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THE AVENGERS
3D Blu-ray Edition

Review by Mark Wiechman
Technical specs by Mark Wiechman and Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cobie Smulders
Director: Joss Whedon
Audio:   English DTS Hi-Res Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French, Spanish, French and English subtitles
Video:  1.87:1  Color Widescreen
Studio:  Walt Disney Studio
Features:  See Review
Length:  143 Minutes plus features
Release Date:  September 25, 2012

“Ýou’ve become part of a bigger universe; you just don’t know it yet…”

Film ***

In some ways, great stories are all the same.  You have the true believer hero, a gutsy princess, a sarcastic mercenary, a truly evil and unapologetic villain, Armageddon, a beast or two, and then you just throw them all together.  Star Wars revised this classic paradigm.  But long before Luke and Leia argued with Han Solo, the genius of Stan Lee created many different Marvel Comics sagas in the 1960’s that featured heroes that were all too human in their egos and interpersonal friction.  But this made them inspiring and lovable, like sinners who could still be saints and save the world, too.  And maiden in distress was usually the human race.

Avengers was a long time coming.  Marvel was smart enough to take over most facets of production of their movies after realizing a very small portion of the profits from the hugely successful Spider-Man franchise.  Iron Man with an anti-establishment Tony Stark played to the hilt by Robert Downey Jr.  was a huge hit, with Captain America , The Hulk and Thor continuing an unbroken string of huge hits that were visually stunning and lacking in the amateur gimmickry that we see too often in comics themselves. 

The story is pretty simple really:  Loki is still mad at Thor, and he makes a deal with other interstellar beings to conquer the Earth.  He tries to turn the only Earth beings in his way against each other, and he gets the Hulk onto a floating air craft carrier just to be sure everything implodes.  And it pretty much does.  How will the heroes save the world?  Can they work together?  Here we actually have two Han Solos:  Tony Stark and Hawkeye, but then we have Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, who is not completely trustworthy, and the Hulk, who is the very embodiment of a wild card.  I’m also happy for Cobie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother making the leap to the big screen as a very convincing female agent in a largely male world. 

Of course there are more implausibilities than I would prefer in a movie like this.  There is no way you could ever lift an aircraft carrier up into the air with fans power, probably not even with jets.  And they seem to be able to talk to each other even though we see no communication devices.  Frankly the whole Tesseract business seems hokey to me.  Some fans might complain that long-time avengers such as Vision and the Scarlett Witch are not around. But these are all inconsequential issues to a movie that is so exciting and fun.  Just having the foresight to plan for this saga and build up to it may seem like crass commercialism to some.  But millions of viewers, including me, were thrilled to see the clashes between the mighty heroes and their huge egos, complete with unexpected chemistry such as Tony Stark and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) admiring each others’ genius.  Ruffalo is to be the best Banner yet, he seems about to scream or cry at any moment.  He also has one of the best lines of the whole movie, just before willfully becoming the Hulk.  “That’s my secret, Cap.  I’m always angry.” 

In some ways the other movies were so easy; you only had to worry about one hero, maybe two, a love interest, and a villain.  Avengers spins a complex story about complex people, but it all works.  Here you have Loki threatening to indeed subjugate humanity with an interstellar threat, using Tony Starks’ own technology against him, and of course it would be too easy if they all got along and knew each other already.  But they are all, in the end, selfless and willing to die to protect the innocent, in a world that might condemn them and in fact is willing to sacrifice them all too easily. 

One of the best moments is between Loki and Black Widow (Johansson).  While he is captured, she opens herself to him in a personal way, and instead of reciprocating, Loki reveals that he knows all about her bloody past, and throws it in her face like a demented counselor.  Loki is not insane, but he is smarter and more powerful than humans, and she learns not to repeat that mistake.  Loki is not just a spurned demi-god; he is a titan with no conscience.   The whole spectacle works. 

And may I say that the reptilian creatures destroying NYC through the air raised the bar for future nightmares for all heroes!

Video ****

Paramount is fast becoming my favorite studio for 3D releases.  Mark and I got to see this movie in IMAX 3D, and this Blu-ray disc is a terrific replication of that experience.  The colors and sharpness pop throughout, and the relentless action of the climax comes through cleanly, with no distortion and no video noise.  I noticed no ghosting or artifacting that can sometimes occur with less-than-stellar 3D issues.  This is one of the year's best.

Audio  ****

This uncompressed mix delivers everything you'd expect...plenty of bang, lots of crossover action, and shelf-shuddering dynamic range.  The symphonic score is potent and blends nicely against the plentiful action and spoken words.

Features  ****

Director Joss Wheddon ‘s commentary is better than expected.  He felt very strongly that being a super-hero is not a free pass, and that at every moment everything could crumble, and clearly this is why the movie works so well.  It never stops, but it always seems human.   He also reveals that he had a great story for Hawkeye that had to be left for another time. 

The featurettes “Assembling the Ultimate Team” reveals how many of the actors felt about each other as they were assembled into the cast. 

We finally have a real gag reel!  Robert Downey Jr. is especially good, naturally.  It was his idea to put country music on it a la Smokey and the Bandit which makes it even more hilarious.   Even death scene mistakes appear.  Watching Captain America wrestle with a parachute was worth the price of the whole thing!!!

“Marvel One –Shot:  Item 47” is a short film that seems to have nothing to do with anything.  I am assuming it was part of the film that was deleted.

Soundgarden was my favorite grunge band by far, and their video for “Live to Rise” is filled with vignettes from the film.  But I think the tune is worth purchasing on its own.

“A Visual Journey” is the real making-of featurettes and I encourage listeners to watch it first.  Deleted and extended scenes are, well, interesting to someone who loved the movie, but you can see why they were left out.  Though I did especially enjoy the B&W newsreel showing Captain America at Normandy Beach, but why is the narrator German?

I purchased the Target edition of Avengers which included both the Blu-Ray and DVD versions of the movie as well as a 100 minute bonus Blu-Ray, which has the featurettes “Building a Universe” which is mostly a love letter to Marvel Comics and studio and an excellent documentary of where Marvel came from.  It may be self-congratulatory, but other studios do the same thing, and I happen to believe every word about how great the Silver Age Marvel comics were.  I recommend this edition for this documentary, especially if you grew up with Marvel comics like I did.

Summary:

Plenty of great features to compliment a great film.  Not to be missed.  You don't have to be a kid again just to love Avengers. 

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