The Avengers has finally reached Blu-Ray after its long and impressive theatrical run where it gathered well over a billion dollars worldwide. Disney brings the action-packed superhero-heavy flick to the high definition format with an impressive array of bonus content, 2D and 3D versions of the film, plus a super-sonic 7.1 audio mix that will rattle the walls and test your speakers.
The Avengers picks up somewhere after the last Marvel films concluded. Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) team under S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to form one of the biggest all-star team of heroes the world has ever seen. Their common enemy is Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his army of aliens that he’s led to Earth for an invasion of epic proportions.
Fury calls upon Earth’s mightiest protectors to form an alliance called The Avengers; a unit tasked with protecting our home planet from foreign invaders of any kind. It’s of course not easy having all of these egos clashing, which brings doubt to Fury and his higher ups as the team struggles working together.
I’m going to be very vague with the plot of the film, because I’m assuming that the entire world has seen the film at least twice by now. If not then consider yourself lucky, because the less you know the better. Joss Whedon has essentially assembled the perfect team of actors to play some of the most popular comic book characters of all time. Finally, after years and years of waiting we get to see our favorite American soldier Captain America work side-by-side with the enormous green rage monster Hulk, while also trading occasional blows with the demi-god Thor. Plus, we also get the cocky and cool Tony Stark and and two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (Hawkeye and Black Widow).
Whedon’s film is as big as it’s ever going to get and the entire experience feels like an event like no other. The Avengers is without a doubt an achievement, because it somehow manages to balance all of the star power without ever weighing down on one character more than the other. It also ramps up the scale of the action, with alien invaders destroying street after street of our precious New York City.
The direction makes the action feel big, but the story much more compact. Our heroes are actually forced to work together and by doing so it reveals the film’s strongest trait; teamwork. Whedon proves to be a pro at building a film around teamwork dynamics, because The Avengers is at its absolute best whenever the entire team is fighting near each other and helping out whenever possible. There’s always a plan and Whedon sticks to it and shows us how one properly films a teamwork-based production without the audience losing track of who is fighting who and where each and every character is located during any given scene.
Action isn’t just slopped around with sparks and explosions, instead it’s large, but easy to understand. Characters move freely across the screen as the action briskly moves from character to character. The camera never stays focused on one scene for too long and that’s exactly what makes The Avengers feel like a film filled with energy and excitement.
Hemsworth, Evans, Renner and Johansson don’t leave the biggest marks on the film, but their characters are natural continuations from the past films. Thor sort of gets squeezed into the plot, making his entire existence an afterthought, while Renner and Johansson expand on their characters enough to almost warrant spin-off films. Evans’ Cap. doesn’t feel whole, with lots of his better scenes clearly getting left on the cutting room floor. There are deleted/alternate scenes with Cap. America that really help expand on his inner-feelings, but almost take away from the team-based film that Whedon keeps moving fast, without slowing down for too much side-chatter.
The biggest problem The Avengers suffers from is its painfully slow first act that almost completely ruins everything after it. The opening 30 or 40 minutes can be described as a snooze-fest, with characters simply getting re-introduced into the Marvel world, even though we’ve already seen them fight in previous films. It’s a bit of a drag having to re-learn all of their back-stories when it should be assumed that everyone watching The Avengers already saw Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, Iron Man (1 and 2) and The Incredible Hulk.
Still, Whedon picks up the pace rather quickly and makes The Avengers a memorable action film that is incredibly fun and silly, but mostly light and surface-level. It shouldn’t be hard finding entertainment in the film, but those searching for deeper dilemmas or stronger conflicts might want to consider switching their brain off before sitting down and watching such a spectacle.
The Avengers comes to Blu-Ray with a 1080p video transfer that is detailed and bright the second half of the film, but mostly dark and gloomy during the opening act. The film’s lacking opening looks intentionally unattractive, with the backgrounds being the only source of excellent clarity and picture structure. Everything else is sort of smudged away or murky, which compliments the mood of the film at that point. Once the action kicks into high gear the film turns into another exceptionally strong-looking transfer from Disney, with the ash and rubble providing just the right amount of texture for the colorful cast of characters.
Explosions feel warm and the special effects are top notch. The only negative to come from the second half of the film is in regards to the 3D disc and its problem with ghosting. 3D films often suffer from this whenever there’s just too much going on at once. Some might notice this whenever halos form around the characters and others might shrug it off as they absorb all of the excitement on the screen. My eye caught it fast, but I’ve trained myself to pick up some of the slightest 3D noises.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is robust and effectively mixed with lots of LFE activity. This is simply one of the best sounding Blu-Ray discs of the year, if not ever, because of the strength of each channel. There’s rarely a dull moment in the film from an audio standpoint.
Here’s a list of bonus content found in this combo pack:
- 2D & 3D versions of the film
- Commentary by Director Joss Whedon
- The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience
- Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 (HD)
- Gag Reel (HD)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD)
- Featurettes (HD)
- Soundgarden Music Video “Live to Rise”
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
- Music Soundtrack (Digital Copy)
There’s no denying director Joss Whedon‘s ability after seeing such an impressive film. The Avengers is a rare big-budget studio film that actually works as a popcorn flick and a character-oriented team-based comic book film. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it the best comic book movie ever or even one of the better ones of the past decade, but I certainly have no problems giving it credit for being an enjoyable experience, even if its sluggish first act nearly kills the entire thing before it even gets off the ground.
Some of the actors in the film don’t feel as strong as they were in their own standalone films, but that is merely because The Avengers is about them forming as a team and not working on their own. Whedon nails the teamwork stuff and does is pretty kick-ass job in delivering action that feels big and expensive, but doesn’t rely too much on shaky realism.
The film is far from perfect. The Blu-Ray disc on the other hand is much closer to perfection, with only a few hiccups holding it back from being a flawless combo pack. The video transfer suffers from a gloomy first act that’s mostly intentional, but the 3D ghosting during the second half is certainly unintentional. These two minor gripes hold the disc back, but everything else is stellar. The 7.1 audio mix is phenomenal and the special features are extensive, detailed and plenty-some, with Disney being kind enough to throw in the damn soundtrack on top of the various versions of the film (Blu, DVD, Digital).
Fans of the film will want to pickup this combo pack without hesitation. Disney knows how to take care of the fans and this combo pack is just another prime example of it. The film’s opening act is debatably awful, but the rest of the film is fun and easy to follow and has something for everyone. The Blu-Ray disc reflects that nicely, with the opening having some video troubles, but everything else looking and sounding perfect.
The Avengers Blu-Ray is highly recommended.