The Avengers is one of the funnier movies of 2012. It perfectly brings together these heroes into a story that, albeit, is fairly mundane but with action and adventure which is both fun and thrilling under the tutelage of Joss Whedon..
Genre(s): Action, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Buena Vista | PG13 – 143 min. – $49.99 | September 25, 2012
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Writer(s): Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (character, “Captain America”), Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (comic book); Zak Penn and Joss Whedon (story), Joss Whedon (screenplay)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow
Theatrical Release Date: May 4, 2012
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Second Screen, DVD Copy, Digital Copy, Music Download
Number of Discs: 4
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (DTS-HD MA 7.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
Marvel Studios has done something special. Culminating after 5 feature films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America), the team assembles in The Avengers co-scripted and directed by fan favorite Joss Whedon. It might not be a masterpiece of filmmaking but its one hell of an entertaining flick from beginning to end.
It should be noted up front that I’ve never been much of a Marvel comic book fan so I don’t intrinsically know these characters outside of the previous movies.
The story begins at a remote S.H.I.E.L.D. facility where scientists are still studying the Tesseract, an energy source of unknown properties, in the hopes of learning more and use it for free, clean energy for all (basically, similar plot in 1998’s The Saint). All of the sudden, and without warning, a doorway from another world opens and out comes Loki (TOM HIDDLESTON) who was first introduced in Thor. He has come to retrieve the Tesseract for his own evil uses but Director Nick Fury (SAMUEL L. JACKSON) being the bad ass motherf**ker he is, will have none of that, putting up a valiant fight in an ultimately losing cause as Loki uses his staff to turn Fury’s allies into foes, including Agent Hawkeye (JEREMY RENNER) and Dr. Erik Selvig (STELLAN SKARSGARD). With an energy overload threatening to take down the facility, they all make a grand escape but Loki leaves with the Tesseract.
With the Tesseract in the hands of Loki, Fury re-enacts a defunct program called “The Avengers Initiative”. First, Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow (SCARLETT JOHNASSON) is sent off to convince Bruce Banner (MARK RUFFALO) to come in to help track Loki and the Tesseract while Agent Phil Coulson (CLARK GREGG) approaches Tony Stark/Iron Man (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.) to study Dr. Selvig’s files who best knows the Tesseract better than anybody, though he’s more interested in making Stark Towers more energy efficient and, of course, his girlfriend Pepper Potts (GWYNETH PALTROW). Fury approaches Steve Rogers/Captain America (CHRIS EVANS) with the assignment to find Loki and retrieve the Tesseract.
Later, Loki allows himself to be captured by the Avengers only to be snatched off a transport plane by his brother Thor (CHRIS HEMSWORTH), who wants to bring Loki back to Asgard to answer for his crimes. This results in an epic battle between the brute strength of Thor versus the heroics of Captain America. After their fight, Thor allows Loki to be brought to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarrier and held in a container meant for something/somebody very large…
What would be The Avengers are brought together on this cool as all hell helicarrier as they work together to not only try to find the Tesseract but discover what Loki’s ultimate plan is, which involves the group, pitting them against one another.
As entertaining as The Avengers is, there are a couple of problems:
First, Loki’s plan, to use the Tesseract to open a portal to another universe and swarm our planet with a ruthless species who will clear a way for him to rule, is quite simple and not entirely unique as it’s been done plenty of times before both in movies and in comic books (General Zod anyone?). It is a minor point but not insignificant given this movie’s scale.
Second, for anyone who hasn’t seen the other Marvel Universe movies, they might be lost on the characters and their backgrounds. This isn’t so much the fault of Joss Whedon or the other writers, but if you missed Thor (introduction to Loki), Iron Man 2 (intro to Black Widow) or even Captain America (the technology brought by the Tesseract). The film can be a bit confusing and thus not quite as enjoyable. For the others, however, this is not an issue (and to be clear, this aspect didn’t affect my rating).
Taking those aside, The Avengers is still a great movie filled with high-octane action and an incredible ensemble brought together:
– Robert Downey Jr. once again is fantastic as Tony Stark and even though he’s an equal side character to the rest, he’s still one of the film’s highlights
– Chris Hemsworth was probably more effective in Thor, but he gets a few good scenes especially when matched against The Hulk
– Chris Evans as Captain America is believable enough as the leader of the group
– Scarlett Johansson kicks ass and looks good doing it… nothing more, she’s hot
– Jeremy Renner does his best with an underwritten character who prior was nothing more than a cameo in Thor
– Samuel L. Jackson, now marking his fifth appearance as Nick Fury is cool as ever though he’s taking a backseat to the others
– Mark Ruffalo steps into a difficult situation since Edward Norton did not return as Bruce Banner, but Ruffalo does a fine job and I hope he at least gets a shot at his own movie, though that’s unlikely given the previous outings at the box office.
The Avengers was written and directed by Joss Whedon and although this is only his second theatrical feature film (following 2005’s Serenity), he does a great job with such a audacious task of bringing all of these high profile characters together and make for a coherent and even keeled summer movie, which Whedon did in spades. I was really impressed with what Whedon, as well as the other writer Zak Penn (X2, The Incredible Hulk), did with such a monumental franchise-building movie.
As I said before, it’s not a perfect film by any stretch but it’s certainly the most entertaining one I’ve come across in 2012, even more so than The Dark Knight Rises (which I felt is a better movie, but not nearly as light-hearted or fun).
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover and a lenticular centerpiece on the front. The four discs are enclosed in a standard Blu-ray case with two hubs so there are discs stacked on each other. Not sure why Buena Vista didn’t just splurge on a 4-disc case…
Feature Commentary – Co-Writer/Director Joss Whedon goes solo for the track providing insights into how he came aboard the film (and how he was chosen) to some on-set anecdotes working with the various actors and how he approached tackling such a large project. As solo commentaries go, Whedon is great at storytelling and keeps things rolling.
Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 (11:20; HD) – This short film starring Jesse Bradford and Lizzy Caplan robbing banks using alien technology they discovered in the aftermath of the New York City battle.
Gag Reel (4:05; HD) is a collection of flubbed lines and general on-set shenanigans.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (14:59; HD) – There are 7 scenes that were trimmed down or cut including an alternate opening which I’m happy was scrapped. There is a nice scene where Steve Rogers is going through old records and comes across lost love Peggy who is retired; well acted but seems more appropriate for a Captain America sequel.
A Visual Journey (6:28; HD) – This is a hodgepodge of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews which doesn’t have a whole lot of focus and appears as a teaser for a much larger ‘making-of’ doc.
Assembling the Ultimate Team (8:08; HD) covers the heroes assembled in the film beginning with Iron Man through Captain America.
Music Video (4:49; HD) for “Live to Rise” by Soundgarden.
Preview – Frankenweenie
Also included are a standard DVD Copy, Digital Copy and a Soundtrack Download. There’s also a free digital comic book and free Marvel poster offers.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
The Avengers assembles onto Blu-ray with a vibrant 1080p HD transfer and presented with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio (opened from 1.85 in theaters). I wasn’t astounded with the transfer but it is finely detailed throughout and the color array is well balanced while darker scenes show no signs of artifacting or pixilation. Bottom line is, it’s a nice and clean transfer, though because it shot digitally, you’re not going to get natural film grain which I kind of like seeing in older movies.
The 3D version is pretty good, albeit nothing astounding. You get your usual objects flying from the screen (such as Hawkeye’s arrows) but it does have some dimensional problems given how dark some of the scenes are. There’s also a couple issues with ghosting, though it’s not overly distracting.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The Blu-ray comes with a boom-tastic 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which takes full advantage of the many action sequences but is also well rounded enough for the quieter, more dialogue-driven scenes as well. The LFE channel is impressive as it’s not overly heavy but subtle enough to give that theater experience while the other channels convey the action very nicely.
A French 7.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also available.
OVERALL – 4.5/5
Overall, The Avengers is one of the funnier movies of 2012. It perfectly brings together these heroes into a story that, albeit, is fairly mundane but with action and adventure which is both fun and thrilling under the tutelage of Joss Whedon. The Blu-ray here boasts solid video and audio transfers but the features are much to be desired with only a few minutes in one featurette covering the actual making of the movie (I smell double-dip). Still, the movie makes up for the discs shortcomings and is well worth purchasing.