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The Avengers Blu-Ray

The Avengers (2012): Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack - Page 1

Published September 27, 2012

By Albert Gutierrez

"Raise the mizzenmast. Jib the topsails. That man is playing Galaga; he thought we wouldn't notice, but we did." - Tony Stark

"And Hulk.. smash!" - Steve Rogers

"I am a god, you dull creature." - Loki

The Avengers: Blu-Ray + DVD

Original Release: May 4, 2012

Blu-Ray Release: September 25, 2012

Film Length: 143 minutes

The Movie:

In the aftermath of the films "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger," the exiled Loki has formed an alliance with the Chitauri, intent of taking over Earth. Using the power of the Tesseract, he materializes deep inside S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, where he takes control of Clint "Hawkeye" Barton and Doctor Eric Selvig. They steal the Tesseract and make their way to Europe, in order to acquire iridium to help stabilize it. Nick Fury and his agents - including Phil Coulson and Maria Hill - recruit a response team to stop Loki. This includes Natasha "Black Widow" Romanov, Tony "Iron Man" Stark, and Doctor Bruce "Hulk" Banner. Also brought in is the recently-revived Captain Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.

Romanov, Stark, and Rogers capture Loki, but nearly lose him when Thor arrives from Asgard to bring him back. They re-group on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, now strategizing a way to recover the Tesseract, while keeping Loki in a containment cell. Their differences ultimately prevent them from properly working together, which allows for Loki's escape, Bruce's transformation into Hulk, Thor dropped from the helicarrier in Loki's cell, and the death of a prominent S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Fury wonders whether he should have brought these superheroes together, since they cannot work together at all.

The remaining team - including the returning Hawkeye - realize what is at stake, and put their differences aside in order to stop Loki, who's sent his Chitauri army into New York City. The epic battle throughout the streets of New York are the highlights of the film, with Thor and a more controlled Hulk returning to help.

My Thoughts:

Marvel's burgeoning "Cinematic Universe" began in 2008 with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, the latter a reboot of 2003's Hulk. This was followed up in 2010 with Iron Man 2, while 2011 gave us two more films: Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. These five films were released in four years, all leading up to the May 4, 2012 theatrical release of The Avengers. For all intents and purposes, this is the sixth film in a series. If Hollywood history is anything to go by, The Avengers shouldn't have worked. Most modern movie franchises barely last beyond four entries. The ones that do either have a built-in audience and inevitable end (the Harry Potter films), occasionally shake things up to keep the general audience interested (all eleven Star Trek films), or simply keep churning out movies because they're fast, cheap, and fun (Police Academy). By the time Movie #6 hits theatres, one would expect both the audience and filmmakers to be tired of the same characters in the same types of situations, with the same type of ending. And yet, with The Avengers, it works.

Perhaps we can attribute the film's success to the heightened expectations and slow build-up to its release. Even I have to admit that when such plans for a film series was announced, I had my own skepticisms. Any one movie could be a flop, thus hindering the chances of a "team-up" film down the line. Fortunately, each film was successful enough - financially, if not critically - to justify the eventual conclusion of "Phase One" for Marvel's series. The Avengers manages to blend together everything that worked in the previous films, creating a "super-film" that masterfully balances an exciting story, stunning effects, and winning humor with familiar and likable characters. It's not the be-all, end-all superhero film of the decade, but it sure is a lot of fun.

For me, this film belongs to two characters: Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Loki. They carry the emotional crux of the storyline, as both are men who have been taken out of their time - Wartime America for Steve, Asgard for Loki - and forced to deal with a new reality. While other characters do get their fair share of screen time and development, every viewing of the film has always steered me back towards Steve and Loki. They have the most to prove, either to themselves or to the rest of the world, and function much more as a "two halves of the same coin" than their expected contemporaries. Loki and Thor's brotherly relationship was masterfully developed in 2011's Thor, but generally becomes a background detail here. Thor's line of "he is adopted" is played more for laughs than for a reminder of the differences that still united them. Of the five Avengers in the film, I felt Thor was given the least to do. There should have been more Thor/Loki scenes than there were, though perhaps such character growth is better saved for Thor: The Dark World (coming out November 2013). In a crowded picture like The Avengers, it's probably best to keep the story as broad as possible.

Broad it may be, The Avengers acts most directly as the unofficial sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. We follow the events of that film almost immediately, since we see just how Steve has tried adjusting to the new world. He has lost all that was familiar to him, and so his only tangible connection to anyone would be Tony Stark, son of his good friend Howard Stark. Yet Tony is always in a world of his own, where his smug-but-still-charming self is not as concerned about the impact of Steve losing the past seventy years of his life. Steve and Tony's banter is some of the best in the film, as we see two vastly different worlds colliding. Steve will "ma'am" and "sir" everyone, while Tony will likely pinch the girl's butt and punch the guy's face. Ultimately, Steve's journey through the film is not fully resolved. Again, we have to remember that this is a broad "alien takeover thwarted by superheroes" story. The individual films for each character is where we would expect their more-developed character arcs to take place.

That's not to say that the story is intentionally weaker. The Avengers is an ensemble piece, with a story crafted to show how unique personalities clash, before finding the common ground needed to defeat the enemy at hand. Every character gets their moment to shine, be it an interrogation with Black Widow, the redemption of Hawkeye, or even just a bewildered Bruce Banner talking to not-bewildered-at-all Harry Dean Stanton. They are parts of the whole, which add together to create a film that best exemplifies the old adage "in unity, there is strength." We've seen this story before, whether it be a western like The Magnificent Seven (guns for hire protect a town) or a musical like The Pajama Game (laborers strike to get a raise). It essentially boils down to characters learning of and destroying a great evil, or "overcoming the monster" as coined by Christopher Booker (The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories). Yet, we as an audience still flock to see such familiar stories. We're comfortable with them, even when online internet "critics" will decry and proclaim "give me something original!"

What's important is not that the same story has been told again, but that it's been told through new storytellers. Every storyteller brings something of their own into the mix. No story is ever a direct regurgitation of the last. With The Avengers, we get to play in Joss Whedon's world, looking at his interpretation of these characters. At the same time, Whedon is still faithful to what has already been established in the previous five films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thus, our story has already been treated to multiple authors: the original comic book creators, previous attempts over the years to bring these characters to the screen, the individual films' screenwriters and directors, and finally, Whedon's turn at the wheel. Whose story is it? That's the beauty of filmmaking. It's a collaborative effort, guided by one all-purpose eyes and ears. With The Avengers, Whedon's masterfully crafted a film that's taken all the elements available to him from the previous films, and still gave us something new.

The Disc:

Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen

Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD MA (1), English Descriptive Video Service 2.0 Dolby Surround (2), French 7.1 DTS-HD HR (3), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital (4), Commentary 2.0 Dolby Surround (5)

Subtitles: English (1), French (2), Spanish (3), Commentary (4), English - Foreign Language Subs (5), French - Foreign Language Subs (5), Spanish - Foreign Language Subs (5)

Chapters: 20

The Avengers is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, faithful to its original theatrical and IMAX aspect ratios. Both the Blu-Ray and DVD feature imagery that's highly detailed and sharp, with colors that are vivid and accurate to its theatrical screenings. I had assumed that watching this film in the close quarters of a home theatre would reduce the impact of the film's cinematography, especially since Whedon shot in 1.85:1 and most action films use the wider 2.35:1 ratio. Fortunately, the intimacy of watching this film at home actually enhances the viewer's immersion into the world. Naturally, the DVD's standard-definition resolution makes the image softer and less precise than the Blu-Ray, but is perfectly serviceable for portable viewing.

The audio options include English, French, & Spanish, along with a Descriptive Video Service for blind viewers. We get a nicely-balanced aural experience here, not quite as immersive as the theatres, but with dialogue clear, front and center. Nothing's overshadowed by the music or effects, both of which get distributed nicely in the side and rear channels.

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