Fresh from my high of watching the new Captain America 2: Winter Soldier, I decided to give the latest Madhouse and Marvel Production collaboration, “Avenger Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher” a try. The Punisher and the Black Widow should have been an awarding experience and a fan fiction writer’s wet dream, and though the sparks happen, nothing was set on fire. Major spoilers ahead:
The story begins with the Punisher wanting to take out a gun runner, who is putting dangerous new guns on the street. In an impressive fashion, the Punisher takes down a warehouse full of goons and captures their leader. Yet before he can dish out his own brand of justice, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Black Widow arrive to tell the Punisher how bad he just messed up their investigation. Black Widow and Punisher go at it for a while before Nick Fury breaks them up. After a small tirade of threats by the Punisher, Black Widow uses her stinger to knock him out and bring him to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier.
It’s here that he learns that the guns are based on stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. tech and that a group called the Leviathan is behind the problem. Normally Fury would look the other way at Punisher’s interference, but knowing how one-track minded the Punisher is at wanting to get rid of the guns, Fury threatens to lock him up for life to keep him away from the investigation. Unfortunately for Fury, the Punisher has intel on where the guns are being made and he doesn’t want to give it up unless he is involved in the mission. Fury gives into the blackmail and has the Black Widow join him. Together, they break into the lab and find out that the guns are just the tip of the iceberg - The Leviathan Organization are creating soldiers based on Hulk‘s DNA.
Black Widow and the Punisher’s relationship quickly breaks down as the Punisher decides to go after the gun runner who escaped him earlier and Black Widow decides to continue with the mission. Yet to her horror, she finds out that the S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist, who she fell in love with and thought had died, is the traitor that is supplying S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the enemy. He tells her that he didn’t feel good enough to be with her as just a mere scientist and wanted to be powerful as well. After trying to get Black Widow to join him in Leviathan, Black Widow turns him down and a fight soon erupts between them.
While Black Widow was fighting a losing battle against her super powered ex, Punisher catches up to his gun runner. He was just about ready to finish him off when the guy's cell phone emits a weird light that blinds him, giving the gun runner time to escape. So in the end, nothing was solved as both characters were unable to capture their prey. They retreat to a S.H.I.E.L.D. station in Istanbul, where they hope a young genius, named Amadeus Cho, would crack the gun runner’s phone and give them a new lead on Leviathan‘s whereabouts. This plan backfires horribly as the cell phone once again emit’s a bright light that causes a mind controlled Punisher to kill four S.H.I.E.L.D. officers. Fortunately, Black Widow is saved by Amadeus’s quick action in destroying the phone. When the Punisher came to his senses, he was immediately locked up by S.H.I.E.L.D. Black Widow argues with Fury to release him, but learns that Fury knew about her ex’s involvement and about the mind control. He only agreed to let the Widow and Punisher take the mission, because it was better for them to be mind controlled than the whole Avengers.
Black Widow is pissed off and sets the Punisher free after sharing a touching moment that goes into Punisher‘s back story. With no leads on the Leviathan, the duo goes to one of Punisher’s informant that tells them about an auction for the super soldiers that is going down in Manipur. They try to sneak into the auction, but Black Widow’s ex quickly learns about their appearance and sends super soldiers after them. During the fight, Black Widow convinces the Punisher to stop killing the former human-super soldiers. So he shoots them in the leg. The two are overwhelmed but the Hulk shows up to smash the soldiers. And they’re not alone in their fight, as the whole Avengers team shows up to lay siege on the auction house. The “play nice” rule goes out the window as the Avengers bring the smack down to super soldiers, super villains, and anybody else that gets in their way.
While all of this is going on, Black Widow and her ex takes on head of Leviathan in order to get his kill switch that could safely turn off the super soldiers. He quickly overpowers them just as the Punisher arrives and decides to punish the ex for helping Leviathan. Black Widow tries to talk Punisher out of killing her ex while she is battling Leviathan, but is taken down. Her ex throws himself in front of a laser blast meant for her and immediately dies. Punisher decides to “punish” Leviathan by stabbing him in the face and the kill switch on Leviathan‘s belt is used to neutralize the super soldiers. The story wraps up with Black Widow kissing her dead ex and ultimately letting Punisher go free once again when Fury demands that she arrest him. Punisher ends the movie by finally catching up to the gun runner that has been dodging him the whole movie.
WHEW! Now that the summary is over, Im going to tell you what I liked about the movie and it is mainly because of Madhouse Studios; I don’t know if it was script issues or voice acting, but I don’t put the blame on them for this movie flopping for me. The studio knows action and it is the action scenes, especially the fight scenes that really kept me from turning this film off. The fights between Punisher and Black Widow and them against other characters were crisp and played to their strength. Black widow was mostly in the air or showing her gymnastic training, while Punisher is a brute that will and can smash your face in - the opening scenes portray this perfectly. The visuals in the film were tight and Madhouse could only animate what it was given. Once again I have fallen in love with the line work and manga-esque feel to Marvel’s characters. I loved the art work of Madhouse’s X-men movie and this film continues the love. Black widow looks gorgeous and the Avengers looked amazing. I also would love to have a computer wallpaper design of the Punisher’s in his final scene.
Now for the dark side of the film, I think the dialogue killed this one, especially Black Widow. Maybe, I still have Scarlet Johansson’s portrayal in my head while I watched this film, but I felt annoyed by her voice acting; it sounded more childish and less strong than I would expect for Black Widow. Also, maybe in shorter doses I could handle it, but this movie is full of dialogue and the voices just sounded too wooden. I felt a Boondocks’ moment of wanting to throw a chair into a scene so that a Madhouse’s fight scenes could begin. When a viewer has to debate on having to mute a movie to enjoy it, then the dialogue needed to either be cut down or better expressed.
I also felt that throwing the whole Avenger team at the end was a smack in the face to Black Widow and the Punisher. I understand that they were going against a whole auction house filled with villains, but when has that ever stopped them before. The ending just needed a teaspoon of sugar that was nicely given by the amazingly timed appearance of the Hulk. This movie didn’t need to drown in superheroes. Finally, Amadeus Cho is the Jar Jar Blinks of this movie. Watch his parts at your own risk.
The Punisher, by himself, could have made “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher” awesome, but putting Black Widow in should have taken this one to unknown heights. Yet the film’s bad voice acting and cheesy script dragged the film into the ocean depths instead. It was so bad that the director decided to cover it up by throwing the whole Avenger team in it, but not even the popularity of the Avengers could pull this film up. The only true life saver was Madhouse’s stunning visuals and character design. And it’s because of them that I give Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher a 2 out of 5 instead of a -1.