Marvel's Avengers Assemble Blu-ray censorship row: Disney UK speaks out

Disney talks exclusively to HCC about the Avengers censorship furore, missing commentaries and the possibility of a Special Edition Blu-ray...

'There’s been no censorship, no foul play,' declares Disney UK home entertainment spokesperson Lydia Rodrigues, 'the version of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble on Blu-ray disc in the UK is the same as the version shown theatrically. It really is.' 

The internet has been ablaze with indignation after differences between the US release and the UK disc became apparent following the film’s UK release. Claims of censorship have been rife. But what’s the truth? Obviously the nature of the differences reveal a key development in the story, so if you haven’t seen Avengers Assemble (spoilers ahead), read no further.

OK, still with us. The contentious sequence is the death of Agent Coulson, who is unceremoniously speared through the back when confronting arch villain Loki. On the US Blu-ray, the pointy tip of the murderous staff clearly emerges from Coulson’s chest. On the UK platter, the same sequence has Coulson gasping, but no bloody tip emerges – it has been digitally removed.

The difference has left fan sites speculating that maybe Marvel is retrospectively retconning, so that Coulson can return to life in the sequel, or speculating that mistakes were made with the master. But Rodrigues told HCC neither theories are true. 'The version on disc is the same as was released in the UK theatrically. The simple fact is for a 12 certificate film in the UK, that scene was deemed inappropriate. So Marvel Studios chose to remove the spear tip digitally.'

Rodrigues explains that surprisingly few territories around the world screened the unexpurgated version in cinemas, although the US was one. Actually, there is a far less contentious addition to the Blu-ray disc which wasn’t on the UK theatrical print, a second post-credit sequence. 'That wasn’t available to us at the time,' said Disney.

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble was certified a 12A for theatrical release, but appears on disc as a 12. This is because, in accordance with BBFC guidelines, the 12A iteration only exists as a cinema certification.

One explanation as to why some commentators are so convinced the movie has been doctored is the fact that they may well have first seen the film at a pre-release media screening, featuring US prints.

Anyhow, Disney is adamant there’s been no cover-up. 'The UK version really is what you see on the disc.'

However, this descriptive observation on the BBFC Parents’ website rather contradicts the Disney line: ‘A slightly stronger moment occurs when a man is stabbed through the back by the chief villain's spear. The detail of the impact is not shown, only the tip of the spear protruding from the man's chest with a small amount of blood on it. The image is not dwelt upon and serves an important narrative purpose.’

It’s perhaps unfortunate that the censorship hullabaloo follows on from the disappearance of Joss Whedon’s commentary track from the UK disc, which has similarly rankled fans: 'That was a bit of a disappointment,' admits Rodrigues. 'Our DLT (Digital Linear Tape, required to replicate the disc) had to be delivered one month earlier than that required for the US pressing. So we missed out. We wanted it too.'

So is the Whedon commentary ever going to surface in the UK, maybe as part of a special edition release? 'That’s been the subject of heated debate here (at Disney UK),' says Lydia Rodrigues, 'but we don’t think we can really ask fans who have bought this version to buy another just to obtain the commentary. So at the moment we are thinking it won’t be released. We also know that hardcore fans with Blu-ray players are probably going to end up buying the US release which has the commentary. The American Blu-ray is region-free.' The Disney spokesperson says she knows the UK will take a hit on sales, but it’s better than asking fans to double dip: 'We don’t think we can ask people to buy both versions.'

So which version are you going to buy? The UK release or a US import?

UPDATE: Disney has now confirmed what we always suspected - the UK BD release has been cut. Full story here.

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