The Avengers was the darling film of the summer 2012 movie season and a billion-dollar achievement for Marvel Studio's ambitious shared universe movie franchise. The epic adventure (and every fanboy's dream) now arrives at home in the form of The Avengers Blu-ray combo pack - and while hardcore fans are likely still bummed about the delayed Marvel "Phase One" Collector's Edition (which contains the entire Marvel Phase One movie saga) this Avengers Blu-ray is nonetheless a nice holdover.
Read on for a breakdown of the Blu-ray transfer and all the special features you get with this Marvel movie feature - including the new Marvel One-Shot: Item 47, which provides a nice little snapshot of what we may be getting with Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon's upcoming TV spin-off of Marvel's SHIELD.
The Avengers on Blu-ray
The Avengers (read our review) was a pretty solid technical achievement on its own, so it's no surprise that the Blu-ray transfer is a good one. Even without the 3D conversion (which worked pretty well in the theatrical version), the Blu-ray visuals are crisp and clean, while the audio (presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) is spot on and worthy of those who have invested well in their home theater sound systems.
For those whose sound-systems aren't yet up to the Audio 7.1 surround-sound standard, there may be some dynamic contrast between scenes of spoken dialogue and the sequences of blaring action and/or music (that rousing Avengers theme that millions now know and love) - but when is that not the case with Blu-ray features, these days? And even if your TV doesn't offer the most flawless 1080p resolution possible, the visuals on the Blu-ray look pristine when it comes to day/night scene contrast, CGI effects, movement, detail and texture. Best of all: The movie itself is still pretty awesome upon repeat viewings.
However, the real question is do the special features make this Blu-ray combo pack worthy of a buy, now, rather than waiting for the full 6-movie collector's edition coming next year? Read on and decide for yourself.
Marvel One-Shot: Item 47
In this Marvel One-Shot short, we are introduced to Claire (Lizzy Caplan) and Benny (Jesse Bradford), a young couple who have gotten hold of a Chitauri weapon following The Avengers' climactic battle over New York. Benny being a skilled engineer, the couple are able to activate the alien weapon - which they promptly use to commit a string of bank robberies. Of course, such flagrant extraterrestrial larceny doesn't go unnoticed, and soon two odd-pair S.H.I.E.L.D. agents - the grim Agent Black (Titus Welliver) and 'new Agent Coulson,' Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) - are on the tail of the would-be crooks.
Item 47 is a slightly goofy experience (it was directed by Marvel Studios co-president Louis D'Esposito), but it does provide some tangible example of what Joss Whedon's SHIELD TV Show will be like. Agent Sitwell showed up in the first Marvel One-Shot, "The Consultant," and repeat viewings of The Avengers reveal his presence in a few key scenes. As far as stepping in for Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson (as a kind of bridge character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Sitwell isn't a bad choice and could conceivably carry a TV show. Without spoiling the (somewhat absurd) ending of Item 47, there are several players in the short who would be equally capable (and likable) enough characters for the TV show. We'll see what develops on that front.
Hopefully, though, Whedon's balance of comic book action, police procedural format and quirky humor will hit the mark a bit better than this short does.
Other Special Features
All in all, The Avengers Blu-ray offers some fun (if not all that extensive) extras - though, admittedly, hardcore fans have probably already seen the lion's share of them online already:
The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience - Use your iPhone, iPad, or laptop as a guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe while you watch The Avengers. The interactive experience is shaped as a mock S.H.I.E.L.D. database containing Marvel comic book and character histories, which will basically help explain the film universe to those unfamiliar or in need of a refresher course. A very helpful tool.
Marvel's first Gag Reel: Want to see how much fun the actors had on set while making The Avengers? Marvel provides a Gag reel that will leave a smile on the face of any fan who watches. Best yet: the most unlikely candidates turn out to be the biggest comedians.
Deleted/Extended Scenes and Alternative Opening/Closing: Check an alternative opening and closing to the film, in which Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) recounts the events of The Avengers to the world security council; afterward, rejoice in the fact that they didn't use these narrative bookends in the final film.
Do you question Scarlett Johansson's acting skills? Try not to be impressed as Black Widow battles a horde of invisible CGI foes (and displays some impressive stunt work) in an unfinished extended scene from the NYC sequence.
Want more of Captain America or Henry Dean Stanton's weird sermon to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo)? Then you've come to the right place.
Featurettes: "A Visual Journey" and "Assembling the Ultimate Team" take you behind the scenes with cast and crew to witness first-hand what it took to wrangle a cast of heavyweights together for the ultimate superhero team-up - and then, what it took (on a technical level) to actually make a reality of the film geeks have been 'gasming over for decades. SPOILER ALERT: It was no small feat on either front.
Audio Commentary: You want to hear commentary that's actually worth listening to? Check out the geek-wisdom, sly wit, and genuinely enthused commentary track of Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon.
"Live to Rise" Soundgarden Music Video: Because this is where we all imagined we'd re-discover Soundgarden, right?