Avengers: Age of Ultron (4K UHD Review)
Release Date(s)2015 (August 14, 2018)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
[Editor’s Note: Though it’s not currently available for pre-order on Amazon, the 4K disc should be available from them on street date or shortly thereafter.]
In the wake of the resurgence of Hydra (as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), the Avengers have worked to destroy all of the organization’s bases around the world. Now, they’re found its main facility in Sokovia, where their commander has been using Loki’s scepter to experiment on a pair of superhuman twins, Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and her brother Pietro (Quicksilver). But when they recover the scepter, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discover an alien artificial intelligence within, which they decide to use to enhance Stark’s “Ultron” program. It’s meant to be an advanced automated defense system to protect Earth when the Avengers can’t. But the resulting entity, Ultron, decides that the Avengers are the real threat to Humanity and launches a war against them.
Once again written and directed by Joss Whedon, Avengers: Age of Ultron triggers new conflicts between the existing Avengers characters and introduces several new characters too. Don Cheadle’s War Machine, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, and Paul Bettany’s JARVIS/Vision all join the regular cast and become significant players going forward. James Spader also delivers a terrific voice performance as the menacing Ultron. What’s more, the events in this film (along with those of Ant-Man) help to close out Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and turbocharge the launch of the more recent Phase Three.
Avengers: Age of Ultron was shot digitally in a variety of codecs and resolutions, including ARRIRAW (3.4K), Phantom RAW (4K), Redcode RAW (5-6K), and others. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate and released at the 2.39:1 scope aspect ratio. For its Ultra HD release, it appears that the 2K DI has been upsampled, given an HDR10 color grade, and is presented here at 2.39. But don’t let the 2K DI discourage you; the higher resolution capture makes a big difference. The key to a great Ultra HD image is better pixels, not arbitrary resolution numbers. The result is a very good looking image, with noticeably more fine detail and refined texturing apparent than on The Avengers in 4K (reviewed here) or the previous Blu-ray edition of this film. Again, though, it’s the high dynamic range that makes the biggest difference, deepening the blacks, making the brightest imagery more natural and eye-reactive, and expanding the color palette. The production design on this film is a bit more muted than The Avengers (Captain America’s uniform, for example, is darker and more monotone) but the HDR still gives the imagery a lovely pop that’s much more what you expect from a comic book film. As with The Avengers, there’s no Dolby Vision HDR available on this disc; it’s been reserved for the Digital 4K option only. That means you’ll see a little bit of 10-bit color banding on occasion, but it’s not excessive. Overall, this is a very nice and pleasing Ultra HD image.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is offered in English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), adapted from the theatrical mix for the home. As with The Avengers in 4K, you’ll be pleased to know that this track sounds great, quite similar to the already terrific 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix on the previous Blu-ray edition, with Atmos enhancements for the height channels. The soundstage is big, immersive, and muscular, with highly active surrounds, smooth panning, and firm, punchy bass. Note that this track is mixed at a lower volume level than is typical, but all the fullness and dynamic range you want is there. (This almost makes us wonder if the reason for Disney’s recent and anemic Atmos 4K offerings wasn’t a concern that the average consumer might somehow damage their sound systems with a more robust mix. Now you do get a full range mix, but you have to turn up the volume to appreciate it.) Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, and Spanish and Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, with optional subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Japanese, two Chinese dialects, and Korean.
There are no extras whatsoever on the actual 4K Ultra HD disc, but the package includes the film in 1080p too – the previous Blu-ray edition – which adds the following (all in HD):
- Audio Commentary with Director Joss Whedon
- From the Inside Out – Making of Avengers: Age of Ultron (20:54)
- The Infinite Six (7:28)
- Global Adventure (3:01)
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (with optional director’s commentary – 4 scenes – 12:04 in all)
- Gag Reel (3:37)
That’s everything that was included on the previous wide-release Blu-ray, though you obviously don’t get the Blu-ray 3D version, nor are the Target and Best Buy-exclusive bonus features included. But you do at least get the usual Movies Anywhere digital code on a paper insert.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a jam-packed but largely satisfying follow-up to the original Avengers film, and delivers interesting new twists and wrinkles to the larger MCU story arc. On Ultra HD, the film offers a genuine improvement in both image detail and HDR and delivers plenty of sonic bluster. If you’re a fan and you’ve upgraded to 4K, it’s certainly recommended.
- Bill Hunt
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