feels like simply a marketing strategy to gauge interest in the Black Widow and Punisher characters, possibly with wider cinematic implications, it’s safe to say that Brian Bloom’s grimly engaging Frank Castle is the one served best. We can only hope that Marvel and Madhouse lose the hangers-on and give Frank his own dark, bloody, excessively violent outing next time.
Extras: Two Featurettes – “Espionage and Punishment”, “The Vigilante Vs The Spy”