One of this year’s biggest blockbusters, which brings together some of the most well-known comic book superheroes in the Marvel universe, has arrived on the 3D Blu-ray format. However, it may come as a surprise to some that The Avengers Assemble was converted to 3D in post-production, i.e. none of the footage was actually shot natively in the third dimension using stereoscopic techniques. Post-conversion can be as effective as stereo 3D when done skilfully, but some spectacularly bad jobs – Clash of The Titans comes to mind – back when 3D was still a novelty have planted in the public’s mind a preconception that all post-converted movies are substandard. Let’s see if Marvel’s Avengers Assemble can change their opinion.
|Warning: This review contains multiple spoilers. Please do not read on if you haven’t seen the movie, and do not wish to know the plot.|
First impressions were good, even before we popped the disc into our player. The case of the UK version (which also includes a 2D BD disc) comes enclosed within a lenticular sleeve cover which depicts repulser rays fired from Iron Man’s palm. A dazzling touch, we must say.
And the warm fuzzy feeling continued right through the main menu which began with a tri-dimensional skeleton of SHIELD’s aircraft carrier flying from in front of the screen (negative parallax) into view, as if to prepare us for the extra-dimensional bonanza ahead.
Things took a small dive 3D-wise though. Following the opening credits which naturally delivered convincing 3-D effects, the movie started off quite dark, with Loki scheming with the Chitauri’s leader in a dark corner of the universe, followed swiftly by a cut to a night scene where a chopper brought Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to a research facility harbouring the Tesseract. The general dimness, exacerbated by the darkening effect of 3D glasses, not only meant that shadow details were quite hard to make out on screen, but also robbed the picture of some much-needed 3D depth (save for the brighter Tesseract cube).
The murkiness persisted for a while, although there were still some memorable pop-out moments, for example when the ever-so-delectable Agent Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) pointed a handgun at Dr Banner (Mark Ruffalo). 3D effects really picked up a notch during the sequence where the possessed Agent Barton (Jeremy Renner) launched an attack on the helicarrier leading to the Hulk’s transformation, with fire sparks and shattered glasses seemingly spilling beyond the screen all over our viewing area.
But the 3-dimensional treats really kicked into overdrive when the superheros had to defend New York City against the Chitaurian army swarming through the opened portal – the entire sequence taking place in broad daylight helped immensely. Between air vehicles whooshing in and out of our view, and laser beams, arrows and rubbles flying everywhere, there were enough pop-out effects every minute to elicit oohs and aahs from even the fiercest 3D sceptic. This is demo-worthy material, certainly up there among the best tri-dimensional clips – and that includes those shot natively in 3D – we’ve seen.
Underpinned by solid blacks, natural colours, outstanding clarity as well as a killer soundtrack, not to mention 1.78:1 of immersive imagery filling up an HDTV screen, the Marvel Avengers Assemble is a worthwhile addition to any 3D Blu-ray collection, if only for the climatic final battle. Please be aware that while the UK version does have the second after-credits reel (the Avengers eating shawarma in silence) intact, it does not feature director Joss Whedon’s commentary, nor a brief scene (Loki’s sceptre blade tip protruding out from Agent Coulson’s chest) which was digitally censored. Both are present in the US copy.