New on DVD/Blu-ray: The Avengers (2012)

Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr, and Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers (2012) Movie Image

Admit it, when Marvel announced their plans to do individual superhero movies before ultimately teaming them up into one gigantic movie, you were a little skeptical. Who wouldn’t be? No one has ever attempted such an undertaking before, not even all those giant movie studios that have been doing this for decades. And here comes little upstart Marvel Studios, thinking they can do the impossible? Bah!

Turns out, yeah, they can do it. And do it damn well, too, thank you very much.

Enter: “The Avengers”. Directed by Joss Whedon (probably the most cult director of cult directors there ever existed) in what is easily his biggest film to date, “The Avengers” really shouldn’t have work. It was a monumental task in front and behind the camera. How could a film like this, with so many stars, so many characters, and one lone director whose TV shows kept getting canceled, make the biggest film of 2012? Well they did. He did. The result is “The Avengers”, landing on DVD and Blu-ray September 25th, 2012.

Like the production, the story shouldn’t have worked … only it did work. Spectacularly. When a common villain threatens to enslave mankind, the world’s greatest superheroes team up to fight back. They are: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a billionaire playboy philanthropist who moonlights as the armored superhero Iron Man; Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder; Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), better known to the whole wide world as Captain America; and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), a brilliant scientist with anger issues, and an alter ego known as The Hulk. And then there is SHIELD — the American spy agency charged with protecting the country from all enemies foreign and domestic … and as it turns out, intergalactic as well. They are led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who staffs a couple of superheroes himself — the archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the deadly Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

When the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) brings an army from, literally, out of space to raze Earth, it’s up to the superheroes to save us. Fortunately for us mere mortal, the guys in bright suits are up to the task. Well, eventually, anyway. “The Avengers” is over two hours of grand action, killer humor, and is quite possibly the best, pure superhero movie you’ll see all year. Hell, it might be the best superhero movie you’ll see for the next few years, if not longer. Really, it’s going to take a lot to top this. A lot.

Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in The Avengers (2012) Movie Image

As deserving a movie of its quality and box office success, Disney and Marvel are releasing “The Avengers” in a variety of formats, everything from your basic two-disc Blu-ray combo pack (which we are reviewing here) to a fancy limited edition set for domestic and overseas fans.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack edition comes with two discs, a standard DVD that contains the movie, director’s commentary by Joss Whedon, and an 8-minute “Assembling the Ultimate Team” featurette. All three items are also on the Blu-ray disc, which contains more special features, including:

Perhaps the biggest bonus feature is the director’s commentary with Joss Whedon, who dishes on lots of inside information about the making of the film. Whedon carries the track just fine on his own, but I can’t help but think the whole thing might have been even better if he had someone in the room with him to throw ideas off. But hey, that’s just me; I’m just not a fan of solo commentaries.

Additional bonus features include the Marvel One-Shot “Item 47”, an 11-minute short film that takes place after the events of “The Avengers”. Starring Lizzy Kaplan, Jesse Bradford, Maximiliano Hernández and Titus Welliver. It’s a fun little story, but ultimately pointless. Plus, a Marvel short film should always star Agent Coulson. (But I guess he was, er, indisposed at the time.) Lizzy Kaplan is super cute, though.

A 4-minute gag reel featuring flubs, bloopers, and all that good stuff. You know, just like on “Smokey and the Bandit”. Turns out it’s harder to play a superhero than you would think, especially wearing all those tight costumes.

Director Joss Whedon and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of The Avengers (2012) Movie Image

Nearly 15 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, including a lot of the stuff that were already officially released by Marvel leading up to the Blu-ray release. Notables include grim alternate opening and closing segments with Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), an extended sequence with Captain America as he adjusts to life in the present, and even more additional scenes involving/about those shady folks on the World Security Council. As good as some of these scenes were (the Captain America one especially), they really detract from the tone Whedon strive for with the finished product.

There are two featurettes, a 6-minute “A Visual Journey” and the aforementioned “Assembling the Ultimate Team”. Lots of talking heads and cool behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the movie. Really, the stuff that went into assembling “The Avengers” is pretty astounding when you think about it. All that manpower, all that talent…

A music video for Soundgarden’s “Live to Rise”.

And finally, there’s the “Second Screen Experience” for all you multi-taskers. You can watch the movie and “experience” it at the same time on your iPad, iPhone, or laptop with behind-the-scenes stuff about the movie and the characters’ comic book history.

If you thought the film looked good on the big screen, it looks even better on Blu-ray and on an HD TV. Marvel’s films have always had this impressive shine to them, and “The Avengers” is no different.

Bottom line: Buy “The Avengers” on Blu-ray September 25, 2012.

Marvel's The Avengers (2012) Move Blu-ray Cover Art