When I first saw The Avengers on the big screen I worried if it could be as large and as magnificent on the smaller screen. Few blockbuster films had achieved such success in creating a fun experience and the size of screen help sell audiences on the Marvel Universe gone wild. But believe me, true believers, if you have a tricked out home theater this is one of the essential blu-ray purchases you’ll make this year.
The Avengers accomplished Marvel Studios’ Phase I in spades. It collected all of these larger than life characters established in other films, and put them on a bigger stage against more unimaginable villains for the big screen. They used the solo films to develop these characters and then brought the all-star cast together to accomplish a few more goals–besides making gobs of money, that is: 1) To kick cinema ass. 2) Expand the horizons of the Marvel Film Universe and 3) Begin laying the foundation of Phase II, towards a second Avengers film that would be an ambitious achievement in franchise construction and comic book film history.
The Avengers didn’t let down the audience, it earned all of those multiple viewings, and it brought people out into the theaters in massive waves throughout the summer. Its success also cemented Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Mark Ruffalo in their superhero roles for the foreseeable future. Robert Downey Jr. is already a fixture amongst moviegoers. It also made us believe that The Hulk can work (in bites) on film, reaffirmed Joss Whedon as a god amongst the geeks and the mainstream, and it made sure that comic book movies are here to stay, for a long, long time.
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Technically this film is just short of being reference material, but it’s not so much the way the blu-ray was produced, it’s more the way it was shot. One major complaint I had with the film when seeing it in 3D at the theaters was that wearing glasses darkens the already muddy images making scenes like the battle in the woods, and the opening sequence of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility collapsing almost impossible to view without squinting. Although that’s a trait in Whedon’s work, now that I think about it, several episodes of Angel were also extremely dark to the eye. That hasn’t improved on blu-ray, regardless if it’s in 2D or 3D. Still the film looks great in high definition where the scenes are considerably brighter. Skin tones are natural, filled with warmth, textures look accurate even when it’s made up of computer graphics and fans will wonder at all of the intricate details in costumes.
What will help give the blu-ray ample replay is the audio. Atmospheric sounds and LFE are given a big boost to suck you into your sofa. The final battle scene in New York will be playing in home theater demo rooms for the next year for sure, with its spatial movement of the Chitauri army populating the city. The Avengers has wonderful sound design throughout and there’s never a feeling that you’re not getting your money’s worth.
Special features aren’t as robust as some of the other solo Avengers films, in fact they’re a little on the underwhelming side but there’s a terrific Joss Whedon audio commentary that lays down a track full of anecdotes, dry wit, and technical information for all of the film school junkies. It doesn’t come with any pretention; it’s just straight talk, from one geek to all to the fanboys and fangirls. There’s no shortage of compliments from Whedon to his cast and crew so expect that going in.
Beyond the essential Whedon talk track, the Marvel One-Shot:Item 47 is the other standout supplement, taking a cue from Marvel Studios’ not-so-distant cousin, Pixar in trying to expand out some of the threads planted in the film. I hope they open each of the upcoming Marvel films with shorts. They give the audience a hors d’ oeurve to think about and push out the borders of the Marvel Film Universe and its far reaches.
In Item 47, Jesse Bradford and Lizzy Caplan play a Bonnie and Clyde-like couple doing bank heists with a Chitauri weapon that they’ve been able to work. It makes you buy into the world more and gives a taste of what ABC’s Joss Whedon-produced S.H.I.E.L.D. television show could be like. It’s also a good test to see if minor characters could work on a bigger scale. As I said above, there’s a lot of work to get to the end of Phase II, so every little bit counts, counting short films.
The rest of the disc is filled with the usual unimaginative EPK fluff including a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, a Soundgarden music video, and two featurettes that skim the surface of what could’ve been. The Avengers Initiative is a feature to try and bring a second screen experience where you can tap into the S.H.I.E.L.D. database and look up factoids while you’re watching the film. The accompanied DVD only has the two featurettes and Whedon’s commentary.
It’s hard not to feel like another, bigger release of this blu-ray with more bells and whistles is coming, maybe when Iron Man 3 is released in theaters. There’s also a giant, 10-disc box set that’s rumored to come down the line at some point. If Blu-Ray and DVD collectors feel like The Avengers was short-changed when it comes to extras, it’s because they were. But the film will still get dozens of spins in the player and in the end, that’s what counts the most. It’s got action, humor, fantasy, and an overflowing amount of awe-inspiring movie magic, the super hero film of the year is easily this year’s blu-ray to own, even if you have to purchase a better version of it again in the near future.
The Avengers [Blu-ray]
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston and Samuel Jackson
September 25, 2012
9 / 10