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Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Avengers Success Continues on Blu-ray

Written by Kirk Baird

There’s a reason why The Avengers was the No. 1 box-office attraction this summer and one of the top films of all time.

It’s a smart and deliriously fun romp that exceeds all expectations — a spectacular achievement in itself considering all the hype surrounding Joss Whedon's superhero epic. His film is the new paradigm for a $250 million popcorn film.

Whedon has concocted a wildly entertaining story loaded with clever one-liners that should satisfy everyone, from die-hard comic geeks to casual moviegoers looking for a few hours of escapism. He also expertly paces the intense action with the occasional quiet moment of drama and introspection, revealing, if only for a moment, the humanity behind the brawn and spandex.

The plot features the return of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor's step-brother and villain of the first Thor film, who has escaped eternal banishment and is determined to subjugate the human race. The evil Norse demigod has allied himself with a race of alien warriors known as Chitauri. Humans are no match for these beings, so Earth turns to its mightiest heroes for help: Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)—collectively known as the Avengers.

The heroes are recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson as Samuel L. Jackson), head of S.H.I.E.L.D., a secret U.S. military force.

Whedon is a lifelong comic-book fan who has an affinity for these characters and understands them. He also knows that if you put this many larger-than-life superhumans in one room there are going to be problems: ego clashes, disputes about how to mete out justice, and who's in charge. Before the Avengers smash the enemy, they must first stop battling each other.

Their verbal-turned-physical smackdowns create an underlying thread of dramatic tension throughout much of the movie, and Whedon mines these moments for a surprising amount of humour. The whip-smart banter plays to the strength of Downey, but everyone has their grand moments, with the Hulk topping them all. (Hulk’s crowd-pleasing scene, Whedon noted in his entertaining commentary, represents the crowning achievement in the film, to the point if the filmmaker did nothing else during the two years spent making The Avengers but that moment on screen with the Hulk, he would be happy.)

We've already been introduced to these super-powered, super-skilled warriors, so there isn't a lot of alter-ego backstory to get in the way of the fun. The Avengers is mostly about letting the superheroes be just that on screen, and doing whatever our imaginations, Whedon, and CGI can conjure.

The Blu-ray version of The Avengers features the usual sharp picture and audio from the high-definition transfer. More importantly, the Blu-ray version features a load of extras not on the DVD, including nearly 15 minutes of deleted scenes (mostly character development stuff along with an unfinished action sequence), a gag reel, and an amusing short film called Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 that addresses what happens when an alien weapon leftover from the climactic battle ends up in the hands of would-be bank robbers. Both the DVD and Blu-ray include a featurette on the making of the film.

The Avengers stands alone as the top film of the summer, critically and commercially, for good reason. Whedon has delivered that rare action-packed, special-effects spectacle that is relentless in its eagerness to please and successful beyond its goal.

Believe the hype...and more.

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