Avengers: Age of Ultron Blu-ray Review

When AVENGERS (2012) was released three years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was on the verge of becoming something big. But no one knew for sure how the superhero team-up would play after the relatively low-key Phase I movie line-up, not to mention ongoing problems securing a successful Hulk. Looking back, the first AVENGERS was all the more surprising for that reason – it took everything we liked about the characters of Captain America/Steve Rogers, Iron Man/Tony Stark, Thor, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and even the ever-present SHIELD agents Coulson, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill, and ratcheted up the fun-factor to eleven. It’s still a bit surprising just how much fun that first movie is – if you haven’t watched it recently I recommend checking it out again.

A few years later with Marvel’s juggernaut success still on the upward swing, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was released to a warm but decidedly more mixed reception from both the public and the critics. Watching the new superhero mash-up is definitively less satisfying than the first AVENGERS movie even though it contains a lot of the same elements. This movie starts off with a bang – the Avengers team has been working together and you can tell they are a much more oiled machine than they were in the first go-round. Still, there is something nagging at the edges – a discomfit sitting with Tony Stark since his near-death experience during the first team-up.

Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and Robert Downey Jr.

That isn’t necessarily a bad storyline – but you might remember it was the main character arc during the last IRON MAN solo film and it’s all the more disappointing for that. Still, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON’s biggest problem wasn’t the story, which is usual comic book fair. It certainly wasn’t the writing or character development either, these actors really have a handle on these characters and the entire team feels fully realized in this film for maybe the first time. No, the problem with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is that it does not, could not possibly live up to the complete surprise success of the first AVENGERS film, a movie that essentially turned our concept of cool on its head.

Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans

Everyone has been discussing it since AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON premiered last summer and sent the actors on a whirlwind press-tour. Writer/Director Joss Whedon returned to helm this second story, including one of the biggest ‘bad’s’ in the Marvel universe in Ultron (played by the enigmatic James Spader), and while some of the blame lies with the relatively light handling Ultron required to be defeated (in the comics he either nearly, or completely, destroys the Avengers depending on the storyline/continuity you read). In this movie he’s beaten with relative ease, and while that’s part of the problem the true disappointment is harder to place.

When we saw AVENGERS in theaters many of us hoped it would live up to the hype (hype which was NOTHING compared to what this second movie faced). Not to mention the fact that each Phase 2 Marvel film became arguably my favorite film of the franchise for several months following each release – until the next one came out and blew it out of the water. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was released to a different world than it’s predecessor and that ultimately damaged it’s reception though it is actually a more complete and compelling story than the first one. AVENGERS; AGE OF ULTRON exists in a world of expanding comic-book awareness thanks to the first AVENGERS – one of the most watched movies in history.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen

So, what to think of Joss Whedon & Company’s second take on the world of the AVENGERS? If you can put aside the context, put aside the hype you’ve built in your mind as you hope to experience the first AVENGERS again, you can find this second AVENGERS experience to be exhilarating and much more fun than it’s been given credit for. Whedon brilliantly puts together a script that ties together everything that has come before with hints of what is to come while giving us an unbelievably grounded character-study on the entire ensemble – no small feat with a grade A cast-list each worthy of their own film.

Chris Evans, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

What do you do if you’re Joss Whedon and you have the opportunity to make the follow-up film to the most successful film in history? You make AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and you don’t apologize to anyone. History will be the judge but I imagine in 20 years this movie will sit higher in the comic/film pantheon than folks would believe today. The Blu-ray experience is extraordinary as well, given the traditional Disney treatment the extras cover every aspect of filmmaking and look beautiful on Blu-ray. Give this one a second chance – I don’t think you’ll regret it.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is a beautiful Blu-ray transfer that is absolutely a joy to watch on your big high definition TV.

Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) The audio for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is equally impressive and possibly even more immersive than the visuals. A true masterwork.

Audio Commentary with director Joss Whedon (02:21:19) This is a good commentary though it is a little bit frustrating that Whedon seems to mumble and chew his way through the commentary. Whedon is truly brilliant and there is a lot to like here but for some reason he’s just genuinely difficult to understand here.

Featurettes:

From the Inside Out – Making of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (20:55) An incredible feature, from the first day of shooting to the world premiere, this one covers all of the pieces that would become AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. A really great special feature.

The Infinite Six (07:28) AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON signals the next stop in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase II and the greater story is moving into Act (Phase) 3 so the story is beginning to develop quite nicely, setting things up for the next AVENGERS film(s).

Global Adventure (03:02) The feature focuses on the multiple global locales used in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (12:04) Available with or without Audio Commentary with director Joss Whedon, there are some really interesting scenes that were cut from the final film. I especially would have liked to see Thor deal with the Norn – check it out for a little extra Erik Selvig action.

Gag Reel (03:38) Thankfully the gag reel for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is actually much better than the shorter version that hit social media a week or two before the Blu-ray was released, worth watching.

Disney no longer sends critics the full retail package, choosing instead to only send the movie disc. Other special features may be included with the package you choose to rent or purchase.

OVERALL 4.5
    MOVIE REVIEW
    BLU-RAY REVIEW

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