Marvel’s The Avengers on Blu-ray

Marvel's The Avengers

We had a couple of friends over for an Avengers DVD preview party, with pizza and the movie we already knew we’d enjoy. That’s the best way to watch this film, I think — with fellow fans. I saw it in the theatre the same way, and the shared reactions make it all the more fun. (This was also the first blockbuster I watched on my new 55″ TV, and boy, that was fun, too.) Plus, given that it’s a two-and-a-half-hour film, it’s nice to be able to take breaks when needed.

Marvel’s The Avengers is available on Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday, September 25. Given just how many tickets this movie sold last summer, I’m pretty sure most of you have already seen it. So I’m not aiming to spoil anything, but I’m not avoiding spoilers either.

The movie still seems a little slow to get started, with all the Cosmic Cube — excuse me, Tessaract — setup, but it’s all more significant, knowing what’s to come. I’m really glad I own it, so I can watch favorite bits whenever I want, like Tony’s undressing walk across the top of his building to see Pepper and the subsequent flirty scene. (Which Joss Whedon describes in the commentary as “three minutes of The Thin Man“.) Or Tony (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Banner (Mark Ruffalo) being all science geek together. Or my favorite fight, Iron Man vs. Thor. Or Thor (Chris Hemsworth) being ambivalent about his relation to Loki.

Marvel's The Avengers

Iron Man is my favorite character, because how can you not like someone who travels with his own soundtrack broadcast? I think Mark Ruffalo gives the best performance, though, managing to make a character previously played by two others his own. (And good on the effects guys for making the green guy resemble the human half, as though they really were the same person.) The scene where he and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) face off demonstrates how clever writer/director Joss Whedon was in finding reasons for the heroes to battle each other that were more than just “I thought he was a bad guy.”

Thor and Loki by Noelle Stevenson

Thor and Loki by Noelle Stevenson

Rewatching, I was reminded of how much I really miss Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). And I was more impressed by Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki. (Especially after reading Noelle Stevenson’s cartoons.) I’d also like to see more of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), since he’s a puppet for so much of this. He’s dryly funny, my favorite kind of hero, when he quits being possessed. I’m still mad by how long it takes the heroes to figure out “close the gateway!” since it results in so much destruction, but at least it’s Natasha who finally goes for it.

Typical of modern spectaculars, we did have to keep adjusting the volume, or we wouldn’t have been able to hear the conversations while being blown away by the explosions. And on the second (and more) times through, there were bits that seemed even more Buffy-like — but I think that’s Whedon’s curse. Everything he ever does is going to be compared to his first success. I was impressed by how, during one of the fight scenes, he seamlessly moves from one character to another, giving us an idea of the scope of the battle while keeping up with what everyone’s doing and managing the scope so that the big guns fight the huge creatures and the merely advanced humans fight the smaller monsters.

The ultimate message of The Avengers, for me, is that it’s fun when you can laugh during fight scenes. This is the greatest superhero movie of all time — so far.

Special Features

I was given the two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. There’s also a four-disc deluxe set, which adds a 3-D version of the movie, a digital copy of the movie, and a digital copy of the “inspired by” soundtrack album. Or if you buy the two-disc pack at Target, their package comes with the digital copy.

“Item 47″ is a new original short film (11 1/2 minutes) starring Jesse Bradford (Bring It On) and Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls) as bank robbers with an alien gun. Of course, SHIELD agents want to recover it, including Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hern├índez). It’s cute, but it will likely be more satisfying once we get confirmation in future movies and TV shows of what’s set up here. On its own, it’s not much but some cool explosions.

There’s a four-minute gag reel (that you may have seen online about a month ago, although it’s been removed) that actually made several of us laugh out loud, a testament to how much we like these characters and actors and how well assembled it is. Definitely rewatchable! Eight deleted/extended scenes total 15 minutes. (Some online sources say there are nine scenes, but not on this disc. I counted twice.)

Avengers with Joss Whedon from the gag reel

Avengers with Joss Whedon from the gag reel

The best new scene provides more focus on Captain America (Chris Evans) trying to adapt to today’s world, with a cameo by Stan Lee that’s better than the one that made it into the movie. Others show some of what the filming looked like before the special effects were complete, with green screen and motion-capture suits. And I loved Banner’s joke about the Commodore 64 in another.

There are two featurettes, “A Visual Journey” (6 1/2 minutes) and “Assembling the Ultimate Team” (8 minutes). The former looks at the sets, effects, and images created, plus Joss Whedon gets snarky about the helicarrier design; the latter tells more about the characters and actors. Both are enjoyable, even if they contain the usual elements of short, promotional makings-of. I didn’t care about the Soundgarden music video “Live to Rise”, but it’s there if you do. Many fans will enjoy the commentary by Whedon — I did, since he’s entertaining to listen to.

There’s an Easter egg, too — if you highlight the SHIELD logo on the menu, you get six screens of text about the heroes, labeled “SHIELD personnel files”. I thought the gag reel and the featurettes were worth getting the movie for, but I wish there’d been more. I miss the really good comic documentaries they used to include on the movie discs, and I wanted to see more of the making of the film. The DVD only has the Whedon commentary and the “Assembling” featurette.

I very much wanted to try the Second Screen app, but the sync function is locked until the official release date. Until then, the app has the personnel files as well as some promotional clips. It’s also a very individual experience, since it’s hard to share watching the iPad.

The disc comes with a flyer with a code for a free digital comic (Avengers Assemble #1, if the picture can be believed) and a free Marvel poster (if you pay $3.59 shipping and processing). Those offers are similarly date-restricted. (The studio provided a review copy.)



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