Avengers: Endgame (4K Blu-ray) (2019)

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Released 14-Aug-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2019
Running Time 181:11
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Anthony Russo
Joe Russo
Studio
Distributor
Marvel
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Evans
Chris Hemsworth
Scarlett Johansson
Mark Ruffalo
Don Cheadle
Paul Rudd
Karen Gillan
Jeremy Renner
Bradley Cooper
Josh Brolin
Gwyneth Paltrow
Benedict Cumberbatch
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $34.95 Music Alan Silvestri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Since the beginning of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008 it has all been leading to this. 2019's Avengers: Endgame is the second half of the epic concluding chapter of the comic book franchise so far, following on from 2018's Avengers: Infinity War which ended with a traumatic cliffhanger. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo return to the fray, working from a screenplay by long-time MCU veterans Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who first scripted 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger). Particularly for longstanding MCU fans who have been on-board since Iron Man back in 2008, Avengers: Endgame is an honest-to-goodness cinematic gift; an enormously satisfying three-hour love letter that will make you laugh, cry, and stamp your feet in giddy exhilaration. Although armed with a behemoth 182-minute running time, Endgame never feels meandering or overlong, as it carries an incredible brevity thanks to impeccable writing, direction, and editing.

    At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) succeeded in his pursuit to collect all six Infinity Stones and eliminate half of all life in the universe with one snap of his fingers. Reeling from their defeat, but unable to accept it, the surviving Avengers promptly mount a mission to reverse The Snap, only to find that Thanos' work can no longer be undone. Five years elapse, and the world is not the same, with the Earth's population struggling to move on. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) still reside at Avengers HQ, liaising with the likes of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) as they hold out hope that their lost friends can be brought back from the dead. When Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) returns from the quantum realm he comes to the belief that time travel is theoretically possible, turning to the Avengers for assistance to mount a "time heist" and make things right. They bring the idea to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who is no longer Iron Man and instead lives in familial bliss with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his daughter Morgan (Lexi Rabe). Joining the team is Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Nebula (Karen Gillan), James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), and Rocket, while Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) also returns to the fight.

    For a franchise not often taken seriously by snooty cinephiles, the dramatic heft of Endgame is tremendous, further verifying that Marvel movies are not strictly for children. Whereas Infinity War fundamentally amounted to a series of hard-hitting action sequences, Endgame pumps the breaks to reveal the profound drama and trauma resulting from The Snap. Rather than solely concentrating on action set-pieces, the screenplay explores the emotion and psychology of the central heroes, who are haunted by their failure and believe that they let the universe down. The ensemble cast handles some of the meatiest dramatic material in this franchise to date, with note-perfect performances across the board selling the heroes' fallibility and vulnerability, which makes the characters feel real, relatable, and lived-in. Endgame even commences with a heartbreaking, chilling opening scene which sets the tone and gives Renner the opportunity to flex his dramatic chops. But despite the story's sobering nature it's not all doom and gloom, as unforced humour livens the proceedings from time to time, providing levity and humanity. The Russos proficiently navigate the tricky tonal changes, and never let a moment of bad acting slip through the cracks. One of the real acting standouts is Gillan as Nebula, who winds up with a surprisingly significant role in the proceedings, and carries several difficult scenes. Downey also deserves a mention - he is still the star of the show, and this is possibly his best work in the increasingly demanding MCU to date. Indeed, it has been a treat to witness Downey add layer upon layer to Tony with each new movie.

    The time-travelling conceit allows Markus and McFeely to fundamentally create a glorified clip show, as the remaining heroes split up to revisit memorable moments from earlier adventures (specifically The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor: The Dark World) to gather the Infinity Stones before Thanos. Despite an intimidating three-hour runtime, Endgame does not feel gratuitously stretched out, especially considering the number of bases that the script needed to cover in terms of story threads and character relationships from the previous 21 movies. The Russos permit adequate breathing room for scenes to sink in and reach their full dramatic potential, rather than rushing through each plot point to reach the next action set-piece. As a result, it's not exactly a non-stop, adrenaline-pumping ride, but it is more richly rewarding than the usual MCU extravaganza. The characters are perhaps the biggest draw of this franchise, and it's encouraging to behold a character-focused conclusion to over ten years of storytelling. (One significant scene on Vormir was originally an action sequence, but was reshot to remove the superfluous fireworks and keep the moment focused on the two characters at hand.) It's telling that little moments constitute some of the picture's best scenes, including Scott reuniting with his daughter (Emma Fuhrmann), Tony interacting with his father (John Slattery), Thor running into his mother (Rene Russo), or the tender final scene which reveals the fate of one beloved Avenger. This type of material usually feels perfunctory in action movies, but Endgame is built on a robust dramatic foundation. If anything, I wish the movie was longer.

    Thanos' role in Endgame is not necessarily significant, though he unsurprisingly re-emerges as the primary antagonist in this story. A diminished role might seem traitorous after the in-depth character development of Infinity War, but that was essentially his movie, and it completed his character arc. Conversely, Endgame is a story about the Avengers - more specifically, it's about the original founding members of the team, as this is their last ride. Brolin is still superb as the Mad Titan, giving him a sinister edge, and the movie further demonstrates that Thanos is utterly unbeatable in combat. Additionally, the character remains a genuine CGI miracle, as he appears astonishingly tangible and realistic. On that note, Endgame is loaded with digital effects, with virtually every frame receiving some degree of CGI enhancement. For the most part, the visuals are enormously impressive, with remarkable battle sequences that also benefit from the Russos' smart direction. However, some effects-heavy shots are somewhat unconvincing or simply look too digital, and it's a shame that these types of major motion pictures are still produced on tight schedules which do not allow for definitive polishing. (I mean, Endgame's reported budget is a staggering $356 million, making it one of the most expensive movies of all time.)

    With Endgame focusing on characters first and foremost, the majority of the action is restricted to the final act, after all the patient build-up. Consequently, while big climaxes usually feel forced by the demands of the blockbuster formula, Endgame's finale emerges organically, with the spectacular mayhem feeling genuinely earned. The result is a Marvel fan's wet dream. It is exhilarating to witness the holy trinity - Iron Man, Captain America and Thor - face off against Thanos in a brutal battle royale, which also delivers some of the most hard-hitting fan service in the MCU's history. Meanwhile, another immaculately assembled climactic sequence involving portals is pure ecstasy, especially with the outstanding accompanying score by veteran composer Alan Silvestri. A titan of the industry, Silvestri is one of Endgame's secret weapons, as his compositions burst with flavour and majesty, ensuring that each scene and moment hits its intended mark. Silvestri's score boosts the movie's emotional heft as well; in particular, one late sequence always leaves this reviewer a blubbering mess.

    Avengers: Endgame is a cathartic powerhouse of a motion picture, which ticks all the expected checkboxes: there's pathos, humour, tragedy, emotion, fan service, and spectacle. Despite the impossible pressure and hype, it capably juggles a potentially unwieldy collection of characters while pulling together an intricate yet coherent narrative, and the end result never feels either rushed or bloated. It is not quite perfect, but the minor shortcomings do not significantly harm the movie or diminish the phenomenal, once-in-a-generation experience. Somehow, the Russos manage to give virtually every character in the huge ensemble a moment to shine. Endgame still works as an individual movie, thanks to the careful craftsmanship, but it will, of course, play better for the established fans, who will pick up on the Easter Eggs and get the most from the experience. Miraculously surpassing expectations, Avengers: Endgame provides bittersweet closure to the sprawling superhero saga so far, while leaving room for the next major phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    To coincide with its 1080p Blu-ray release, Avengers: Endgame arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray courtesy of Walt Disney Home Entertainment. But while the 182-minute production should cry out for a triple-layer BD-100 for the best possible transfer quality, Disney still refuses to splash out for their first triple-decker despite this blockbuster's eye-watering box office gross. Thus, Endgame is presented in HEVC/H.265-encoded 2160p (framed at 2.39:1) on a dual-layer BD-66, resulting in an average video bitrate of only 36.53 Mbps - the lowest bitrate I've seen for this format to date. Endgame was only completed with a 2K digital intermediate, which presumably renders this 4K presentation an upscale of the digital source. On that note, it's truly beggars belief that while movies like Joker are finished natively at 4K, a $356 million production like Avengers: Endgame is only finished at 2K - and it's borderline criminal that the 6.5K live-action plates are subsequently squished down to 2K resolution before the application of digital effects. As a result, this movie should be demo material, but it's not, thanks to the 2K finish and the level of compression at hand on this disc. Nevertheless, it is a considerable improvement over the Blu-ray, mainly thanks to the High Dynamic Range (encoded in HDR10) and the improved encoding. Indeed, the 1080p Blu-ray is literally useless to me now.

    First, the less-than-positive news. At the outset, I noticed some very thin but distinctive ringing around high contrast edges, and this continues throughout the film to varying degrees. This anomaly is a telltale sign of digital sharpening. It appears that to compensate for squeezing this onto a BD-66, and to stave off any softness that might result from the compression, the House of Mouse's encoding team applied sharpening to the digital master, which also appears to have been subjected to minor digital noise reduction to remove any sensor noise. As a result, there are several shots - especially in the first half - of faces which simultaneously look slightly smooth yet sharpened. Thankfully, it's not a smeary DNR disaster, but again it's truly beggars belief that a production this expensive and significant is not a home run on 4K disc, while movies like Joker or even the recent bomb Mortal Engines look superior. Marvel needs to start embracing native 4K finishes - they definitely have enough money to do so.

    Having said that, the UHD Blu-ray shows some amazing improvements, with tighter textures, improved sharpness, and better highlights across the board. Wide and full shots show significant improvement - just see the establishing shot of the Avengers compound at 43:22, as it reveals much better definition in the buildings, greenery, and river when compared to the 1080p Blu-ray (which looks like crap in comparison). Despite the digital sharpening, details are also better and truer on faces and costumes compared to the Blu-ray, though the aforementioned smoothness is apparent in some scenes more than others. However, shadow detail is consistently better; for instance, during the visit to Thor's house at the 50-minute mark, or during the entire climactic battle. Furthermore, the marriage of live-action plates and digital effects remains seamless, as the resolution doesn't reveal any shortcomings in the VFX compositing. Detailing on the CGI characters is sublime, with the likes of Thanos, Smart Hulk, and Rocket showing outstanding textures and sharpness that scarcely falter. Satisfying sharpness also ensures that hair is finely-rendered, such as on Thor's extensive beard, or the completely CG Rocket. But it's the action-packed climax where the 2160p encode really trumps the Blu-ray. Since the battle takes place on a gloomy landscape, it looks soft and flat in 1080p, but here looks firmer, tighter, and richer in terms of colours and textures. You can more readily appreciate the extensive visual effects work, though the encode can't fix the more obvious-looking CG shots (the gauntlet looks horrendously fake when Hulk puts it on, for instance, appearing more like a PS3 cutscene than a $356 million major feature film).

    It's the HDR which really makes this one sing, and there are significant differences compared to the Blu-ray. As ever, the disc only plays in regular old HDR10, though a Dolby Vision master is streaming on Disney+. For my money, HDR is essential for Avengers: Endgame, as several shots and sequences feature harsh light that looks blown out on the Blu-ray - lightning bolts, lasers, explosions, etc. When Captain Marvel first approaches the Guardians' ship towards the beginning, for instance, the 4K disc restores so much specular detail to the imagery. And it doesn't spoil the reveal of Captain Marvel, either, as the shots are still deliberately bright, but the colours and bursts of light are more balanced in UHD. When she carries the ship to Avengers HQ at 8:30, she's a blob of blown-out light in SDR, but, in UHD, you can actually discern her form. Even little things like Tony's Arc Reactor consistently reveals better highlight detail here. But it's the portals scene, and subsequent battle sequence, that's most noticeably improved. In the cinema and on Blu-ray, the portals scene is blown out to heck; therefore, I instantly noticed improved highlights and specular detail in UHD. Just look at T'Challa, Okoye and Shuri stepping through the portal - you can actually see Wakanda behind them here, and you can see more detail on the heroes themselves. This is also true for the remainder of the sequence, while all explosions, laser bolts, and even Captain Marvel's forcefield looks far superior with HDR enhancement. Meanwhile, Wanda's red powers are more intense and vibrant, and the gloomy skies show superior depth, dimension and highlights, thanks to the HDR grade.

    Elsewhere, colours simply look richer on the whole, showing a more varied and intricate palette. Scenes like Hawkeye/Ronin fighting in Tokyo look outstanding with HDR, with the neon signs standing out all the more. Plus, whereas skin tones occasionally look a touch yellow and sickly on the Blu-ray, said tones are more balanced and accurate in UHD, and never appear overcooked. Improved highlights are also noticeable on the detailed make-up on both Gamora and Nebula. Black levels are superior as well, with better contrast and image depth throughout. And, thankfully, the encode never crushes the blacks - rather, they're inkier but still tightly controlled. It's worth pointing out that the HDR grade also results in added darkness, as scenes are deliberately dimmer for better effect. Plus, since the HDR grade is for higher-nit displays than the SDR Blu-ray, there's superior luminance to Captain Marvel's glow, as well as fires and explosions. I could go on and on, with almost scene-by-scene instances of improvements thanks to the HDR grade, but, suffice it to say, the HDR-enhanced presentation looks spectacular.

    In spite of the disc's minor shortcomings, the compression never gives rise to any bothersome encoding artefacts like banding, aliasing or macroblocking, not even in the busiest or more frenetic sequences - it's smooth sailing across the board. There is heaps to admire about this UHD transfer, which once again shows off the format's benefits with sublime precision. I'm giving this transfer 4.5 stars on the whole, but it's probably closer to 4.25. 4 stars is too harsh, 4.5 seems too generous. So, 4.5 stars with caveats. I'd certainly like to see Disney reissue Endgame in the future, on a BD-100 with Dolby Vision enhancement and without the digital sharpening/ noise reduction - that would surely be a sight to behold. In the meantime, rest assured that Endgame looks very good on 4K, and it bests the Blu-ray so handily that it's not even close.

    English subtitles (for the hearing impaired) are available. I had no problems with the track. Also, props to Disney's team for including the stylish subtitles when Hawkeye/Ronin is kicking butt in Tokyo. They could have easily made these titles player-generated to ensure it's friendly for other languages, but they instead included the original, stylised subtitles for the Japanese dialogue - a small but appreciated touch.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As usual, Disney ups the ante with a Dolby Atmos audio mix on this 4K Blu-ray, which has a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. I had virtually nothing but immense praise for the Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, and thankfully the Atmos track is just as great, but with added overhead channels for those with Atmos-compatible equipment. As usual, you'll need to raise the volume a little higher than usual, and dialogue is mixed a bit low at times, but those are the only shortcomings of an otherwise top-notch Atmos mix which delivers astounding dynamic range and subwoofer activity. Separation and panning effects are evident whenever ships or characters take flight, such as Carol's approach to the Guardians' ship towards the beginning, or her bringing in the ship to Avengers HQ. Also see instances of Iron Man flying around, particularly during the climactic battle. When Scott returns and begins wandering around the desolate streets, bird sounds are isolated to particular surround channels. On the streets of Tokyo, the sounds of rainfall fill the soundscape, making the sequence hugely immersive. Music also fills the available speakers to superb effect; both Alan Silvestri's original score, as well as the collection of songs included throughout.

    In terms of subwoofer activity and LFE, the Atmos track is a stunner. Just like with the 7.1 track, there's superb subwoofer accentuation of engines, explosions, laser blasts and punches (not to mention Thanos belting Captain America's shield), while more minor sound effects (Tony removing his Arc Reactor) are likewise impactful. Also, see Rhodey landing outside Avengers HQ around the 48-minute mark - his approach shows amazing panning effects, and his actual landing exhibits appropriate LFE. Hulk's roar in New York City, as well as the sounds of the Outriders in the tunnels chasing Hawkeye, are satisfying and deep. The climactic battle sounds stunning, with immersive sounds and immaculate mixing, with dialogue always understandable throughout the frenetic mayhem. Crystal clear, pristine, with perpetually active surrounds, and free of hissing, popping, or sync issues, Avengers: Endgame sounds excellent in Dolby Atmos - and it's hard to imagine anybody feeling let down. Just like with the Blu-ray, it's an encouraging step forward for Disney's encoding team, and this is hopefully a sign of things to come.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The 4K disc is bereft of extras. Not even the commentary is on the disc. The 4K is currently bundled with the movie on standard Blu-ray, as well as the bonus Blu-ray with all the extras. And of course, if you want all available extras, you'll need to buy the movie on iTunes and also get a Disney+ subscription.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    4K discs worldwide appear identical. There are no meaningful differences, apart from packaging.

Summary

    Avengers: Endgame is a once-in-a-generation event which is reflected in the amount of box office records it broke with seemingly little effort. Funny, emotional, and thoroughly involving from start to finish, it's a triumphant conclusion to over ten years of storytelling, and it must be seen on the biggest possible screen.

    There are caveats but, for the most part, Endgame looks and sounds great on 4K Blu-ray, even if this isn't exactly a top-tier title. Still, the upgrade over the regular Blu-ray is palpable and appreciable. Whatever the technical shortcomings with the disc, this is a great movie which demands to be seen in 4K. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, February 08, 2020
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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