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Avengers: Age of Ultron (3D Blu-ray Review)

2 Oct, 2015 By: John Latchem

Street 10/2/15
Box Office $458.92 million
$29.99 DVD, $32.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments.
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Claudia Kim, Cobie Smulders, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson.

As big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gotten, bringing its key players together for a big crossover doesn’t quite have the impact it used to. Yet Avengers: Age of Ultron, the 11th film in the canon and the second to combine the various Avengers characters onto one team for a globe-trotting battle against evil, is still a hugely entertaining film that brings a lot of big ideas to the table.

The obvious drawback to a shared cinematic universe is that many references and story points might be lost on viewers who haven’t seen all the other installments. Given that the MCU now encompasses several TV shows, that might be a tall order. That puts more of an onus on the makers of each film to tell a self-sustaining story within the context of the greater whole (not to mention the sub-franchises for each character), while also setting up future films, but the MCU really hasn’t had much trouble pulling that off yet.

It also helps that Joss Whedon is back at the helm, having demonstrated a knack in his career for balancing ensemble casts in stories that tend to vary in tone from the deadly serious to the lighthearted and back within moments.

Picking up from the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and, less directly, Guardians of the Galaxy), the Avengers have Assembled to search for the mind-controlling scepter from the first Avengers movie. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to emulate its properties to create a new artificial intelligence called Ultron (voiced by James Spader) to defend the world, only to have it decide humanity isn’t worth saving and try to destroy the world. The team squabbles over their philosophical differences regarding Stark’s actions, meet some new friends along the way, and come together long enough to fight the climactic battle against an army of interchangeable robot soldiers. In other words, exactly what you’d want from an “Avengers” movie.

What sets the film apart are the little details that become more apparent in multiple viewings — character subplots, recurring motifs, comic book references, background gags and more.

Whedon also has a good hand on framing the action for a 3D conversion. Even with a lot of movement in the frame, viewers should have no trouble keeping track of what’s going on, and the 3D effect only enhances that sense of space by calling attention to little details that might be lost in the background in mere 2D.

Luckily for fans, Whedon provides a solo commentary track in which he points out many of these details as well as he delves into the various things he was trying to accomplish with the film. Never one to shy away from brutal honesty, Whedon has no trouble admitting that there were some things he just couldn’t pull off that he wanted to, describing the film in terms of his “failures and compromises” that only a director as intimately involved in the creative process as he would notice. To the rest of us, it’s just another engrossing action spectacle.

The Blu-ray also includes 12 minutes of deleted scenes that add some depth to a few subplots, while flat-out explaining what Thor was doing in that cave (in a sequence heavily edited for time in the final film).

There has been a lot of discussion online about how the film could have been much longer to give some of its more thoughtful storylines room to breathe and coalesce into a more-meaningful whole. While there may be some elements of truth to that, the final cut certainly comes together nicely as it is.

The rumors of excised footage, such as scenes with Loki (which are nowhere to be found on this disc), have led many fans to wonder if a director’s cut is on the horizon, which would certainly generate a lot of interest if it ever happened.

The Blu-ray also includes a four-minute gag reel and three featurettes. The 21-minute “From the Inside Out” is a typical making-of program, mostly focused on creating the visual effects and giving the cast a chance to sing each others’ praises. The three-minute “Global Adventure” featurette looks at the process of filming on locations in South Africa, Italy and South Korea, among others.

Finally, and more relevant to the MCU as a whole, is “The Infinite Six,” a seven-and-a-half-minute profile of the Infinity Stones, the artifacts that keep popping up in these movies to tie them all together. Any comic book fan can tell you there are six stones, and only four have been revealed in the films, which means there’s a long way to go before this ride comes to an end.

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