Blu-Ray Review – Avengers Assemble
Title: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
For the two or three people on planet Earth who have yet to watch this years monster super-hero epic, The Avengers (or, if you’re a UK resident, Avengers Assemble, because apparently there’s people around who still remember the similarly titled Avengers television series from… when, the 60′s?) then this is the review you need to [...]
For the two or three people on planet Earth who have yet to watch this years monster super-hero epic, The Avengers (or, if you’re a UK resident, Avengers Assemble, because apparently there’s people around who still remember the similarly titled Avengers television series from… when, the 60′s?) then this is the review you need to read to hopefully push you over the edge into actually doing so. For the rest of us, the narrative recap portion of this review will be null-and-void and you’ll probably skip to the “how does the audio sound” section. Please note, at the time of writing this review, our US brethren have to wait a whole ‘nother couple of weeks before they get their legitimate copies of this flick, so to them I offer a patronizing “awww” and ask that they wait for it like we do to so many other films we really want to see.
The Avengers (sorry, not gonna happen Avengers Assemble fans!) *edtior* Yes it is see the title *editor* sees the… ahem… assembling of several already-introduced heroes from previous cinematic entries; Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, Thor (from the realm of Asgard… and no, that’s not Swedish), Captain America (aka Steve Rogers, now thawed from his 80-odd year slumber beneath the Arctic icecap), Bruce Banner (aka the giant green rage monster known as Hulk) and Nick Fury, the iconic point man from ultra-secret government agency SHIELD. Also in the mix are second-tier characters Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanov, a SHIELD operative seeking redemption for past crimes) and Hawkeye (an apparent compatriot to Romanov, whose aim with the bow and arrow is near superhuman). Together, this band of heroes and humans must come together to thwart the evil plans of Thor’s brother Loki, who’s landed on Earth to unleash an invading army from a distant galaxy, known as the Chitauri.
Since this is a review of the Blu-Ray edition of The Avengers, it’s near on pointless of me to review the actual film, given most people are already aware of how successful it was in cinemas, and as a work of pop-culture fiction. Anybody who has yet to read a review of the actual film (and that can’t be many now, surely) should check out my off-site thoughts on the movie here.Right, so you’re up to speed on what I thought of the film. So how does it scrub up on Blu? In a word: awesome.
Picture (2D Only)
Joss Whedon’s creative decision to use the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to the scope 2.35 aspect established by the films leading up to this, was primarily so that he could get all the character in the frame at the same time. Considering the size difference between the Hulk and, say Scarlett Johansson, it would be hard to capture them properly with a 2.35 aspect; Whedon eschews that for the more vertically aesthetic 1.85 aspect to allow all the characters to interact within a single frame without incident. It was a canny decision, because the full-screen aspect utilized by the Blu-Ray version is one of the best you’ll see this year. While I found the cinematic experience of this film somewhat dim, lacking in shadow definition and somewhat “flat” as a projected image went (I saw this film in 2D theatrically, and have done so again on Blu), the digital format allows a higher contrast image to burst onto the screen with a vibrancy and nuance you just don’t get at the multiplex. The technical proficiency of the encode on this disc will ensure that even the most nit-picky viewers will be hard pressed to find anything to bemoan.
Shadow definition is exemplary, especially with the “space” sequences featuring Loki and the Chitauri – and even the mid-credits stinger – allowing a sharper visual palette than I saw theatrically. Depth is superb, with both close-up and distance shots retaining a sense of clarity and purpose that make watching this film just so easy-breezy. Colors pop off the screen, from Loki’s dark green ensemble to the Hulk’s lighter green hue, Iron Man’s gold-and-red mixture and Thor’s grey-and-red look all feeling alive and vibrant. As far as encoding issues go, there’s nothing to worry about – the film’s running time of 140+ minutes allows for plenty of wiggle room on the BD50 disc to give it the maximum data rate possible. Banding and ringing are never an issue, crush is avoided with no problems whatsoever, and there’s no evidence of digital “scrubbing” to make things appear sharper or smoother artificially. This is an image presentation to savor. From start to finish (and yes, the added bonus of the “shawarma” stinger post-credits is included) The Avengers looks stunning in HD.
Yeah, this is a major blockbuster, so you’d expect the film to sound dam awesome on Blu-Ray, right? You’d expect a zinger of a surround sound encode, a full blown epic of mixing and editing at the audio desk transporting you from your need-to-vacuum lounge room to the devastation of Chitauri-ridden New York City, wouldn’t you? You’d expect a film of this type to deliver a sonic experience to rival that of anything Michael Bay might conjure up, and if you expected that, you’re going to be disappointed. Because this soundtrack is even better than that.
Paramount have delivered some of the best home audio Blu-Ray soundtracks ever, to my mind, especially the recent Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, which, until now, is easily my favorite post-2000 soundtrack on HD. The Avengers audio track makes Dark Of The Moon sound like a baby strumming a single-string ukelele for two hours, it’s that damn good. The main audio track, and I’d suspect the one favored by purists, is the dts 7.1 Master Audio track, and if you’re new to 7.1 (or and old hand at it) you’ll be blown away by the sheer immersive quality you’ll experience. From the soft rumble of the SHIELD airship interiors, to the explosive attack on New York, this is a surround track to turn up loud. Channel separation, one of the big things I look for in a quality audio track, is excellent, with a multitude of panning and cross-fading between speaker positions feeling seamless and effortless. Bass response is thunderous, with every explosion and rumble, every augmented punch and Hulk roar, and every quiet pause between battle feeling natural and realistic. Well, as realistic as possible in a film where people turn into superheroes. Dialogue never becomes lost amongst the conflagration of effects and explosions, and vocal presentation sounds pitch perfect. Even Alan Silvestri’s somewhat generic-sounding soundtrack sits comfortably in the mix, standing tall when required and diving back into the mix when ambiance is required. Audio fans will not find anything to complain about with The Avengers’ dts mix, although their neighbors might.
If there’s a single disappointing feature to The Avengers initial Blu-Ray salvo, it’s the lack of quality features included. No commentary, either simple audio or full-blown Maximum Movie Mode-esque, is included. No definitive “making of” feature, only a short EPK styled variant which feels more like an afterthought than a genuine extra feature. A gag reel is included (which is kind of funny once, but doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings), as is another Marvel One-Shot (short films set within the Marvel universe which tell parallel stories around the events of the main feature) set soon after the events depicted in The Avengers, and a slew of deleted and extended scenes, most of which add little but do show some thought in the creative process of making such a big screen venture. I know, there’s probably a double-dip bells-and-whistles version on its way later on that we don’t know about yet, but from a bonus features perspective, this release feels a little like we’re being given short thrift on quality.
Whether you get into this kind of film or not, there’s no denying the quality involved in this Blu-Ray release. The film looks stunning, with a terrific, blemish-free encode, while the audio soundtrack will ensure you’re home theater gets a solid work-out from beginning to end. While it’s getting hard to differentiate the best and the next best of current modern-film Blu-Ray releases these days, it’s a fair bet that at the end of the year, people are still gonna be talking about how awesome this film is on Blu. Paramount’s continued devotion to prefect audio/visual presentations is once more on display, and they haven’t let us down. The Avengers comes highly recommended.
Avengers Assemble is released in UK on 17th September 2012 on Blu-Ray and DVD