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When the Tesseract, a cube of pure energy with the power to destroy the Earth, is stolen by the nefarious God of Mischief, Loki, S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury embarks on a daring recruitment effort spanning the globe to assemble a team of the world's most powerful superheroes to get it back. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and The Hulk are brought together to stop Loki. But unfortunately, it'll take more than just assembling them to save the world from the brink of destruction. Based on the Marvel Comics characters.
For more about The Avengers and the The Avengers Blu-ray release, see the The Avengers Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner
Director: Joss Whedon
» See full cast & crew
The Avengers Blu-ray Review
Vengeance in this case is extremely sweet.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 20, 2012
To paraphrase a quote by the redoubtable Mark Twain, reports of the death of the superhero film franchise are greatly exaggerated. Every time a superhero film arrives that doesn't instantaneously leap tall buildings in a single bound (Green Lantern, anyone?), the press goes into hyperdrive proclaiming the end of a genre that has been a staple of film at least since the early days of Superman and Batman serials in the mid-twentieth century. While those manning adaptations of DC Comics could pretend to ignore disappointments like Green Lantern due to their stellar run with the Christopher Nolan Batman reboot (aside from the horrendous tragedy in Colorado earlier this year), they've had a tougher row to hoe with their proposed reboot of the Superman franchise (with the long gestating Man of Steel). That property is facing serious problems due to several lawsuits involving heirs to the estates of Superman's creators, a tangle of litigation which may prevent any adaptation from moving forward, at least for the foreseeable future. Marvel, once the scrappy also-ran in the comic book wars, has had a much better time of it, despite the occasional misfire along the way. While Marvel may have stumbled at least a little bit with its two lackluster Hulk attempts, and with second tier fare like the Ghost Rider franchise, the past several years have seen a number of high profile superhero films culled from Marvel comics that have met both with serious critical acclaim as well as humongous boxoffice receipts. Several of these Marvel adaptations have featured huge casts aggregating several superheroes in properties including The Fantastic Four and X-Men. Still, nothing quite as immense as The Avengers had ever been tried before, and Marvel took the rather unusual step of rolling out what is set to be a major tentpole for the next several years over the course of at least a couple of other films, with co-star Samuel L. Jackson providing cameos in single superhero offerings like Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, in a blatant if very smart attempt to whet viewers' appetites for what was obviously going to be a major mashup of Marvel legends.
So was all that appetite whetting in service of a decent main course? Absolutely. One of the first things that even casual appreciators of The Avengers may notice is how brilliantly the little seeds that were planted in the last few Marvel superhero outings blossom in this new film. What's even more remarkable, however, is that while it can't be denied that having seen the last few films (especially Thor) helps to set the stage for The Avengers' major plot points, it isn't absolutely necessary. Rarely has a new franchise built upon the veritable shoulders of several other films so intelligently furthered those individual elements while at the same time working just as well independently of them.
The sibling rivalry at the heart of Thor is the prime motivator for much of what transpires in The Avengers. Black sheep Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in cahoots with a bunch of nasty aliens called the Chitauri, with whom he has struck a deal involving the glowing blue cube of pure energy known as the Tesseract (as a Madeleine L'Engle A Wrinkle in Time fan, may I just interject that that term will forever be linked in my mind to L'Engle's books). Loki's goal is to steal the Tesseract, deliver it to the Chitauri, at which point a large horde of Chitauri will aid Loki in enslaving Mankind. In the meantime, super-secret spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (an acronym which has had any number of definitions through the years in the Marvel universe) and its spymaster Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) have been employing the services of scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and agent Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to run experiments on the Tesseract. Those experiments go seriously awry when Loki utilizes them to open a portal and enter our little corner of the universe, whereupon he uses his glowing blue spear to hypnotize both Selvig and Hawkeye, making off with them and the Tesseract.
That in turn leads Fury to recruit all the members of what S.H.I.E.L.D. has been referring to as the "Avengers Initiative". Aside from Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Fury and his aide Coulson (Clark Gregg) reach out to Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), asking her in turn to track down Dr. Bruce Banner AKA The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), since Banner's longstanding research into Gamma Rays evidently equips him to track down the missing Tesseract. Into this motley group flies Thor (Chris Hemsworth), descending from the heavens to track down his errant adopted brother.
Whedon threads this multi-pronged needle with incredible facility, managing to sum up characters in a just a beat or two before moving on to the more important kind of beat, the beat down. The whole central section of The Avengers actually sees a number of fantastic and often funny battles between the superheroes themselves, before they turn their collective sights on Loki and the Chitauri. Rather interestingly, these bombastic sequences actually help to develop the characters rather than just act as adrenaline pumping instruments, and it's also here that Whedon's fantastic sense of humor comes to the fore and elevates the film above the often turgid and self-important superhero ambience. Without spoiling any punchlines, suffice it to say that (to give just two examples) Stark's snarkiness and Captain America's earnestness each deliver some classic one liners which are not just laugh out loud hilarious but actually help to develop the interrelationships between the various characters.
The Avengers is a breathless and mostly elegantly structured entertainment that manages to let each of the superheroes (and their merely mortal helpers) have their moment in the sun while at the same time providing some fantastic set pieces. Truth be told, virtually the entire final hour of the film is one huge set piece as Loki's shenanigans allow the Chitauri to start teleporting into a suitably distraught Manhattan. All of this said, is this a perfect superhero film? Probably not. That same final battle might last a little too long and I for one just couldn't warm to Ruffalo as Banner (one assumes that's not him as The Hulk). But these are very minor quibbles in what has to be one of the most rousing action films of at least the past decade. Whedon expresses some surprise (consternation, really) that he was handed this property without having a large film oeuvre already under his belt, but The Avengers proves that he was an incredibly smart choice to man an incredibly entertaining film.
The Avengers Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Avengers is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Disney – Buena Vista (who distributed the film) with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is a wonderfully sharp and well detailed high definition presentation that only has one major issue, one that must be traced to Whedon's own wishes for the film's overall ambience: it is just incredibly dark a lot of the time (especially in the first half of the film). This overall murkiness robs the image of some shadow detail, though outright crush, while hinted at, isn't really a major issue. The second half of the film is considerably brighter, and the final, extended battle scene is a riot of fine object detail, fantastically robust and well saturated color, and very strong contrast. The CGI elements have a slightly soft look some of the time (as witnessed by some of the screencaps accompanying this review). The film hasn't been overly tweaked in post, so colors remain natural looking most of the time, and typical bugaboos like aliasing on Manhattan's skyline are nowhere to be found.
The Avengers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Avengers features an astoundingly effective lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. For those of you who are new to high definition audio and wonder what all the fuss about "LFE" is about, pop The Avengers in your Blu-ray player and prepare to feel the might force of interstellar energy pulse through your very being. This is one of the most fantastically robust mixes I've personally experienced, one that keeps the low frequency effects coming from virtually the first second of the film, but which never overplays its hand, allowing the listener to catch a little "breathing room" before launching off on a new sonic attack. Immersion is simply perfectly handled. Spaceships whiz through the soundfield with clear panning action, various punches and bone cracking moves are perfectly placed around the surrounds, while at the same time dialogue is never sacrificed and rings through loudly and clearly. Particular attention has been paid to various ambient effects; notice Stark's "cloistered" sounding voice when he's inside his Iron Man suit, or the creepy, bass heavy tones (very reminiscent of Darth Vader) of Loki's Chitauri collaborator. Fidelity is sterling and dynamic range is amazing in this reference quality track.
The Avengers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Avengers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Avengers is a near-perfect "summer blockbuster", a film which weaves together a glut of previously introduced characters (and storylines) about as effortlessly as possible, while bringing a new face or two into the mix. Rousing without ever seeming manic, and wonderfully funny a lot of the time, The Avengers easily establishes Whedon as one of the most formidable writing-directing talents of his generation. The film has a couple of niggling issues, but its self-awareness helps to overcome them without any false irony. The first half of the film is awfully dark, making some of the action too hard to see, but once the final battle erupts during the final hour or so, The Avengers is just a nonstop assault of visual and aural treats. This Blu-ray offers superior video and reference quality audio, as well as an appealing package of supplements. Highly recommended.
The Avengers: Other Editions
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