The best film of the year, The Avengers, receives a very good Blu-ray release and a number of intriguing options to own it.
When The Tesseract/Cosmic Cube is stolen by Thor’s half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, War Horse), who desires to use it as a doorway for an alien invasion of Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Brown) assembles a ‘response team’ of superheroes to capture Loki and retrieve the device. Fury has wanted this mash-up about as long as the fans have, even donning the project with the coolest name around: The Avengers Initiative. But, getting this team of blatantly independent heroes together will be no small task. Captain America (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four) has been recently discovered in the ice and thawed, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr, Sherlock Holmes) is finishing the new Stark Tower, Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Star Trek) is stuck on Asgard, and David Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island) is playing Doctors Without Borders in Calcutta. As our heroes assemble (no pun), we soon learn that some team building will be necessary, only the ‘activities’ involve a lot of fighting and trading memorable quips with one another. These hero fights are the best from the franchise because they take place in unlikely locations, such as the forest battle between Thor, Iron Man, and Cap. Our heroes eventually join forces with SHIELD agents Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson, The Spirit) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, MI:IV) to defend New York City when it falls prey to Loki and the Chitauri, a race commanded by none other than Thanos. As the invasion begins, The Avengers race against the clock and nuclear annihilation using every ounce of their strength and new-found teamwork to defend the people of Earth.
Simply put, The Avengers delivers in every way, hitting every mark with a perfect mix of humor, action, and story. Whedon definitely understands and appreciates every aspect of these characters, and crafts a story that is as funny as it is true to canon. The quibbling between Cap and Iron Man is terrific, as it is between The Hulk and Thor. When Loki invades Stark Tower, he and Iron Man engage in a verbal sparring match that’s perfect in tenor and run time. But there’s also a serious tone to the film, as Cap struggles to deal with what Stark refers to ‘doin’ time as a Cap-cicle,’ while Black Widow and Hawkeye realize that their training never prepared them for this line of work. Loki’s character is much more diabolical this go-around, as if his interaction with The Tesseract has fundamentally damaged his psyche. But it is The Hulk who steals almost every scene in which he appears, including the famous ‘Puny God’ sequence that has become an instant classic. Whedon’s story is so dense, so multi-layered, that one would have to see the film a couple of times (probably the point) to catch everything. Another standout feature here is the four large action pieces, each one achieving a higher level of perfection than the latter. The scale of the battles is simply amazing, with every character getting their fair share to demonstrate their abilities, and sometimes using each other’s weapons in tandem (think about the video game Ultimate Avengers). Even the music by Composer Alan Silvestri (The Quick and the Dead) stands proud and tall, perfectly complimenting the epic scale of the film. When our heroes assemble in a 360 degree money shot near the end, Silvestri hits us with a theme that knocks your socks off, reappearing at the end credits as Whedon takes us through our hereo’s ‘tools of the trade.’ This 2 hour, 22-minute nerd-gasm doesn’t feel long at all, passing by with a speed only Iron Man seems capable of achieving.
The Avengers embodies all the best qualities of the franchise, perfectly weaving every strength of the Marvel film universe into a tale that redefines the genre forever, upping the ante for future filmmakers and studios who wish to cash in on the comic book universe. It is a film of gigantic proportions, exceeding every expectation I had, putting to rest every question and concern raised, and proving itself as the greatest superhero movie ever. But be warned: if you have not seen the single-hero movies preceding The Avengers, you might get quickly confused; and we wouldn’t want you going all Green Rage Monster on us.
- Commentary by Director Joss Whedon Whedon: The almost desert-like dry humor of Whedon is on display, as he takes listeners on a journey that’s both self-deprecating and extremely hilarious. From his comments, you at once get the sense that his selection as director was truly a match made in comic book heaven: the absolute dominance as a proficient director is on display, as he educates us on several nuances, including his thoughts on shooting in 3D. It’s one of the best commentaries of the year, and certainly paints Whedon a very grounded human being.
- The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience: This gives users access to an interesting S.H.I.E.L.D. database which includes dossiers on the various characters and story elements via your iPad, iPhone, or laptop.
- Marvel One-Shot – Item 47 (HD; 11:20): This is the third short movie of the series (Thor and Captain America had their own), featuring Jesse Bradford (Flags of Our Fathers) and Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield) as bumbling thieves who stumble onto a piece of Chitauri weaponry and use it to break into several banks.
- Gag Reel (HD; 4:05): This is one of my favorite features of the disc – if you’re having a bad day, watch this one to turn your frown upside down.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD; 14:59): Another of my favorites, we’re presented with eight scenes, including an alternate opening and ending. These in particular provide some of the most insightful aspects into the depth of story that Whedon was contemplating. Be sure to check out the Captain America apartment scene as well.
- Featurettes (HD; 14:37): This section includes A Visual Journey and Assembling the Ultimate Team. Most of cast shows up to lend their insights into the strengths which their fellow actors bring to the film.
- Soundgarden Music Video “Live to Rise” (HD; 4:49): Can’t say I was overly impressed with this, although I love Soundgarden and the song itself; but the strange and overly fast cuts of the video are lame to be sure. Now that my venting is concluded, it’s back to my gushing review…
- 2D and 3D versions (available in most stores): As follows the name of this site, DVD was left out for obvious reasons.
- Target: Their release features the very good fifth disc Marvel Studios: Building a Cinematic Universe, but was only available in the first pressing. Miss this, and you’re out a very good ‘Big Picture’ presentation of all the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers.
- Walmart: Not willing to be left out, they have released a two-disc set that includes a beautiful graphic novel.
- Best Buy: Among the most intriguing, Best Buy produced a Viva Metal Pack that could used to upgrade their 2D and 3D collections. For those of you lucky enough to pick up one of these, you might have gotten your hands on one of the best cases of the year.
- Digital Copy and Soundtrack: While not for some, I always fall in line to buy these as well. Marvel’s marketing domination continues, continuing to give me things I think I need.