by Matt Sernaker, Managing Editor
After years of anticipation, Marvel finally released The Avengers in theaters this summer. The largest (and one of the most epic) superhero endeavors ever brought to the big screen, the film features Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) standing up to fight the foes that no hero could face alone (with a little help from S.H.I.E.L.D.). We had known that The Avengers would be coming since first the epic post-credits scene from Iron Man, but we still were unprepared for this masterpiece from Writer/Director Joss Whedon (Cabin In The Woods, Firefly, Serenity). Now you can get your own copy of Marvel’s The Avengers in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack!
To say that The Avengers was incredible would be an understatement. Joss carefully crafts an engaging, beautiful, action-packed journey that brings our heroes together to face off against a new threat from Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the impending alien armada known as the Chitauri, the Ultimates version of the shape changing Skrulls. Instead of recapping the movie again, which you all should have seen in theaters at least three times by now, let’s focus on why this film stands apart from other endeavors into the superhero film genre:
Over the last decade we have seen dozens of superhero films hit our theaters, and we movie-goers have suffered through some terrible failures (Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and Catwoman–I am looking at you). Careful planning and a greater understanding of why the heroes are so iconic in their own right seems to be the key ingredient in making these characters work in film, and I think it is something that Marvel has figured out while others (DC and Fox) are still struggling. Translating a comic book world to film is a huge challenge. Invariably, features that work in comic books need to be tweaked to make them work in a realistic cinematic world. Making sure that these characters remain true to the basic elements of their source material without straining the credulity of the audience is a daunting task.
Marvel made this work in every detail of The Avengers, from the costumes of the characters, to the homage to the original stories that brought these characters together in the comics. Although I didn’t really love Cap’s mask, tying in both the original 1963 origin, and the 2002 Ultimates Volume 1 storyline was a master stroke. These characters were treated with respect and reverence as they took off on the big screen. Every action, every bit of dialogue, every scripted moment just felt cohesive. The Tesseract (aka the Cosmic Cube) creating an opening between worlds? No questions asked. Alien invasion lead by a Norse God? Believable. These heroes coming together to save the day: ‘Nuff said. This was the ultimate battle between good and evil, and to say that Marvel has set the bar high would not do justice to the unparalleled accomplishment that The Avengers has become.
Remember when FOX said that you couldn’t do an X-Men movie like the comics and that blue and yellow costumes wouldn’t work? That you couldn’t make the X-Men like they are in the comic because they wouldn’t be believable? Cut to a decade later and we see Matthew Vaughn release his utterly fantastic take on our favorite mutants with X-Men: First Class, complete with a homage to the classic costumes. Joss Whedon wrote an early draft of X-Men, but only one line survived re-writes due to doubts that the audience would buy characters in such garish comic book uniforms. Now Joss has assembled one of the most successful movies of all time, all the while staying true to the original comic book source material. It’s these little things that can be so iconic and also impart a legacy that shouldn’t simply be overlooked for the sake of making it “more realistic” or worse, “different”. Marvel understood this idea when they started with Iron Man, and it has been extremely apparent as they have built up their cinematic catalog of heroes.
Maintaining The Pre-Established
The Avengers is actually the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, having to take everything that was introduced in the previous five movies and ensure that everything remained true to what had already been established. While each of these films took place in their own world, they now have to come together in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Captain America (Chris Evans) becoming a man displaced in time and finding a new role within The Avengers was a crucial component to the success of the team. Fans were blown away by Evans’ take on Cap, and showing why this character was such an influential leader. I was disappointed that they had to cut out Steve’s adventures into the present day world, and his search for Peggy, but I can understand that in terms of the larger picture it would have slowed down the pacing of the film. If you have read the Ultimates Vol. 1, you can understand how this really could have added to the overall dynamic for the character. I think we will be seeing a lot of this footage (or at least the concepts) in Captain America: The Winter Solider.
Robert Downey, Jr. has the most screen time in the franchise, starring in both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 (and making a brief cameo in The Incredible Hulk) and he still manages to make sure that the character is fresh and interesting with each new encounter. The appearances by Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) were a fantastic choice, allowing the audience to see that while we are seeing things on a broader scale with this film, the individual aspects of these characters continue to advance and thrive. The Avengers also sets Tony up for some new twists with the upcoming Iron Man 3, and I think will continue to push Tony in some interesting directions.
Chris Hemsworth brings Thor back to Earth (rather conveniently) to find his missing brother Loki, and kicks off a battle royale with Cap and Iron Man. Thor definitely has been changed by the events of his own movie, and it is unfortuntate that he really doesn’t get as many opportunities for growth in The Avengers as the rest of the team.
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow definitely has a lot going on in The Avengers, kicking off her appearance with a clever escape and take down of some Russian thugs. Her determination while facing off against Loki, and her mysterious back story with Hawkeye easily add to the likability of this character, proving that she can hold her own in a world of Asgardians and aliens.
We also finally get to see Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) take on evil and kick some ass! We have been waiting for years to see the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. take a more active role in the Marvel Universe, and The Avengers did not disappoint. Seeing Fury on the command deck of the Helicarrier as it took off was one of the most breathtaking moments of the movie for comics fans.
Clark Gregg’s extremely genuine portrayal of Agent Phil Coulson was one of the best parts of The Avengers. Being a character that was created just for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Coulson has played a large role in bringing these heroes together, and also acted as a voice for the audience. His character was a fanboy. He had deep respect for these powerful beings that would someday step up and take on the evils of the world. He knew that good would prevail. Gregg’s ability to convey these notions in such a minor role is nothing short of impressive.
Every installment in their franchise since 2008 has showcased their heroes at their best (and at their worst), and The Avengers manages to take a full cast of personalities and history and find a symmetry that had not been seen before on film (in this genre). Every character got a chance to shine. It wasn’t just an Iron Man story with these other heroes showing up. There is no question about how this is a team movie. Not only did Joss have to balance the pre-established heroes, but he had to introduce fans to a few new additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Hulk, Hawkeye, and Agent Maria Hill.
The Hulk in The Avengers was originally slated to be portrayed by Edward Norton, who played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk. Due to differences between Norton and Marvel, the role was recast and Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac) took on the green goliath for this new round. As much as we loved Norton in Incredible, Ruffalo stole every scene as a more endearing Dr. Banner. This version of the Hulk was also different than his cinematic predecessors, as Bruce Banner was finally able to find a way to channel his rage in a way never before demonstrated. Ruffalo channeled both the Hulk and Dr. Banner in a way that makes you feel deeply saddened by his situation, and fans are treated to a Hulk that lives up to its comic book namesake. Ruffalo knocks it out of the park with The Avengers, leaving fans clamoring for more HULK!
While Jeremy Renner (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) made a “blink and you’ll miss it” appearance as Hawkeye in Thor, this was the first time that fans have gotten to see their favorite Avenging Archer in action. After Hawkeye is released from the clutches of Loki, we get to see this character in a take that has never been done before. Captain America uses him to essentially “call the game”, directing his fellow Avengers to places that they need to be. This is not some super powered hero, this is just a man who can see the bigger picture of what is going on in the world around him. Having Hawkeye take on this role allowed him to be crucial to the team’s success, and open up some new doors for writers to explore. As fun and snarky as Hawkeye is to read in the comics, I definitely enjoyed this version more and cannot wait to see where they take this version of the character.
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) joins S.H.I.E.L.D. as Agent Maria Hill, working closely with pre-established characters Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). Smulders’ level headed approach to the character was definitely a welcomed addition to the film, demonstrating how much of a badass the character is in her own right. I was slightly disappointed that she didn’t get more screen time (check out the deleted scenes for a few additional moments), but it was great seeing a character that was only introduced within the last decade have such a solid appearance in the larger cinematic universe.
This is what we were waiting for! Seeing the theatrical cut of the film wasn’t enough, we needed additional content from The Avengers. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack comes with a couple fun surprises that will make any fan happy:
- The Avengers Initative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience- Access the S.H.I.E.L.D. data base to immerse yourself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, dive into the Avengers Comic Book History, and much more in this exclusive experience for your iPad, iPhone, or laptop.
- Marvel One-Shot: Item 47- Marvel has been adding these special short films to their blu-ray releases, and this newest story tells the tale of a couple who found one of the Chituari’s weapons and decide to use it for a robberies. Now Agent Sitwell must hunt down and neutralize this threat to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s security, and reclaim the weapon. This short could easily be the spring board for the newly announced S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, and we can only hope that some of these characters will make the transition to the small screen in 2013.
- A Visual Journey: Discover the amazing sets, groundbreaking visual effects, and stunning cinematography of this phenomenal film
- Marvel’s First-Ever Gag Reel
- Deleted Scenes
- “Live To Rise” Soundgarden Music Video
- Assembling The Ulimate Team: The all-star cast shares the excitement of teaming up to bring these characters to life, and Director Joss Whedon discusses what each of them brought to the role.
- Audio Commentary with Director Joss Whedon
Video and Audio
1080p Video- Marvel’s The Avengers is without a doubt a visually stunning movie. Having experienced the film in both 3D and Standard Definition in theaters, I can say that regardless of how you watch it, you will be immersed. These characters look amazing in 1080p and the transition to the small screen does not in any way take away from the epicness of the film. If you own a 3D television, I would encourage you to buy the upgraded version of this set. We all know that 3D can be very gimmicky, and Joss and his team made sure that it felt very fluid in terms of the enhancements to this film. The 3D version was actually pretty impressive. Regardless, you can do no wrong with the purchase of either of the Blu-ray versions of this release.
DTS HD Master Audio 7.1- The audio quality for The Avengers is consistently crisp and clear, and really helps you experience the film as it was meant to be heard.
The Avengers was not just a film, it was an experience. More importantly, it was an experience that I didn’t want to ever end. Joss Whedon crafted the perfect comic book movie. It acknowledged the legacy of these characters, and managed to present them in the most vivid and unquestionably stunning way possible. The Avengers was the end of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we already know that Phase Two will consist of Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Solider, Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of The Galaxy, and the recently reported Edgar Wright helmed Ant-Man (come on Nathan Fillion!). These films will pave the way for the next installment of The Avengers in 2015, which cannot come soon enough. Get ready for more Marvel movies, True Believers!
ComicsOnline gives Marvel’s The Avengers on Blu-ray 5 out of 5 cries of “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!”.