Ten years in the making, Avengers: Infinity War arrives with all the weight, action, laughs, tears, and poignancy we could hope for, as celestial Titan, Thanos, hunts down the infinity stones so he can "bring balance to the universe" no matter the cost. The monumental but somewhat bloated production is a wildly entertaining feat, given the balancing act between the long list of characters involved, sure to leave audiences in tearful, anxious anticipation for next year's conclusion. The Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a beautiful 4K HDR10 presentation that offers notable improvements over its HD SDR counterpart and a satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that's better than the DTS-HD MA track. Porting over the same set of supplements as the Blu-ray, the overall package is Recommended for fans and UHD enthusiasts.
Avengers: Infinity War has to be the biggest motion picture event of recent memory, a massively ambitious production ten years in the making. It will go down as a formidable and somewhat exhaustive endeavor that tests casual fans' knowledge of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe while pleasing the deeply loyal base with giddy enthusiasm. Eighteen entries to the franchise have basically been building up to this moment, and it absolutely feels that cumbersome and substantial, requiring some viewers to perhaps revisit the previous films prior to this undeniably bloated but surprisingly entertaining behemoth. Miraculously, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, coming off the last two Captain America movies, do a phenomenal balancing act juggling between a laundry list of characters without losing focus on the main objective: stopping a nihilist-obsessed Thanos (Josh Brolin) from realizing his catastrophic plan for the universe. Even more astounding and unexpected is a poignantly weighty plot guaranteed to engage audiences on an emotional level.
Picking up from a mid-credits sequence in Thor: Ragnarok, the film wastes no time shocking fans, as Brolin's Thanos begins inflecting his twisted form of justice. Within minutes, the alien Titan easily overpowers the powerful Thor (Chris Hemsworth), out-smarts the ingeniously clever Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and pummels the incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to the point of bruising the Green Goliath's ego for the remainder of the runtime — a running gag that's as equally funny as it is frustrating. The scene quickly establishes a morose and pessimistic tone that pervades the thrillingly grandiose action, and even the several comedic curveballs attempting to lighten the mood do so with a tense cynicism. Hemsworth carries over his jovial demeanor from his previous movie in a conversation with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) where the two continue suppressing their softer underbellies. It's a touching moment with lighthearted jabs exemplifying the filmmakers' goal throughout the series but feels even more significant here — the darkest, bleakest story of the franchise.
From a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the film's best aspect is the strange-bedfellows banter of the characters. Following in the story arcs created by the various sequels, Gamora's (Zoe Saldana) gravely dramatic pleas to Quill (Chris Pratt) are suddenly uninterrupted by weirder-than-usual Drax (Dave Bautista) believing himself a stealthy killer hiding in plain sight. In other parts of the universe, Banner's (Ruffalo) seven PhDs prove useless when operating the Hulkbuster armor suit, and a gawky, bumbling Spider-Man (Tom Holland) remains neurotically twitchy about his involvement as he's also unceremoniously welcomed into the Avengers. Meanwhile, egos are continuously clashing as everyone scrambles to fight the same problem from different perspectives and motives. Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) tough-as-iron exterior, in particular, hilariously locks horns with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), but Pratt's over-confident and very much fragile Quill butting heads with Thor arguably provides the funniest moments.
Full of edge-of-your-seat spectacle, oozing with endless eye candy and wisecracking humor typical of the current superhero craze, Avengers: Infinity War is driven more by the emotional investment of each character, approaching Thanos's potentially cataclysmic threat differently because he's been at the center of numerous tragedies fueling the MCU. And like we've seen in the last two entries, including Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming, the villain's motives are surprisingly more complex than a simple power-grab. Uninterested by greed, a lust to rule the galaxy or a desire to conquer all, the Titan is filled with regret and tragedy with a longing for balance, not only in the universe but in his personal life as well, one that takes shape in a callously logical plan that isn't entirely wrong. This leads to what is probably the most heartbreaking encounter of the entire film between Gamora and him, one of many heart-rending moments in a monumental production unlike anything we've seen before, astonishingly delivering the goods while leaving audiences in tears, eagerly anxious for next year's better-be-as-good conclusion.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brings Avengers: Infinity War to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Disney Digital Copy. When redeeming said code via RedeemDigitalMovie.com, MoviesAnywhere or VUDU, it should include the HD and 4K UHD digital versions while VUDU users will have access to a Dolby Vision HDR version with Dolby Atmos. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc. Both are housed inside a black, eco-vortex case with an embossed, glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The Avengers assemble once again to fight the mighty Thanos on Ultra HD with a beautiful and generally satisfying HEVC H.265 encode that offers several nice enhancements over the Blu-ray.
Shot on the Arri Alexa 65, capable of 6.5K resolution, and later mastered to a 4K Digital Intermediate, the 4K presentation delivers a welcomed uptick in overall definition and clarity, though not by a significant difference. The costumes reveal the tight threading of the fabric, and the fine lines of buildings and the surrounding foliage are razor-sharp, exposing the tiniest imperfection and flaw. The scrapes on Iron Man's suit, the creases in Quill's jacket and every scar on Thanos's face are plainly visible and arguably even more impressive, and the same goes for the facial complexions of the live-action stars, especially during close-ups revealing stunning life-like textures. However, the improvements are not all that dramatic with several moments of softness sprinkled throughout. There is also evidence of negligible aliasing or wobbly lines along the sharpest edges of some objects, and from time to time, especially in the long shots, the picture can appear somewhat noisy. It's not a terribly distracting issue, but it's there nonetheless.
The better upgrade is definitely the brighter, more vibrant contrast delivering a flashier and more luminous presentation, particularly in the daylight exteriors, such as the battle for Wakanda. The freshly-minted transfer comes with crisper, more radiant whites, giving the clouds in the sky a picturesque pop while Shuri's sterile lab is absolutely spotless. Specular highlights don't really improve much, but the brightest areas are nonetheless noticeably tighter, allowing for better visibility of the finest details in every explosion, in the colorful blaze of the weapons and in the intense glow of Thor's lightning bolts. Black levels are a tad richer and inkier with great gradational differences between the various shades so that we can see the tiniest feature of everyone's costumes. Shadow delineation, on the other hand, is about the same, but occasionally, the darkest parts of the frame can obscure the finer details during poorly-lit conversations. Still, the opening sequence and the scene in Nidavellir are great moments, especially with the sudden burst of colors.
Where the UHD easily wins over its HD SDR counterpart is the improved palette, boasting a wider and more lavish array of colors. Most notable is Thanos looking more of a lilac than purple and the flames he seems to wield are an eye-catching, ironically-beautiful lavender shade. In fact, whenever the celestial Titan wields the gauntlet, the 2.39:1 burst into a splendid display of scorching yellows, vivid amber oranges, and deeply intense magentas. One of the most stunningly beautiful scenes is Thanos looking into a gorgeous sky layered in soft blues, pinks, marigold, and violet. The HDR10 video also oozes with a variety of lush reds, showing distinct differences between Dr. Strange's ruby-red cape, Iron Man's crimson armor suit, the bright rose fabric of the Dora Milaje forces and the candy-red flames of Scarlet Witch. The opulent greens of Wakanda's forest are teeming with life, and the electrifying blues of Thor's lightning bolts shock the screen with spirited intensity and an interesting cyan, arctic hue. (VideoRating: 87/100)
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This portion of the review was updated. IMDB.com, link above, originally listed this movie as having a 2K DI. As of 8/3/2018, it now says 4K. Assuming this is correct, we're updating the review. Either way, if anyone has any links to first-person sources commenting on how the film was completed (from the filmmakers, etc.), please do let us know in the comments below and we'll make any further adjustments as needed. Thanks!]
Unlike its Blu-ray counterpart, the war for the universe erupts on Ultra HD with a highly enjoyable Dolby Atmos soundtrack, offering a few noteworthy improvements over the DTS-HD MA 7.1 version. It may not compare to some of the best tracks currently available, which could make it somewhat disappointing, but it delivers a better aural experience that's more engaging and absorbing.
For one thing, the overall volume can be adjusted to normal listening levels although the design remains a very front-heavy presentation. The explosive action is largely confined and restrained to the three fronts, leaving the surrounds and ceiling speakers pretty much in silence for a majority of the runtime even though they're employed more frequently here. On the plus side, the random effects discretely pan between the channels more fluidly and convincingly, such as Dr. Strange's wizard one-on-one with Thanos or the New York battle, as various noises move from one side of the room to the other and above the listening area. Other scenes come with good atmospherics in the overheads. Such moments don't really create a hemispheric soundfield that ideally matches the exciting, fiery visuals, but it manages to deliver a satisfying soundscape. The Dr. Strange rescue scene mentioned in the Blu-ray review sounds better, but Iron Man's landing in the front left side of the screen remains terribly out of place given the on-screen action.
Similar to the lossless mix on the BD, however, the object-based track delivers a highly-engaging and satisfying soundstage, displaying excellent channel balance and separation from beginning to end. The movie is littered with lots of background activity and excellent off-screen movement, generating a splendidly broad and expansive soundscape. The mid-range exhibits outstanding clarity and definition with plenty of warmth and fidelity during the loudest, most bombastic segments. It is still not quite as extensive or dynamic as I would prefer, sometimes feeling a bit limited or as though deliberately clipped, but the added breathing room allows for better clarity in the higher frequencies. Also, Alan Silvestri's score lightly bleeds into the top heights for an amusing half-dome soundstage. Top priority is still plainly given to the vocals, heard clearly and distinctly amid the chaos and mayhem. The low-end, too, feels fuller and ever so slightly more imposing, providing a tad more weight and presence to the explosive action. (Audio Rating: 82/100)
Avengers: Infinity War debuts 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with the same set of bonus features you'll find on the Blu-ray and Digital releases. Like most Disney releases, all supplements are located on the Blu-ray, but there's also a digital exclusive feature you'll need to access via your Digital Copy. Overall, this collection of special features is a bit on the light side; perhaps we'll get a more complete look behind-the-scenes following the release of Avengers 4.
Digital Copy Exclusive
Arguably the biggest motion picture even of recent memory, Avengers: Infinity War is filled with as much heart-rending tragedies as it layered with lighthearted comedy for making the film's more poignant aspects bearable. Keeping the monumental production from feeling too exhaustive and bloated is a somewhat complex plot that sees the central villain's callously logical plan driven by something deeper and more tragic, clashing the superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with their individual motives for fighting Thanos. As a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the fight for the universe erupts with a beautiful 4K HDR10 presentation offering notable improvements over its HD SDR counterpart, accompanied by a satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Sharing the same set of supplements as the Blu-ray, the overall package is Recommended for loyal fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and UHD enthusiasts, making a great addition to the ever-growing library.