It’s no secret that I loved The Avengers – I still consider it one of the best films to come out this year and may be the embodiment of the fanboys “wet dream”. In fact, I loved it so much that I awarded it 5 stars, a rare occurrence for sure; looking back however, I feel that I was somewhat hasty with that rating, putting aside my critical edge in favour of good old fashioned entertainment and fanboyism.
I’m sure that by now The Avengers hardly needs an introduction but for all intents and purposes lets revisit the story. Nick Fury assembles a group of superheroes – Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, and Thor – to take on a force that threatens to conquer planet Earth, starting with America of course.
It’s really that simple, and I’m glad that it is. Iron Man was great because of it’s social sub-themes but The Avengers is through and through, a popcorn movie for the masses, and it doesn’t disappoint. The film is notable for it’s outstanding balance in terms of characters – it’s not that none of the characters are important, director Joss Whedon has just made them equal in stature, which is a good thing because Robert Downey Jr. could have easily stolen the show as he does in many of the roles that he has played in the past
It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the action, but looking at the film frame by frame, the camera work is a little bizarre, or perhaps I should say unique. The cinematography abandons the conventions of action film photography and goes for an approach that relies on the “money shot” or to put in layman’s terms, capturing the heroes in dramatic poses. This approach draws inspiration from its comic book source like no other film before it (other than Sin City, which pretty much replicated each frame with unabashed authenticity). It’s entertaining to watch, and one-of-a-kind when looked at objectively – whether that is good or bad is up to the viewer.
When I originally watched The Avengers, I became overwhelmed by the on-screen explosions that unfolded before my eyes, unfortunately it blinded me to certain plot developments that just don’t make much sense – I’ll the details to myself in case you’re one of the two people that didn’t watch the movie in cinema. They’re easy to overlook as one can’t really take this seriously but the writing on said holes seems a little flimsy and in some cases a shortcut to an ending. You’ll see it when it comes up.
I shouldn’t have to repeat that Disney (or is it Paramount?) has once again pulled out all the stops with this HD transfer – it’s clean, crisp, and exactly what one would hope for in a Blu-ray…but is it too sharp? At times having a good high definition image can work in a movies favour, especially for animated films, but in case of The Avengers, it highlights many of the graphical imperfections that are more easily masked with the grain of a projector or SD format. For instance, most of the scenes of Stark Tower and close ups of Iron Man reveal an uncanniness that I just couldn’t shake – it’s not so much a case of primitive CGI as it is a case of lighting design that highlights the graphical oddities when textures are clean.
As this is a 3-D review, it would be remiss to leave out my impressions of the first 3=D movie I have ever watched on the small screen from start to finish. The effects, like the cinematic release, are relatively safe; it’s a post conversion that looks great but isn’t contrasty enough to make any of the footage really stick out. It isn’t bad though but it’s one of those non-essential 3-D releases, but at least it comes in a limited edition steelbook cover!
The Audio is also of a great quality with a surround sound mix that is exceptionally balanced and makes great use of directional and atmospheric sounds; it’s a real treat and I applaud the sound designers on top notch job. I’m not entirely in love with Alan Silvestri’s score for The Avengers – it has some strong themes but in many ways it’s a little generic and doesn’t stand out, but at least it doesn’t overpower the sound effects and dialogue – a flaw that many sound mixes get wrong. As is the case with most action films, the final battle is where the design truly shines, so hold onto your seat if you have a full speaker set up
Now this is the peccadillo that has Region B territories causing a stink. The Avengers Blu-ray, just like the theatrical release, hit South Africa and the UK a week in advance of the US, and in the Blu-ray debacle, we are missing many special features that are not only considered essential by today’s standards, but were included in the US printing. Features like audio commentary are alarmingly absent and for someone like me, that’s a pretty big deal. However, what is included does in a way make up for the previous slights. The extended/deleted scenes are truly revealing and some of them (for instance the alternate opening) set a complete shift in tone from the safe intro that went into the final cut. To add to this is that many of the deleted scenes are fully fleshed out with visual effects and seem as though they were dropped at the last minute – there’s none of that rough stuff except for some scenes that still have unreplaced green screens, the footage however is still crisp and in 1080p. There’s also a bried “making of” featurette and gag reel, but it seems shoehorned in comparison to other releases like the Iron Man Blu-ray that had a wealth of interviews and other features.
The Bottom Line
The Avengers is a great superhero movie and ranks among the best, but it has it’s problems and a few major plot devices that don’t seem to work (or at least in a logical universe). It’s still damn fun to watch over and over and that’s what really counts. The film itself is well balanced and very well paced and at over two hours, it’s a saving grace. The Blu-ray release is equally good and the audio and video transfer make The Avengers a treat to watch in HD regardless of the visual oddities. Where it really suffers is in the poor selection of extra content which should be hefty in relation to the large price. Still, The Avengers is a Blu-ray worth of any collection – just be sure to pick up the exclusive steelbook edition if you can.
Overall score (not an average)