- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s $2 billion blockbuster from earlier this year debuts in the ultra-high definition format to give fans another chance to appreciate one of the best superhero team-up movies ever made in Avengers: Infinity War: Cinematic Universe Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 149 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $30.99).

In a multilayered story loaded with star power, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assemble to stop an oddly well-intentioned megalomaniac from destroying half the universe.

That translates into roughly two-dozen Marvel legends such as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America (Chris Evans), Starlord (Chris Pratt), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) banding together across the galaxy to prevent the purplish-skinned super villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) from acquiring all six of the powerful Infinity Stones.

If he can acquire them on the golden-plated glove worn on his hand, he will control the power of life and death with the snap of a finger.

The mix of humor, pathos and jaw-dropping action scenes get spread out over the streets of New York and Scotland; Kree (Gamora’s home world); the dying neutron star Nidavellir; the sands of Vormir; the Collector’s museum in Knowhere; the decimated terrain of Titan (Thanos’ home world); and ultimately on the grassy, alien-killing fields of Black Panther’s Wakanda.

I certainly appreciated scenes such as Bruce Banner wearing the Hulkbuster armor, Thor’s hilarious first meeting with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew, the laugh-out-loud moments with Drax the Destroyer and the heartbreaking father and daughter issues between Gamora, Nebula and papa Thanos.

Now, being an epic Marvel Comics fan since I was a tyke, I was mesmerized by the scene of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) visiting Eitri the Dwarf King (a computer-enlarged Peter Dinklage) on Nidavellir to create for him a new weapon, the Stormbreaker. Remember, he lost his hammer due to a mean sister in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

It’s the kind of subplot readers would savor in one of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s “Journey into Mystery” comics from the 1960s, cemented as Thor unleashes the full power of a star to restart the forge.

I can also appreciate the portrayal of many of these mighty heroes as showing a too-human, consistent flaw. Specifically, ignoring Spock’s golden rule “logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Essentially, if any set of the heroes had focused on killing Thanos, no matter the consequences or sacrifice of a teammate, they would not have put the universe in harm’s way.

It also would have been a much shorter movie. So forget that because I treasured every 149 minutes of the adventure.

Producer Kevin Feige and his team have steered the Marvel Cinematic Universe to “Avengers: Infinity War” over a 10-year journey encompassing 18 movies.

Suffice it to report, their master plan has given fans of Marvel Comics and action movies in general some of the most memorable pop culture moments in the history of cinema.

How can the next Avenger film in 2019 possibly top this emotionally draining masterpiece. I can’t wait to find out.

4K UHD in action: Disney delivers impressive picture quality for disc owners by offering a 2160p transfer and high dynamic range (HDR10) enhancements to the original source material, but it’s not clear from research whether the 4K was derived from an original 4K or 2K master format.

Still, the most obvious improvements to visual clarity, lighting and color can be enjoyed when first examining the too-lifelike Thanos.

Every age line and imperfection of the battle-weary villain immaculately stands out. Be prepared to notice the bumps and dents on his large forehead, the wrinkles on his massive fingers, lines in his fingernails, cracks in his stained teeth, crevices on his chin, fine hairs on the side of his temple and veins on his upper arm highlighted by skin-carved tattoos.

He is one of the best computer-generated, motion-captured characters ever created by special effects wizards.

As far as other eye-popping moments, look to the complex layers of Tony’s nanite-infused, battle-worn armor swarming over his body, the red translucent tendrils emanating from Scarlet Witch’s fingers as she applies her powers to Vision’s green glowing Infinity Stone embedded in his head, or the saturated purples cast over Gamora’s outfit as the Guardians’ ship hangs out in a nebula.

The battle of Wakanda also really shines in 4K while watching (with one eye opened) the hordes of parasitic Outriders cut apart as they push through the city’s force field (leaving burnt flesh and detached body appendages in their wake); or the mesmerizing intensity of blue electricity and lightning strikes emanating around an energized Thor.

Although I was mostly impressed visually and even with the booming Dolby Atmos soundtrack, I have to question when Disney will start incorporating some IMAX, screen-filling footage in their releases much like Christopher Nolan routinely offers with his home entertainment releases.

If ever their was a great reason to unleash the power of IMAX on home theater owners, “Avengers: Infinity War” would have been a good time.

Best extras: Nearly all of the bonus content resides on the include Blu-ray disc of the film with nothing extra on the 4K disc.

Let’s start with my favorite extra, a commentary with the Russo brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They offer fans some worthy insight into this massive production that required 6,000 crew members, 2,900 special effects shots and over 30 key cast members.

The admittedly exhausted group often focuses on story and production design; a homage to the Jim Starlin comic books series; character combinations; the back stories of the characters; the actors’ onscreen chemistry; shooting locations; the use of jokes; and lots of talk about MacGuffins (plot devices to motivate characters).

Specific reveals during the commentary include nuggets such as Kenneth Branagh as the voice of the Asgardian distress signal in the opening seconds of the movie; how they made Tom Holland hair stand on end; why Bruce Banner was unable to turn into the Hulk; and the Steven Spielberg influences in the New York City battle.

Next, four production featurettes (roughly 32 minutes in total) show interviews with the directors and mostly all principal cast and crew. They focus on Thanos, characters meeting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the battles on Titan and Wakanda. The segments include lots of well-deserved gushing from the group about the Russo brothers and their passion for the project.

Also, viewers get four deleted scenes. The most amusing offers Happy Hogan annoying Tony Stark and Pepper Potts while the most impactful offers further insight into the very sad relationship between Thanos and Gamora.

Finally, make sure that you set up a free Movies Anywhere streaming service account and use the digital code contained in the package to not only watch the movie online at any time but also enjoy an exclusive, online 30-minute roundtable discussion with many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe directors.

The select group — the Russos, Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), Joss Whedon (“Marvel’s The Avengers”), James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”), Peyton Reed (“Ant-Man”) and the always bizarre Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) — reflect on their contributions to the massive Marvel movie adventures.

Mr. Waititi, ever the wiseguy, shows up via Skype as a head in a computer tablet mounted on top of a jean jacket and under a hat for plenty of laughs from the group.

Despite some great stories from the directors, it’s a bit painful to listen to Mr. Gunn, especially after the world learned that he was fired from directing “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” due to some outrageous tweets earlier in his career. I found his moments akin to watching an unsuspecting human about to be hit by a train.

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