PictureThis 1.78:1 transfer may be in rich and highly defined 1080p (MPEG-2 video), but that does not ensure a good picture, folks. Alongside the distinctively un-distinctive animation on offer, the disc manages to throw a few wobblers of its own into the mix, as well. For a start, there are some quite glaring instances of colour banding which severely undermine any prevalent colour scheme, with skies becoming a primary target and areas of white looking as though a sheet has been pressed over a lattice. Motion is blurry and fluttering and the high resolution of the image seems to advertise this all the more. Edges are not well delineated - the animation, itself, is partly to blame for this, but the transfer also pitches in some haloing and pixilation to muddy up the clarity of objects still offer. But, in the midst of all this, the picture can still be bright and colourful. Primaries are full-blooded and vivid and it is, perhaps, only the lack of inner shading and detail that the artists have supplied that makes the image come up short when compared to a lot of the other animated shows around on disc at the moment.
Things get much better with the second movie, however. Colours are much more accurately held and are also better saturated. Detail seems clearer and depth of field is a little more pronounced. Motion is still blighted by the stuttering lack of frames and there are still some edges that are botched by a combination of non-too-clean animation and a less-then-perfect transfer. But, on the whole, Part 2 is much smoother and more fluid to watch.
SoundAlthough I cannot yet fully appreciate the undoubted aural splendour of a full 7.1 set-up, this BD release features just such an audio mix, and in Uncompressed PCM, as well. And apparently, what I've heard elsewhere about this track, it is utterly superb, with all the channels supported. However, even when listened to through my set-up, this mix is simply awesome. Effects are split around the speakers with total transparency and the sub is given a terrific workout.
Voices and score are clean and the high-ends are especially sharp and clear. The front soundstage is impressively expansive and features many elements of spot-on steerage across it. The rears are active throughout most of the films' running time, bringing in ambience and more subtle effects in the rare downtime between explosive action. But, of course, it is during the action sequences when this track really comes into its own. Boasting enormous, gut-rumbling bass levels and an intricate design that has gunfire, laserbolts, fireballs and earth-shattering impacts rocketing around the speakers with sheer bombastic power and pin-point accuracy, this track is pure delight to listen to. Explosions really reverberate, alien assault weapons and bombs whip-blast their way around your ears with immediacy and aircraft flybys and overheads leave the air realistically displaced in their wake. The final battles of either film offer absolutely loads of wonderful wraparound dynamism and are sure to elicit an all-over grin even if the visual side of things don't exactly square up the same way.
There is also a DD 5.1 EX track that is thoroughly exciting as well, though nowhere near as thunderous, expertly steered or full-on as the PCM.
An excellent audio track, folks, that goes a long way to enhancing the films.
ExtrasThis release ports over all the extras that were to be found on the original Standard DVDs, except for the Interactive DVD-Rom stuff, but presents them in high-definition. Which is, of course, nice.
Firstly, we get an Advanced Trivia Track which stretches over both movies. Aimed primarily at those who are already fans, this is still fact-packed and interesting.
Avengers Assemble takes a 23 minute look at how The Avengers comic books have evolved over the decades since Stan Lee created them. We meet various artists and writers and see plenty of stirring artwork and dazzlingly covers. Quite comprehensive despite its scant running time and full of candid and very personal viewpoints, this is more than decent. However, if you are only a casual fan of the books and the characters then this will possibly leave you none-the-wiser as to what the fuss is all about.
The Ultimates then follows and runs for 24 mins. This is a look at the new comic book version that became the inspiration for the movies. We meet the artist and writer of the book - both British, both northerners, which is nice - and the pair talk us through the conception and the ideals of their take on the classic team-up. The movies are only briefly touched upon, but the featurette is packed with referential material and some glorious and often witty asides and insight. The infamous one-liner that Mark Millar had Captain America come up with - a little something about the French and surrendering - is also covered, as is the flack that it received. A good, solid and interesting piece, folks, that benefits enormously from having copious artwork from the Ultimates books - which, of course, is far superior to anything that we see in the films.
Next, there is the Ultimate Voice Talent Search, which is something that Marvel cooked up to enable the fans to send in their auditions for becoming a voice for a hero in the film. No-one made the grade, ultimately, but the selection revealed here is still fairly amusing. There is one guy who may not have become an Avenger-voice, but he sure do some amazing impersonations of other people.
Then there is the Ultimate Gag Reel which runs for about five minutes and is a selection of mocked-up scenes from the films but with supposedly hilarious new quips and gaffs put in, a la the Toy Story outtakes. Actually, despite being pretty mediocre for the most part, there is one segment featuring Fury and Cap asking Thor to join them that has the Norse God belching and farting his reply that is quite funny, simply because it goes on for so long. Otherwise, these are one-watch only.
There is also a trailer for the new Invincible Iron Man animated feature. Saddled with similar 2D animation and occasional flutterings of CG as these two movies, the Iron Man film is also quite deflating. Plus, having seen it already, I can say that it also seems to take a long, long time to get going. Thus, Marvel's latest offshoot is still struggling to find its way in the new medium. Perhaps in possible answer to that, Marvel also place a First Look At Dr. Strange on the disc as well. Though the prognosis does not look good, I'm afraid.
All in all, this isn't a bad little set of extras. The twin Avengers featurettes are definitely worthwhile, even if they are directed mainly at those who are probably already in the know.
VerdictHowever ropy the animation looks and however lacklustre the stories my ultimately be, The Avengers movies are still good fun. The Mighty Marvel Universe is forever expanding into fresher mediums and I, for one, always rejoice in further comic-book adventures on page or screen. The march of the superheroes shows no signs of abating and if these two movies don't exactly reach the heights that we may have expected, they still supply plenty of colourful entertainment and energetic escapism.
The transfer may not be all that visually spectacular, but this is more then made up with the truly awesome PCM Uncompressed audio that cannot fail to impress and amaze. Extras-wise, there is little here to appeal to non-hardcore fans, but what there is still has value. In all honesty, unless you just want to wowed by the great 7.1 sound, then Ultimate Avengers is really only for superhero completists ... and kids.
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