Ultron makes for great Blu-ray material, except for some audio quirks

Loaded with characters, motivations, and allegories, Avengers: Age of Ultron may be too much movie, but its ability to develop characters is superb. Gifted with the best of current superhero cinema, this Avengers follow-up is all smarts and ultimately, just as satisfying as it was in the first go round.

Read our theatrical review for Avengers: Age of Ultron for more. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Movie]

Brought to life with a brigade of digital cameras, Age of Ultron is often a looker. Other times, not really. Impressive imagery comes and goes. There a sense of digital tinkering on the underside. Faces appear digitally flattened to hide imperfections with a sheen common to older digital productions. Times have progressed yet this Avengers feels aged. A swell of computer generated imagery – Ultron included – rivals the best, even Transformers.

There is plenty of splendor to take in. This is hardly a wash. It’s a darker film than most Marvel outings and appears to struggle because of it, at least to those watching closely. Most will be taken in by the immense clarity and enormity of the action. High-energy sequences are spectacular. Cities at a distance are tremendously clean. A finale with a city raising over Earth is nothing less than jaw dropping in visual effects beauty. Crumbling buildings, smoke, debris; nothing seems challenging to this encode. Disney remains at their consistent technical peak.

Apprehension could come from the color timing which saps much of the saturation, odd for a series which prides itself on standing out. This looks like DC’s material with predominantly muted and dour blues. Splashes of orange during Hulk’s city outburst is the relief. Costumes hues rarely peak. Elizabeth Olsen’s red mind control streaks are plenty powerful though. So are floating computer displays.

Black levels create results, keeping depth rich. In the bowels of Ultron’s lair, shadows are cast over a majority of the frame. They’re pleasing. A few moments in the introductory exposition phase feel flattened. Maybe it’s the impact of the color. Recovery is quick and Avengers can look as dominating as it needs to.

3D conversion work continues to impress, although it would be lovely to see at least one of these Marvel features done in native 3D before the gas runs out. Loaded with flying sequences, Avengers extends the frame frequently. Energy within this 3D presentation is high. The overload of action doesn’t help. Depth is well established and while foreground/background depth is slightly limited, there are details to pick up on. In the farm house, Tony Stark stands by beaded curtains. Each row has a different depth. Behind Banner, pots in a cupboard are separated from the glass and given their own dimension. Such attention to subtly is appreciated in a film with, well, little subtly.

Age of Ultron is not one to utilize pop out effects. The front of the frame is a stopping point, but there is still room to play. Floating computer displays are great, and Ultron’s many curves and bends are handled well. Scattering debris and thrown robots are tightly managed to keep the images visibly layered. Laser beams are everywhere too. Even this late in the cycle, the joy of seeing Iron Man’s HUD up close still has not lost its cool factor. [xrr rating=4/5 label=2D-Video] [xrr rating=4/5 label=3D-Video]

Pew, pew @ 1:56:50

Avengers continues a streak of Marvel outings with a love affair for extending into the LFE. The weight of lifting an entire section of a continent is felt. Hulk’s rampage in crowded streets leads to the low-end highlight, a freshly constructed building collapsing. This is after all sorts of punching, stomping, and explosions, each full of life.

Precision is the best too. Objects scatter across a soundfield which fully understands the breadth of a TrueHD (3D) or DTS-HD (2D) 7.1 space. Objects are shot towards or flying above or dropping into the added surrounds. Standard rear channels are not ignored either. Oh, and the front speakers are full of life. Thor’s hammer and Cap’s shield are well traveled into the sides.

If there is a consequence to this madness, it’s the mid-range material. Opening action sounds squeezed or overwhelmed. Some punches and laser shots feel lost in the midst of the activity, muffled out of existence. The problem continues yet lessens as the features moved forward This goes for both 3D & 2D discs. The finale is “fixed” per se without any notable issues. Full impact of this presentation can then be felt. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Bonus material leans toward promoting Marvel’s future work, the lengthiest bit being From the Inside Out, 21-minues spent detailing the production process. There is some meat to this one despite a cramped length. The Infinite Six lays out the story of the Infinity Stones as they build toward the Universe’s story climax. Global Adventure is three minutes discussing the locations of the film. Joss Whedon chimes in over 12 minutes of deleted scenes with his optional commentary. The same goes for the full film where Whedon discusses his work solo. A slim gag reel is up last. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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