Avengers, The (Blu-ray) (2012)
Featurette-Short Film - Item 47 (11:20)
Featurette-A Visual Journey (6:02)
Deleted Scenes-Deleted & Alternate Scenes (14:59)
|Year Of Production||2012|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Joss Whedon|
Paramount Home Entertainment
Robert Downey Jr.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Auto Pan & Scan Encoded||
English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 (6912Kb/s)
Italian DTS HD High Resolution Audio 7.1 (2304Kb/s)
Hindi Dolby Digital 5.1 (320Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Setting up the sequel and an amusing post-credits|
So here it is – the first proper big screen incarnation of The Avengers. A culmination of several previous Marvel films starting with the commercial success of Iron Man in early 2008, which led to a planned series of films setting the background for this one: The Incredible Hulk in late 2008, Iron Man 2 in 2010, Thor in early 2011 and Captain America: The First Avenger in late 2011.
That’s a lot of lead up to a film and places significant weight on the shoulders of the cast and crew, and in particular the writer and director of The Avengers. When Joss Whedon was brought on board in mid-2010 to helm the film and take up directing credits and tweak the script by Zak Penn, fans of the comic series breathed a collective sigh of relief – if anybody could pull this off, the creator of cult favourites Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Firefly could.
The question is, did he succeed?
Before I continue with this review, I should point out that I grew up on Marvel and DC comics. Sure, my experience of The Avengers is that of the 1980s and early 1990s, and generally more around their crossovers with my childhood favourite Marvel Universe characters, The X-Men, but I do have a certain nostalgic fondness for the characters that may or may not have coloured my views of this film.
There is an adage – “You can never go home.” The meaning being that, what we see through the rosy coloured remembrances of youth are not necessarily what they were then, nor are they anything you can recreate now in your adult self. With much of his small screen work, Joss Whedon seems to have been trying to deny that adage, and has taken that over into his work in comics with his run on The Astonishing X-Men. It is clear that Whedon did not take up this film just to cash a pay cheque. He has a definite love for the characters in the film and the Marvel Universe itself. I always wonder what would have been if he had been given the reigns for X-Men: The Last Stand - I suspect that film would have been a much better one.
So it would seem, with The Avengers, Whedon has sought again to defy the adage and take fans of the comic back to their youth whilst at the same time creating the mythos that would enable newcomers to enjoy the film as well. And, at least in this reviewer’s experience, he succeeded.
The plot of The Avengers is as far-fetched as the plots of the comic book generally were – Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the adopted brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), makes a pact with a race of aliens to invade Earth in return for their help in bringing him to rule in Asgard. The invasion begins at a S.H.I.E.L.D. compound where Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is turned to the service of Loki and the entire compound destroyed. Seeing the destruction wrought at the compound, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) proceeds to initiate the mothballed Avengers Project to combat this new enemy and call into service Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), and Dr. Bruce Banner / Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, replacing Edward Norton from the 2008 The Incredible Hulk film). Of course, once Thor realises that Loki is on Earth, he must also intervene, much to the displeasure of S.H.I.E.L.D. and other members of the team. As tensions mount, and personality clashes abound, things start turning for the worse with an alien invasion in New York imminent. Can the Avengers put aside their differences and assemble to save the Earth?
Whedon is one of those rare directors in Hollywood today that seems to understand that for all the big screen spectacle that is afforded by the summer blockbuster, what makes a film are the believable characters in the film who we come to like and care about. The film can have all the special effects it wants, but it’s just a paper moon if we as an audience do not care what happens to the characters in the film. We simply cease to engage. With this in mind, much of the film involves developing the interplay between the characters and letting their personalities evolve in the course of the film. It certainly helps if you have seen all of the previous Marvel Universe films leading to this one, and in some respects Whedon assumes that you have in order for this film to succeed on every level. But rest assured, you will not be cast completely adrift if you have not.
As a visual effects extravaganza, The Avengers is a complete success – and believe me, the bigger the screen you have, the better in that regard. As an epic superheroes movie, The Avengers is also a success. As a cinematic masterpiece, we are not really comparing apples and apples. What I will say, though, is that The Avengers is a far more light-hearted and fun film than, for example, Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman. I find that Nolan’s Batman films seek to engage on an intensified emotional level in a way that Whedon’s vision of The Avengers does not have scope to – there are simply too many characters involved. And whilst I will say that my adult self has a greater love and respect for Nolan’s Batman films, I was, very briefly, taken home by The Avengers to a ten year old me reading comic books in the sun. I think that if Whedon knew that, he would feel that he achieved his goal.
There are numerous releases of this title in Australia. I have the Blu-Ray 3D, Blu-Ray and Digital Copy “Triple Play” release for review. The 2D Blu-Ray is the subject of this review. The 3D Blu-Ray is also reviewed.
The Avengers was shot almost entirely in digital using the Arri Alexa film-style digital motion picture camera system at a maximum resolution of 2880 pixels x 2160 pixels. Some scenes were shot using Digital SLR cameras, and some film sequences were captured on high-speed 35mm using an Arriflex 435. The film was composed in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 for theatrical broadcast. The cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey, has been quoted as saying that this was done to compensate for the radically different heights of the various cast members, particularly in their CGI incarnations when Ruffalo has to merge into The Hulk. He is also quoted as saying that this was to give a sense of vertical scale to the two major action set-pieces, both of which have altitude as a major component of their visceral feel.
The Blu-Ray release has had the matte opened slightly to 1.78:1 to completely fill a standard 16:9 television screen.
The 2D version is, in some ways, the more “faithful” version of the film as Whedon intended it to be seen without the 3D post-production manipulation. The 2D version is encoded at a resolution 1080p in MPEG-4 AVC with a rough bit rate of 32Mbps.
Being shot on digital, there were no film to video artefacts and no film artefacts.
Colour is bold and looks fantastic in 2D. Seriously, the colour in this transfer is amazingly good with Whedon eschewing the typical blue or orange filters that seem to be applied to films in post-production and taking on a more naturalistic look that is in keeping with the film having been shot on digital.
Shadow detail is excellent with inky blacks and no noise in dark scenes, as you would expect given that there was no dependence on light exposure on film in shooting.
Subtitles are available in numerous languages including English, Hindi, Italian and Romanian.
Both the 3D and 2D Blu-Rays present the theatrical 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix at 48kHz and an average bit rate of 5.0Mbps.
As one would expect of a film such as this, the sound design is about creating a big screen blockbuster audio assault. And it succeeds, with aggressive use of surrounds and the subwoofer during the various battle sequences, and a constant use of the surrounds for ambience throughout the film. With a sufficient system, listening to this audio track really is like sitting in a theatre.
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout the film, even when coming form a channel other than the centre channel.
I unfortunately do not have room for back surrounds so cannot comment directly on their use, but would suggest that given how aggressively the other speakers in the mix are used, the back surrounds are equally as well utilized.
Audio is also available in Italian in 7.1 DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, Hindi in 5.1 Dolby Digital and there is an English Audio Descriptive track as well.
All up, this is the demo disc of 2012 for audio.
|Surround Channel Use|
The start-up menu is presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced with a DTS-HD MA soundtrack.
A promotional featurette from the show.
Presented in 2.35:1, 1080p HD, 16x9 enhanced with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack at 320kbps, this is a short film set shortly after the movie about a missing piece of technology.
The film was originally cast with a different intro and outro that puts a slightly different light on one of the characters. I think Whedon made the right choice in re-editing it as he did. Most of the other scenes were removed for timing purposes and add little to the film.
This is a full digital copy of the film in 2D with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio compatible with iTunes and other mobile platforms. As a person who travels a lot, I do appreciate it when studios release digital copies of their films with the Blu-Ray release. I downloaded this to my iPad and it works well for a mobile version. Through my AppleTV it was no comparison to the HD version on Blu-Ray, nor should one expect it to be. Though given that the iTunes store now downloads in 1080p, it would be nice for a HD digital copy to be included or downloadable as an option.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The US version also includes:
- Audio Commentary by Director Joss Whedon
- Featurette - Disney's Second Screen
- Featurette - Assembling the Ultimate Team
- Music Video - Soundgarden “Live to Rise”
If you value special features, the US release is clearly the winner.
The Avengers is an example of Marvel Universe storytelling done right. It is shot full of Whedon’s trademark dry humour and some excellent action set pieces, but it is ultimately held together by the characters, played by an excellent ensemble cast. If you’re a fan, this is a must own. If you are curious at all, I suggest that this one is worth the purchase.
|DVD||PlayStation 3 160GB with HDMI 1.4a, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung 64" Plasma PN64E8000 (this device is 3D capable). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Marantz SR6006 Receiver, Rotel RB-1552 and Rotel RMB-1565|
|Speakers||Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 fronts, wide-fronts, and rears, Wharfedale Diamond 10.CM centre, Velodyne MicroVee Subwoofer|