4K Blu-ray review: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

“Avengers: Endgame” (2019)


Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Featuring:  Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper and Josh Brolin

Steve Rogers:“We lost. All of us. We lost friends. We lost family. We lost a part of ourselves. This is the fight of our lives.”

Critical Commentary

Well the wait is finally over, after twenty-one previous MCU movies as well as eleven years, we can now see where the entire franchise has been heading to, this movie, “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) coming over one year after “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) that left half the Universe behind as the other half was ‘ashed’ at the conclusion to that movie. There is no doubt at all that “Avengers: Endgame” is the most anticipated movie in pop culture ever, in case you wondering if that hyperbole, it isn’t, with a forecast first weekend global box office gross nearing US$1 billion there simply has never been a movie like it, not only that I doubt there may be anything like it again. This franchise has beaten the odds to deliver, now twenty two movies that have either been blockbusters delivering both critical acclaim as well as huge revenues or on the lower side have been speed bumps, but still providing revenue so that the franchise was always looking forward. Not only that but there was nobody predicting that after the surprise hit all those years ago in “Iron Man” (2009) that featured an ex drug addict in its lead, Robert Downey Jr. as well as untested director in Jon Favreau, that it would be the franchise of franchises, the cinematic crown in Disney’s empire, almost unbelievable. 

“Avengers: Endgame” also marks the closing of a chapter with many of the A list stars now ending their contracts as well as entirely new casts assembled for what will be known as ‘Phase Four’ which kicks off in 2020, with titles only rumored currently, but expected to be announced in the coming months. The question remains after the huge success of “Avengers: Infinity War” both critically as well as at the global box office, and a cliff-hanger that promised so much could a sequel deliver on many fronts? Could there be a satisfying conclusion that would not feel like trickery, could the writer once again balance so many main characters, would there be enough story to keep audiences entertained, how would it be possible to at least match the spectacle of the first movie and would there be time as well as smaller moments to say goodbye to some of the greatest characters in mainstream cinema today. The simple answer is yes it is another stunning achievement that almost matches the first movie but does have to thread a narrative that takes in much of the work carried out by previous MCU movies that have come before, but make no mistake this is a bookend to not only thre previous Avengers movie but to the entire franchise to this point. 

“Avengers: Endgame” takes place after half of all life in the universe was eliminated due to the actions of Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War”, the remaining Avengers and their allies must reassemble to revert those actions in one last stand.

This is very much a movie about loss, how that transforms people as well as how grief will push people to their very limits. It is also about something many people would like to think they would do for others, that is sacrifice. As we see  with those left in the aftermath—including original Avengers Tony, Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who are as one would expect shadows of their former selves, lost, alone and wondering how to solve the problem of Thanos and his gauntlet. What is fantastic about this new movie are all the quiet moments that occur throughout the movie, with so much to all back to not only with the previous movie but all the others the filmmakers could be forgiven for missing characters or even call backs, it is to their credit that they seem to almost hit every story beat perfectly.

This movie deserves accolades for just getting to the screen as it is an exercise in not only logistics but in getting the right tone for a movie with this huge scope as well as so many characters from the previous movies over the past ten years. It is the second MCU movie this year, which is incredible considering it is only April, not only that the first MCU movie this year was “Captain Marvel” (2019) which while no universally loved has still powered its way to US$1.1 billion at the global box office. We also have still to come “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019) which is sure to be another massive hit, and will close Phase Four acting as an epilogue of sorts for this new movie.

Fresh of the double success that was “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2014) and “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) directors Anthony Russo & Joe Russo, not forgetting screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely had the task of corralling over thirty main characters as well as bringing to a kind of conclusion the past eleven years. However, with three of the best MCU films under their belts all four seem to be the obvious choices to bring “Avengers: Endgame” to the screen with its disparate locations, very different characters, high drama and of course comedy that has become the staple of not only their other work but the MCU in general. Of course, there is one other player, the constant force behind every single MCU movie from the first “Iron Man” (2008) through to this one, that is producer Kevin Feige. Feige is the real mastermind behind all the ups, downs, accidents, mistakes as well as the successes of all the MCU movies, the question is will this new Avengers movie be a “Black Panther” or an “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)? The good news is that as far as I am concerned this is an unmitigated success on most fronts, it brings together a kind of conclusion to what was started all those years ago while leaving the MCU in an extremely strong position.

Much has been made of the amount of characters within this movie, there are plenty, so much of the actual story as well as the character beats are presented with looks or shorthanded dialogue, this is a movie that expects viewers to know the histories as well as previous plot points before going in, it is one of the ways the movie has been streamlined – if you could say a running time of three hours is streamlined. That and the fact that the majority of this movie is spent on the run, literally, from the opening to the very end, this is most definitely a conclusion of a six hour epic. Unlike previous MCU movies this is not a comic book movie presented within the framewprk of other genres, like a heist movie, a spy movie or even a comedy – “Avengers: Endgame” is exactly what it is presented as, a 100% comic book movie, with a villain trying to get something, with hench men and heroes attempting to stop him in a variety of ways, at various locations and of course the ultimate comic maguffin, the Infinity Gauntlet, more precisely the power behind said gauntlet. It is goal focused, one of the easiest stories to tell as well as plot so that audiences can keep up, staying focused until the very ending, which for some will most definitely be a shock.

The use of CGI is stretched to its limits here with the (over?) use of artificial sets, artificial people as well as artificial lifeforms, the good news is that they are juxtaposed by the real sets of New York and Wakanda which at times were welcome relief after so many digital backgrounds and extensive makeup, as well as of course the completely CGI characters of Rocket, Groot and Thanos himself – not counting multiple CGI iron people, Spider-Man, henchmen and various others. Of course it goes without saying that the third act, like many marvel movies, is a huge spectacle but unlike many other MCU movies there are major callbacks to important moments in the Marvel Comics, too many to name here but it is fun and rewarding seeing them all.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is such an assuredly as well as competently directed movie by the Russo’s that it is easy to forget the challenge that was placed before them, they have made all the right moves, covering each location with just enough to give the audiences a taste of what is to come in the final shocking act.

The MCU is still dominated by Robert Downey Jnr as Iron Man, more so with his new armor as well as his ability to stand up to anyone, but it was with glee that I thought Chris Hemsworth as Thor take his well earned success from last years movie, running with it and proving that like Downey he now owns his character, I hope to see more of him in the future. However, it is Chris Evans as Steve Rogers who is the real heart of these movies, he was born to play Captain America, someone who is the least powerful among his peers, but time and again proves that the bigger they are the harder they fall. As he moves away from the role tough I can easily see Chadwick Boseman taking his place as the born leader who will make decisions many are unable to, as will Sebastian Stan as Bucky who more and more proves he too owns his character. 

In saying that I still loved this movie, has there ever been a bigger event movie in terms of not only anticipation but also a possible payoff after ten years as well as the weight of eighteen movies? The answer is no, this has been the most successful franchise globally ever, it has had ups and downs, but it has persisted with more good parts than bad, which is proven by the fact that next year we will be seeing the conclusion to this movie as well as some of the characters that this franchise has been built on. In terms of comic book films as spectacle and jeopardy this has to be one the best of all time, it has such an emotional ending that I was surprised by how I felt in thinking about what the ramifications were going to be as well as how some of the characters will not only move forward but how this story has been resolved. 

Technical Commentary

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Marvel Studios bring “Avengers: Endgame”  to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc containing the movie and a second Region Free, BD25 disc with all the special features.

Video Review

“Avengers: Endgame” arrives on Ultra HD with an excellent and largely satisfying HEVC H.265 encode, offering several welcomed tweaks to an already marvelous Blu-ray. However, this 2160p version isn’t the significant jump expected, coming with a few poorly-resolved, very mildly noisy moments that are most apparent in wide shots. The movie is the first to be entirely shot on the Arri Alexa 65, capable of 6.5K resolution, but those elements were later mastered to a 2K Digital Intermediate, which was used for this home video edition.

Contrast levels don’t receive much of a noteworthy boost over the HD version and are comparatively average to some of the best UHD releases. This may have something to do with the way Trent Opaloch photographed the movie, but contrast is lightly subdued and restrained, giving the visuals a grayish, somber overtone and making some scenes look rather flat. Yet whites are brighter and more vivid, popping with a radiant intensity in some spots. Better still, specular highlights glow with a crisper, tighter luminosity, allowing for slightly better detailing. Likewise, blacks are markedly inkier with great gradational variations in the various shades, providing the 2.39:1 image with a lovely cinematic appeal. Shadow delineation, on the other hand, can be a bit of a mixed bag, as much of the 4K video is notably darker. Occasionally, the murkiest corner can obscure the finer details during poorly-lit conversations.

The biggest and most appreciable upgrade in this HDR10 presentation is certainly the better palette, boasting a wider and more lavish array of colors.

Audio Review

“Avengers: Endgame” has an awesome Dolby Atmos soundtrack that provides a few welcomed enhancements over its DTS-HD MA counterpart fans will surely appreciate. 

Special Features

Blu-ray Disc One

  • Audio Commentary: Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely join the Russo brothers for an informative and enlightening conversation on the production and the franchise.
  • Intro (HD, 3 min): Directors Anthony and Joe Russo share their thoughts on the series.

Blu-ray Disc Two

  • A Man Out of Time (HD, 12 min): Looking at Captain America and Chris Evans’ performance.
  • Remembering Stan Lee (HD, 7 min): Touching tribute to the legendary comic-book icon.
  • Black Widow (HD, 7 min): The character’s role and Scarlett Johansson’s performance.
  • Setting the Tone (HD, 5 min): Spotlighting the role of Robert Downey, Jr.
  • The Russo Brothers (HD, 5 min): The duo’s contribution to the series leading to this movie.
  • Bro Thor (HD, 4 min): Brief piece on the character’s story arc.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min)
  • Gag Reel (HD, 2 min)

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