Release Date(s)2012 (August 14, 2018)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor’s Note: Though it’s not currently available for pre-order on Amazon, the 4K disc should be available from them on street date or shortly thereafter.]
When an alien force empowers the Asgardian Loki to conquer the Earth, he begins his attack on a secret SHIELD facility in order to capture the powerful Tesseract which the aliens want in exchange. Nick Fury won’t take this aggression lying down, of course, so he reactivates the Avengers Initiative, bringing together Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Bruce Banner (The Hulk), and Tony Stark (Iron Man) to retrieve the Tesseract and defend Humanity. But when Thor arrives on Earth in pursuit of his brother, Loki calls in his alien reinforcements… and things do not go according to plan for The Avengers.
Directed by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire and Firefly fame), The Avengers proved to be a tremendously successful first big-screen ensemble for Marvel, and it’s really a combination of things that makes the film work. First of all, Whedon keeps the action moving along smoothly and his own script never forgets the humanity of its characters, nor the opportunity for humor that results from some of these unlikely team-ups. The cast delivers too, with great performances all around. But perhaps the key element to this film’s success is the fact that Marvel took the time and care to introduce most of these characters in earlier films of their own. This allows each of them to “assemble” pre-developed, with individual personalities and quirks the audience is already familiar with. This team-up story thus feels earned and – most importantly – it doesn’t feel rushed.
The Avengers was shot on a combination of 35mm film and digital in Super 35 format and the ARRIRAW (2.8K) codec (with a bit of regular HD footage mixed in), using a variety of cameras and lenses. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate and released theatrically in the 1.85 aspect ratio and 1.78 on Blu-ray. For this release, it appears that the 2K Digital Intermediate has been upsampled, given a new high dynamic range color grade (in HDR10 only), and it’s presented here on Ultra HD at 1.85. While there is a marginal uptick in fine detail here compared to the Blu-ray, visible mostly in slightly more refined texturing (look at Loki’s staff, for example, or the stone and wood in the museum in Stuttgart), the image is still a bit softer looking than more MCU recent entries on this format due to its lower resolution capture and production. But the high dynamic range grade makes a big difference. One of the complaints about this film’s Blu-ray release was that the imagery lacked some of the expected pop of comic-book panels. No more. Shadows are inky-black, retaining nice detail, while the brightest areas of the image are eye-reactive, and the coloring is bold and accurate. Some might question the need to upgrade to 4K in this case, but the HDR makes a strong case for it. Still, Dolby Vision HDR has been relegated to the 4K Digital version only. Whether it’s simply easier for Disney to manage it that way or they’re intentionally choosing to privilege the digital option in the hope of pushing consumers in that direction, it’s hard to say.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is offered in a new English Dolby Atmos mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). You’ll be pleased to know that this is no lifeless affair. One hopes this is because Disney has finally taken steps to correct their uninspired Atmos mixes to date… but one suspects it’s because a truly dynamic and bombastic surround mix was already available for this title. Either way, The Avengers sounds terrific here. The previous Blu-ray offered a tremendous 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and it appears that mix has been given a new Dolby TrueHD encode, with a few Atmos tweaks added for good measure. The soundstage is big, wide, and robust, with plenty of punch and energy, and truly muscular bass. Surround play is smooth and aggressive, while the height channels kick in nicely during all the set-pieces, especially the opening fight, the Helicarrier launch, and the film’s climactic battle in New York City. (Note that this track is mixed at a slightly lower volume level than is typical but, once you turn up the volume, all the fullness and dynamic range you want is there, unlike the Atmos on other recent Disney and Marvel 4K titles.) Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, and Spanish and Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, with optional subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Japanese, two Chinese dialects, and Korean.
There are no extras whatsoever on the actual 4K Ultra HD disc, but the package includes the film in 1080p too (still at 1.78:1) – on the previous Blu-ray edition – which adds the following (all in HD):
- Audio Commentary by Director Joss Whedon
- The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience (142:54)
- Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 (11:20)
- Gag Reel (4:05)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (8 scenes – 14:59 in all)
- A Visual Journey (6:28)
- Assembling the Ultimate Team (8:08)
- Soundgarden’s “Live to Rise” Music Video (4:49)
That’s essentially everything that was included on the previous wide-release Blu-ray, though you obviously don’t get the Blu-ray 3D version, nor is the Target-exclusive Marvel: Building a Cinematic Universe DVD bonus disc included. You do at least get the usual Movies Anywhere digital code on a paper insert.
The Avengers is a great deal of fun and it marked a turning point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, allowing for grander-scale superhero stories, while opening the door for the introduction of a second wave of characters from deeper within the Marvel canon. On Ultra HD, the film offers a nice visual improvement via HDR (though less so in image detail) and delivers all of the sonic bang you’ve been hoping for from Disney 4K Ultra HD. If you're a fan with 4K UHD, it’s recommended.
- Bill Hunt