After interfering with a top secret mission, The Punisher is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and Avenger, Black Widow. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop Leviathan, a global terrorist organization, that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the Avengers, hangs in the balance.
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher Review
When Marvel commissioned Japanese studio Madhouse to produce a direct-to-video animated movie, I have to wonder just what they told them. Did they have a specific goal in mind for the production or did they just let Madhouse run wild with ideas? In Marvel’s attempt to introduce Japanese audiences to the characters of Black Widow and Punisher, they have crafted an anime movie that pays lip service to the characters before slathering them in the thick coat of old anime tropes.
The odd pairing of the two characters just didn’t work for me. In trying to pair up the brooding nature of Punisher’s vigilantism with Black Widows' femme fatale nature, neither character is given much development or character the way they’re forced into a mission together. Most of the Punisher’s violent methods are played up with that quiet stoic attitude atypical of anime characters such as Golgo 13. He could make for an interesting pairing with Black Widow given her nature to act as a double agent, but such a character is not present here. We’re instead treated to a more bubbly and devoted agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who teases more than she tricks. Imagine how much more these two could have talked about as people used to being off the grid and operating from the shadows for different gains.
In place of that far better story, however, is a standard superhero spy plot. A new breed of super soldiers need to be stopped and Frank “Punisher” Castle has impeded the S.H.I.E.L.D investigation. Nick Fury has a history with Castle and agrees to look the other way if he can help out with the mission. The seductive Black Widow teams up with the Punisher to storm a snowy base and later the streets of Japan. The Punisher keeps firing big guns while Black Widow utilizes her agility that is apparently so strong she could be a distant cousin of Quicksilver. And, just so we can tack on that Avengers title, a handful of other A-list superheroes pop up as well.
The problem with this bland tale of secret super soldiers is that it spends an awful lot of time talking about the plot than developing any character. Per the anime stereotype of limiting animation, there are severely long sequences of dialogue to supposedly expand the mystery of all this. During their raid on a snowy base, Black Widow runs across an old flame she thought was dead who is now working for the enemy. Oh, you didn’t know about this character? Don’t worry - the movie actually stops to deliver an elongated origin story right in the middle of combat. The camera pans, mouths flap, flashbacks appear in bright shots and my eyes roll with boredom.
But let’s get to the action - considering that is mostly the point to all of this. There are some decent moments of combat and gun fights strung along the way with some minor quips here and there. It’s the strongest element of the movie, but loses its way in the third act when a large number of Marvel heroes are randomly thrown at the screen for the final fight. The Hulk hops in for some smashing time. Iron Man flies into shoot some energy blasts from his suit. Thor throws a hammer, Warmachine fires his machine gun and Captain Marvel flies around the screen. Oh, and there are villains thrown in at the last minute with the additions of Graviton, Griffin and Taskmaster. You know what would really make this third act action sequence more thrilling? Actually building up these characters rather than shoehorning in all of them at the last minute. Even Avengers: Age of Ultron had the decency to at least acknowledge Warmachine and Falcon before bringing them in as support.
This latest addition from the Marvel Anime campaign just proves once again how unfocused and uninspired the people behind it really are. They really need to take a cue from DC Comics which has crafted a more defined and relatable animated universe. By comparison, Avengers Confidential feels more like a passive marketing ploy than an actual story. Just throw in two Marvel characters, cram in Avengers references, dress it up with all those anime tropes and then slap it on the shelves as a thoughtless companion piece. Marvel fans deserve better for following such a shameful tie-in which doesn’t desire to be anything more than that.