The curse of the Avengers strikes again as Disney delivers another botched Blu-ray platter...
While Joss Whedon's 2012 smash Avengers Assemble remains one of the crown jewels (or should that be Infinity Stones?) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his blockbuster sequel is unlikely to be so fondly remembered by fans.
While there's a refreshing focus on supporting characters, no shortage of spectacular comic book action and Whedon's trademark character moments, the movie is dragged down by unexplained/underdeveloped plot detours and an odd tonal imbalance that sees almost everybody firing off snarky wisecracks – including evil artificial intelligence Ultron. It's a solid way to spend a couple of hours, but …Age of Ultron feels rather inconsequential in the grand scheme being developed by Marvel's superhero movies.
Picture: Although both Avengers films were shot using Arri Alexa cameras, they look quite different from one another. Not only is …Age of Ultron framed at 2.40:1 (the first was 1.78:1), it also appears slightly softer too. That's not to say that there isn't plenty of fine detail in the image (close-ups reveal an abundance of well-defined textures), but overall the image lacks the impressive sharpness and clarity of its predecessor.
Happily, the 1080p presentation of the film's 3D post-conversion is less problematic than we remember the original cinema release being. While the gloomier aesthetic means that some sections look unavoidably flat, on the whole there's a good sense of volumetric depth.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: As soon as the film begins and we follow the Avengers as they storm a Hydra base it becomes clear that something has gone awry with the DTS-HD MA 7.1 track on the …Age of Ultron's Blu-ray. While the centre channel sounds as bright and lively as you'd expect, the surround and bass channels are curiously muted and lifeless.
Dialing up the volume on your AVR helps bring the rest of your speaker array into play in a slightly more convincing manner, but also pushes the dialogue too high in the mix and can't really compensate for the lack of dynamic range in the rear speakers.
For fun, we decided to try alternating between the English DTS-HD MA 7.1 and the Spanish DTS 5.1 and Hindi Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs while watching the tower collapse at the climax of the Hulk vs Hulkbuster fight (Chapter 7). While the Spanish dub sounded just as listless as the English lossless track, the Hindi dub offered slightly more impact across the rear speakers (although this is offset by the general lack of weight across the rest of the mix).
Disappointingly, there's no sign of the Atmos track that accompanied the film in cinemas, either.
Audio rating: 2.5/5
Extras: A rather middling selection consists of a trio of featurettes (a 21-minute Making of…, a seven-minute primer on the' Infinity Stones' and a three-minute piece about shooting the film around the world), four deleted/extended scenes and a gag reel.
On a more positive note, at least UK-based fans actually get Whedon's audio commentary this time around.
Extras rating: 3/5
We say: Marvel's superhero sequel struggles on Blu-ray thanks to its curiously listless soundtrack
Avengers: Age of Ultron 3D, Walt Disney, All-region BD, £28 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 3/5
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