I’ve now seen The Avengers four times: Twice in the theater, once on a plane, and once when we got the Blu-ray. Each time I was with my son, and each time I was able to set aside any of the pesky issues I had and thoroughly enjoy the movie.  This is blockbuster/popcorn filmmaking at its best. The third highest grossing film of all time (making it the Earth’s Mightiest Hero movie), does an good job of bringing together the four big guns from Marvels previous solo films (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk) and creating a well- executed spectacle that gives time for each character to be in the spotlight. Additionally, minor characters from previous films- Nick Fury, the Black Widow and Hawkeye- are inserted into the mix and for some reason, the film never seems crowded

In spite of the film’s length, which admittedly allows for plenty of character and plot buildup, as well as one long ass battle sequence between the Avengers and Loki’s forces, The Avengers still succeeds because of Joss Whedon. As co-writer and director of the film, Whedon proved once again that he’s one of the best in genre storytelling that deals with large ensembles of characters, having previously proven this on TV(Buffy, Firefly) and in comic books (Astonishing X-Men). What really impressed me was the visual flair Whedon brought to the movie. I’ve never been blown away by his camera direction in any of his precious works, so watching The Avengers was an exciting experience. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as the film continued to do repeat business throughout the entire summer.

Besides Whedon, the other star of the movie has to be Mark Ruffalo, who portrayed Bruce Banner/the Hulk. While the rest of the all-star cast had the benefit of having played their characters in one of the other Marvel films, Ruffalo, the third actor to take on the Hulk, did not. Whedon wisely kept the viewers waiting for the Hulk to show up. By that time, we’d all fallen love with Ruffalo and really felt for Banner and the torment he goes through keep the green monster at bay. This film version of the Hulk is also the best one yet. He doesn’t look like a computer game, as he did in the previous film versions. This incarnation, while still obviously a CG character, retains a great deal of Ruffalo’s physical attributes. What I liked best was that this Hulk wasn’t just the dumb “Hulk smash” brute; he’s funny, proves to be a loyal teammate, and clearly understands more than people give him credit for.

Although I’ve seen the movie four times, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing many more times in the coming years, I feel pretty confident that I’ll never grow tired of it. It has a staying power that could make it this generation’s Raiders of the Lost Ark or Terminator 2. That’s pretty good company to keep, and The Avengers is that good of a movie.

The film is available in three formats: Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy + Digital Music Download; Two Disc Blu-ray and DVD; and DVD.  The Blu-ray picture quality is superb, which is what you expect. The sound is a little frustrating, as the lower levels are too quiet and require the volume to be increased. When all hell breaks loose you have to scramble to turn to the sound down. While the bonus features are excellent, the Blu-ray is kind of light in what they offer. I found this surprising considering how popular The Avengers was. I’m sure a mightier Blu-ray release will come out around the same time as the sequel film. The featurettes are all very informative about the making of this film. The actors all seem to have had an great time making the movie and it comes through on camera. The best of the bonus features is the short film, Item 47. Starring Jesse Bradford, Lizzy  Caplan and Titus Welliver, it doesn’t add anything to the film, but is a funny excursion into the Avengers universe.

The Blu-ray also comes with a cool sounding feature, the Marvel Second Screen Experience, which is supposed to allow you to sync your computer up with the Blu-ray for online materials, such as comic books and more behind the scenes material. I say “supposed,” because for the life of me I could not find a way to get my PC to install the Second Screen feature. Getting it for a Mac, iPhone or iPad appears very simple and clear. PC’s, not so much.

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