At this stage in the game, I don’t think anyone’s really needs or is interested in another review of The Avengers. If you’re curious about what we thought of the film, here’s my column on the making of the film (with a bit of review thrown in as well), Assembling the Avengers.
Honestly, this is maybe the most review-proof film I’ve ever seen. If you’re one of the three or four people on the planet who still haven’t gotten around to watching it, you don’t need somebody banging you over the head with another review. It doesn’t matter what reviewers say about this one. Once you make a billion and a half dollars around the world, reviews are no longer relevant.
Now the real question is just whether or not you need this film in your private home collection.
And I’m here to tell you that yes, you do.
The Avengers is a joyous superhero film experience that has unlimited rewatching potential despite a 143 minute run-time, and the Blu-ray release is practically perfect in every aspect. The video is a pristine AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1 and looks simply gorgeous. The colors are crisp, the blacks are deep and smooth, the action is clear, and the detail in every scene leaps from the screen. Expect to see this playing in every shop you go in that has HD TVs on sale this holiday season.
The audio is an immersive and crystal clear lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix and will demonstrate the strengths and limitations of your audio set-up. The mix is a wonderful movement from soft to loud, with an emphasis on sharp dialogue clarity in and amongst the sonic landscape of the huge action sequences. There is even attention paid to the subtle, almost ambient noises that make up the backdrop of every scene.
It really is as good as anyone could hope for.
The extras, overall, are a solid, if unimaginative lot. As always, I would have preferred a more detail oriented, much longer look at the making of the film. As a fan of the process, if there’s not at least a half-hour (and preferably at least an hour) of making of features I’m disappointed. Everyone who puts these packages together should watch and learn a lesson from the “Making Of” feature on the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Blu-ray. And while The Avengers falls a little short on that front, the audio commentary by Joss Whedon makes up for it this time.
- Commentary by Joss Whedon: This is worth the purchase itself. Whedon is charming and extremely informative about the creative process that went into developing through-lines for each character. He really provides a lot of insight into just how a project like this gets made. If you want some nuts-and-bolts knowledge about constructing a story with a large cast, this is invaluable.
- The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience: This extra allows you to access information on characters and story elements on your iPad, iPhone, laptop, etc. Not sure what all’s really in there as some parts aren’t live yet.
- Gag Reel (HD 4:05): This was pretty cute, but not as funny as some people online seem to think it is.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD 14:59): As usual with this sort of thing, most of these are unnecessary and you can tell just by watching why they were cut. The intro and outro bits, framing the film with Agent Hill’s (Cobie Smulders) debriefing are almost painful and would have set the stage for a far more somber and lifeless film. The best bits, though, involve Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) attempts to integrate into this new time period. They’re haunting and borderline brilliant, but it’s clear why they were cut. Ultimately, this film is about the team and that dynamic. Whedon’s original desire to focus on Cap as our entryway into the film would have upset what was already a precarious narrative balance. It’s good stuff, no doubt, but it doesn’t really fit into this film. It did, however, set up a nice moment with the waitress that we see at the end of the film, when she recognizes a maskless Cap as the hot guy she was hitting on in the deleted scene.
- Featurettes (HD 14:37): A Visual Journey – An interesting, if brief, look into the look and feel of the film. It’s a little light, but provides some nice little tidbits of information and a look into the filmmaking process. Assembling the Ultimate Team – The entire cast and Whedon take turns complimenting each other and praising everybody else’s talents and acting chops. At times entertaining; at other times gag-inducing. Nothing really to see here.
- Soundgarden Music Video “Live to Rise” (HD 4:49): The most boring Soundgarden song ever written. Tedious, pretentious, and lacking everything that made Soundgarden great in their heyday. It only comes to life when Kim Thayil is allowed to start cutting loose but that is quickly reined in for more boring blather from Cornell.
Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 (HD 11:20): I want to give this its own section here, because I don’t think we’ve really discussed the Marvel One-Shots in any of our reviews. For the uninitiated, these are short films included on the home video releases of first the Thor Blu-ray and then the Captain America Blu-ray releases.
The first, “The Consultant” essentially just set-up the post-credit scene in The Incredible Hulk where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) attempts to recruit Blonsky (Tim Roth) from General Ross (William Hurt). It turns out that was actually an attempt by S.H.I.E.L.D. to manipulate Ross into securing Blonsky in prison.
It was cute and made good use of the Hulk footage, while retconning a scene that probably wasn’t really thought out completely at the time they were doing it. What “The Consultant” does best is flesh out Agents Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) while giving the viewer an entertaining little glimpse into what is becoming a web of connections between these films.
The second, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer,” is really just an excuse to see Agent Coulson perform some bad-assery and help to establish him as a fan-favorite character and the glue that held all of these Marvel Movies together.
These first two shorts were both written by Eric Pearson and directed by Leythum. This time, the direction is taken over by Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito with Pearson returning to script the piece.
“Item 47” is the longest of the One-Shots so far and stars Jesse Bradford and Lizzy Caplan as Benny and Claire, a criminally-inclined couple who stumble across an alien gun after the Battle of New York (as it is called here) and decide to go on a cross-country crime spree, robbing bank after bank until they have enough money to buy a boat and sail off into the sunset.
Unfortunately, Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) is on the case, and before too long, the young lovers are captured with surprising results for everyone involved. In a move that I whole-heartedly endorse, Titus Welliver has been brought on-board as Agent Blake, Agent Sitwell’s new foil.
If there’s any way Hernandez and Welliver can be involved in the new S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot that Whedon is planning, I would like to take this opportunity to request that it be made so. I’ll watch Welliver in anything at all, and his chemistry with Hernandez is solid. Bradford and Caplan are also surprisingly likeable and if there’s any justice, they should be involved in future projects as well.
So, what’s the verdict?
Do I have to spell it out to you? Buy this disc. You don’t have to buy the massive 4-disc combo pack with the soundtrack unless you’re a completest, in my opinion. The 2-disc Blu-ray combo pack is a pretty good balance of value and entertainment for your buck. Do people still buy DVDs? I suppose if you’re that guy, you could buy the DVD, but I’d recommend upgrading your entire entertainment system and watching this like it was meant to be watched.
Or I suppose you could wait for that monstrous Marvel Movie Super Combo Extravaganza, or whatever it’s called. If I didn’t already have all the films, I’d be tempted.
But seriously, this is a no-brainer. If you love superhero films and the Marvel Studios versions in particular, this must be on your shelf. Now it’s time to start the buildup to Avengers 2.
Marvel’s The Avengers will be released on September 25, 2012.