Next AvengersWow, the Lionsgate Entertainment/Marvel Comics team-up sure have been busy, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow being their fifth joint production, direct-to-DVD animated feature in the short space of three years! And while their earlier releases of Ultimate Avengers, Iron Man and Doctor Strange have certainly targeted more conventional super-hero-loving teens, Next Avengers breaks new ground for the pairing as it is the first movie to be rated PG (instead of the usual PG-13) and is aimed quite squarely at the younger market, perhaps trying to steal some of the younger fan demographic from successful shows like DC’s Teen Titans animated TV series and Cartoon Network’s highly popular Ben 10 franchise.

Anyway, the basic premise for Next Avengers is that Ultron finally gained enough power to destroy the original Avengers and has since slowly but surely begun to subjugate the world under his organised rule. However, stolen from under his nose are four special children that just happen to be the offspring of some of the original Avengers, and who of course just happen to possess some very special powers of their own!

Hidden away from the rest of the world, the children’s mysterious guardian known simply as Tony continues to protect and hide them from this unstoppable threat, all the while training them to ensure that one day, when the right time finally arises, the Next Avengers can achieve what their parents could not.

But of course, that time could come a whole lot sooner than anyone could ever have guessed…

Baring in mind that the movie is aimed at a slightly younger audience, it turns out that in actual fact Next Avengers happens to carry a pretty well-written story with a strong script, a surprising number of little surprises and twists and in general just happens to be pretty damn enjoyable – even for us older, more cynical fogeys out there! Certainly you shouldn’t go out and expect something brilliant, but writer Christopher Yost (no stranger to writing comics and animated television shows in the first place) comes up with a solid, slightly above average super hero yarn that really can be enjoyed by fanboys both big and small.

On the animation front, Next Avengers certainly puts in a lot of effort, first by shooting straight for the stylized, slightly ‘manga style’ character animation that is currently so popular on TV these days but then promptly following it up with some beautifully rendered and animated backgrounds, chock full of life, character and colour. There is bit of 3D CGI thrown in here and there, but thankfully this is kept to a fair minimum as the meld between the two is still not quite as perfect as I would perhaps like to see. There are a lot of explosions and fighting to take care of and the animators manage to capture the excitement and young, spunky spirit of the movie pretty much perfectly.

Likewise, the sound and general music track for the film is pretty well scored, but I have to say that the final battle sequences really could have done with some better-suited musical numbers as the difference between the tone envisioned by the soundtrack and the tone illustrated by the visuals couldn’t have been any further apart if they had tried. The voice actors all do a pretty good job (no big names though), though there are one or two that simply come across as way too stiff for the particular character that they are depicting.

However, all that said and noted, Next Avengers really is a fun, polished romp and the Lionsgate/Marvel team-up continues to go from strength to strength, delivering top quality animated features that could just as easily appeared on the big screen had the decision not been made to go straight to DVD.

So a top quality, enjoyable watch (remembering the target demographic of course) that both kids and ‘kidults’ all over the world will simply lap up. (I know I did!)

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