Action Adventure

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Blu-ray Review: Marvel's A-team reassemble for super-powered sequel

October 12, 2015Ben MK

When we last left Earth's mightiest heroes, they had gone their separate ways in the wake of the Battle of New York. Loki and the Chitauri invasion force had been dealt a staggering blow, yet an even greater threat — Thanos — still loomed on the horizon. Now writer/director Joss Whedon is back for round two, bringing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) back to the big screen. The question is, can this super-powered sequel surpass its predecessor?

Age of Ultron begins in the fictitious Eastern European country of Sokovia, where the Avengers attempt to breach the castle stronghold of Hydra commander Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who's been conducting terrifying human experiments using Loki's mind-controlling scepter. Little do they know that Strucker has a couple of secret weapons — twins Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) Maximoff — whose telepathic powers and lightning-fast agility threaten to give the team a run for their money.

But there's something even more sinister brewing, for Strucker has also been using the scepter's Infinity Stone to create an advanced artificial intelligence. And when Iron Man attempts to harness Strucker's research to put the finishing touches on his own "Ultron Peacekeeping Program," it results in the birth of one of the Avengers' most notorious enemies from the comics: Ultron (James Spader), a jaded and misguided A.I. who believes that the only path to peace is through the destruction of mankind.

What follows is a globetrotting adventure that takes the Avengers to Wakanda (home of another Marvel superhero, Black Panther), where Iron Man must don his Hulkbuster armor to subdue an out-of-control Hulk, to Seoul, South Korea, where scientist Helen Cho (Claudia Kim) is coerced into helping Ultron build himself a new synthetic body. The plan backfires, however, leading to the birth of the Vision (Paul Bettany), who joins our heroes in the film's all-out, climactic battle with Ultron and a never-ending onslaught of his Ultron-bots.

That's a lot to cram into one movie, and that's not even counting the appearances by Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Cobie Smulders, Idris Elba, Stellan SkarsgÄrd and Samuel L. Jackson, all of whom reprise their roles from previous Marvel movies. All things considered, though, Whedon has done a remarkable job of keeping all these balls in the air, even weaving in subplots involving a romantic connection between Hulk and Black Widow, as well as some strife between Iron Man and Captain America that foreshadows the events of Captain America: Civil War.

The movie isn't perfect, however. Spader's chilling voice-work aside, Ultron is far too one-dimensional to make an impact as a truly fearsome villain. And though the visuals are genuinely gob-smacking, they can't escape the undeniable air of been-there-done-that. Otherwise, Age of Ultron is quite simply another solid effort from Marvel. Sure, some of the sheen may have worn off the franchise, as it's no longer the novelty it once was seeing all these heroes sharing the screen together. But this sequel definitely accomplishes what it sets out to do; and in the process it leaves moviegoers hungry for more.

In line with all of Disney and Marvel's previous titles, Avengers: Age of Ultron looks nothing short of fantastic on Blu-ray. The colors of the Avengers' costumes are vivid enough to practically leap off the screen; and the finest of details in the CG effects and superheroic production design are brought to life with crystal clarity. Showcase action sequences (of which there are several) also stun, as the movie's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack delivers all the bombastic acoustics a good superhero film needs, especially when it comes to the 360 degree chaos of the film's frenetic finale, overflowing with the sounds of rampaging robots, explosions and (of course) punches galore.

Disney's one-disc 2D Blu-ray release (also available in a two-disc 3D combo pack with an iTunes digital copy) includes the following Blu-ray extras:

  • From The Inside Out - Making Of Avengers: Age Of Ultron (20:54) - A making-of featurette that touches on the characters, the set design, James Spader's performance as Ultron, the visual effects, the action sequences, and the future of the Avengers' roster.
  • The Infinite Six (7:28) - A piece about the Infinity Stones, their comic book origins, their appearances in the various Marvel films, and how the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe so far will culminate in an Infinity War movie.
  • Global Adventure (3:01) - Writer/Director Joss Whedon, Producer Kevin Feige and the cast talk about the global scale of the film, as well as shooting in locales like Seoul, London and Johannesburg.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (12:04) - Four scenes ("The Man In The Church," "Watch Your Six," "Bruce And Natasha Talk" and "The Norn Cave"), available with optional audio commentary by Joss Whedon.
  • Gag Reel (3:37) - Outtakes, flubs and general goofing around from the set.
  • Audio Commentary With Director Joss Whedon - A somewhat tongue-in-cheek track in which Whedon talks about such things as kicking the movie off with a big action sequence, the work of his assistant directors, and shooting the film "deliberately casual," as well as the visual effects, the cinematography, the production design, the score, the performances, Easter eggs and more.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of October 2nd, 2015. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 21 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on April 27th, 2015.

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