Avengers: Endgame (4K UHD Review)
DirectorAnthony and Joe Russo
Release Date(s)2019 (August 13, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
Five years after the Avengers failed to stop Thanos from using the Infinity Stones to eliminate half of all life in the Universe, the Earth is in turmoil, its citizens attempting to cope with the loss and mostly failing. While Tony Stark starts a family with Pepper, and Bruce Banner makes peace with the Hulk, Thor has spun out of control, Hawkeye has become a vengeful assassin, and Captain America, Black Widow, and War Machine are struggling to hold the planet—and themselves—together. But when a twist of fate finally brings Ant-Man back from the quantum realm, he presents the Avengers with an idea: What if they can use the realm’s unique properties to travel back in time, find the Infinity Stones before Thanos does, and use them to bring back everyone who died? They might, in short, have a second chance to defeat him and save the people they’ve lost.
Avengers: Endgame works for one reason and one reason only. It’s not the action, not the spectacle. It’s not the VFX, it’s not even because of these ironic characters. It works because you care about them. It works because Marvel has taken the time to make you care about them, to give you shared history with them—nearly 48 hours of it, over 11 years. Jumping five years ahead after their battle with Thanos gives the story real consequences, and leaves a real mark on the surviving heroes. It accelerates the character arcs in unexpected—and surprisingly effective—ways. “Professor Hulk” is one of the best things in the film. And giving Tony a kind of “happily ever after,” when all the other characters have suffered so much, makes his choices in this film far more powerful. I was actually put off a bit by Thor’s arc in the film upon first viewing, but after a second (for this review) I came to appreciate it a good deal more. In fact, Avengers: Endgame gains much in appreciation with a second viewing. And the Mungo Jerry reference makes me smile every time.
Truthfully, this isn’t an action movie. It’s a character story, and a deeply human one. These people have each come a very long way since we first met them and the result is genuinely emotional. There are even funny moments here, but earned ones. In terms of superhero conflict, there’s really only about 30 or 40 minutes of it at the end of the film, and it’s so rewarding—again because the filmmakers have earned it—that it’s worth every minute. And even if the Avengers’ succeed here (I’m being cute, of course, but in the event one or two of you haven’t seen the film, I don’t want to ruin it for you), there will be lasting consequences.
Avengers: Endgame was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW codec at 6.5K, using the Arri Alexa 65 IMAX camera with Ultra Panavision 70, Panavision Sphero 65, and APO Panatar lenses. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate only, but the much higher-resolution capture, combined with the lovely soft clarity offered by the 70 lens, renders an absolutely stunning image, rich with organic detail and texture. The one drawback is that for this 4K release (as with previous Marvel UHDs), it’s only available in the 2.39:1 scope ratio rather than the 1.9 of IMAX exhibitions. I don’t think it negatively impacts your viewing experience, but the IMAX framing would surely have added to it. As usual, the grade is HDR10 only, but it’s quite good—the highlights are brighter, the shadows are darker, and the wider color gamut makes all the hues in between more nuanced and natural. The film’s palette is somewhat muted by design, but on the whole, this is a strong image.
The film’s soundtrack is offered in English Dolby Atmos. Continuing the trend from Captain Marvel (reviewed on 4K here), Disney is definitely getting better at mixing Atmos for physical 4K, as this presentation sounds full and muscular even without increasing the volume. When you do, it’s even better—robust and weighty, with strong dynamics, firm low end, and wonderful obvious and subtle atmospherics. Dialogue is exceptionally clean and clear, panning and movement are smooth and expansive, creating a nicely wide soundstage, and the overheads lend themselves often to making each of the film’s environments sound unique. This might also be Alan Silvestri’s best score in years, and certainly one of the best for an MCU film. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, as well as French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus. Optional subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
There are no extras at all on the 4K disc itself, but the package includes the film on Blu-ray as well. That disc adds the following:
- Audio Commentary by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely
Interestingly, the Blu-ray is essentially movie-only other than this, which means the package includes a second Blu-ray disc of special features. That adds the following, all in 1080p HD:
- Remembering Stan Lee (7:15)
- Setting the Tone: Casting Robert Downey Jr. (5:25)
- A Man Out of Time: Creating Captain America (12:18)
- Black Widow: Whatever It Takes (7:25)
- The Russo Brothers: Journey to Endgame (5:01)
- The Women of the MCU (4:52)
- Bro Thor (3:42)
- Deleted Scene: Goji Berries (:37)
- Deleted Scene: Bombs on Board (:30)
- Deleted Scene: Suckiest Army in the Galaxy (:24)
- Deleted Scene: You Used to Frickin’ Live Here (1:10)
- Deleted Scene: Tony and Howard (:27)
- Deleted Scene: Avengers Take a Knee (1:41)
- Gag Reel (1:58)
These extras have a retrospective quality that’s oddly satisfying—genuinely meaningful—despite the fact that there’s only about an hour of video-based material here. The Stan Lee piece is wonderful, as you’d expect. (It’s the same one that was shown after the film in its recent theatrical re-release.) The trio of featurettes that look back on the casting and development of Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow are terrific too. And while the deleted scenes are scant, Avengers Take a Knee is a gem worthy of the Infinity Gauntlet itself. I understand why it was cut, but I’m sure glad to have it here. (Oddly, the unfinished scene with the Hulk shown at the end of the theatrical re-release isn’t included.) The best of this material though is the audio commentary by the directors and writers. If you enjoy listening to smart filmmakers working at a very high level and with a deep understanding of their craft, this track is worth every minute. They offer insights about character and character arcs, creating drama in the superhero genre, the storytelling process, and the multi-film method to their madness. It’s a great listen and you will appreciate this film even more for having done so. As always, there’s a Movies Anywhere Digital Code included in the package too.
Straight-up, no doubt about it… Avengers: Endgame is a great film. I’ve admitted to having grown weary of the superhero genre in the past, but this is a breath of fresh air. And I have to tip my hat to Kevin Feige, the Russos, and Marvel. I’ve enjoyed every MCU film to date and they’ve only gotten better with time. Endgame is the capstone of this franchise, a film you can only make after building a foundation of 21 others to support it. This is serialized TV-style storytelling writ large on the big screen and I so wish other beloved genre franchises could crack a version of this that works for them (think Star Wars, Star Trek, etc). At the risk of belaboring the point, Marvel did this the hard way: Endgame has been earned… by the filmmakers and by the fans. And it delivers the goods. Highly recommended… but only after you’ve taken the complete journey through the Marvel Cinematic Universe first. Luckily, you’ll be able to do that entirely in 4K by the end of the year.
- Bill Hunt
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