Updated: Aug 13, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018, PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, and action throughout, profanity and some crude references; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes, Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Commentary with co-directors and brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
“INFINITY WAR” on 4K has all of the right elements: Exceptional resolution and HDR toning, a powerful Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and a storyline with the greatest assemblage of Marvel Cinematic Universal characters since its franchise creation.
The giant production was filmed mostly in Atlanta, Georgia, with over 6,000 crew and post-production FX members spread across the globe. Its budget more likely cracked $400 million. The worldwide box office made over $2 billion in just 48 days, placing it at the top of the Marvel Empire. Thankfully for Marvel Studios, it was a smash, with 160-minutes of action, humor, and epic battles.
The biggest challenge for brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who spent the majority of their career working TV shows until they directed the highly praised “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War,” was combining all of the different MCU tones and characters giving each one their moment to shine. “We like to combine things that don’t seem like they belong together,” Anthony says in the “Strange Alchemy” featurette.
The Russo’s gave fans what they’ve “wanted since day one,” says actor Chris Pratt, who plays the half-human/half-Celestial Star-Lord Peter Quill. Retired WWE wrestler/actor Dave Bautista (Drax) says he had hoped for a Marvel universe event since joining “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The majority of the Avengers and their superhero allies take part in the “Infinity War.” The Earth gang includes Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wong (Benedict Wong) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
Off-world champions are Thor (Chris Hemsworth), his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Eitri (Peter Dinklage) and the Guardian gang: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice, Bradley Cooper), Groot (voice, Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Mantis (Pom Klemenieff).
Missing from the MCU lineup: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman).
The plot is simple: The fate of the universe is at hand.
Thanos, the 12-foot purple giant (motion captured and voiced by Josh Brolin), comes across as a sympatric antihero with one goal: Bringing balance to the universe by eliminating 50 percent of its population to safeguard the other half. “He’s an eco-terrorist,” says executive producer Louis D’Esposito. Thanos has been lurking in the shadows since the “The Avengers” (2012). There was a glimpse of him in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), and another toward the end of “Age of Ultron” (2015).
Thanos must obtain six brightly colored gems, the Infinity Stones scattered across the MCU. Then, with a “snap of his fingers” he has the ability to wipe out half the universe, says Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has a longstanding link to the supervillain. “Death follows him like a shadow,” she explains.
The shocking ending of “Infinity War” was one of the biggest secrets in Hollywood. Cast members didn’t know their fate until the morning of filming. What we see onscreen is more than acting; it’s true sadness.
The 4K/Blu-ray set and streaming sites include four featurettes detailing the creation of Thanos; 2,680 visual effect shots; and the Russo Brothers’ filmmaking style, which Ruffalo describes as a “Perfect combination of structure and freedom.”
There are 10-minutes of deleted and extended material spread across four scenes; a gag reel; and a conversational commentary with the Russo Brothers and the two writers covering plot points, writing structure and the film’s place in the Marvel Universe. Joe Russo felt the project would either sink or swim depending on getting Thanos to look photo-real. They spent over two years creating all of the nuances from Brolin’s motion-capture performance, literally playing with technology, mapping Thanos to the molecular level. The result in 4K looks remarkable.
The most interesting extra could be the exclusive streaming director’s roundtable with eight directors – the Russo Brothers, Joss Whedon, James Gunn, Ryan Coogler, Peyton Reed and Taika Waititi – who’ve contributed to the MCU. The digital code with the review copy won’t unlock until August 14. We’ll update once we have access.
Let’s applaud Marvel Studios for the time and money spent on its 4K rendering and mastering. IMDb.com has bounced the digital mastering resolution from 4K to 2K to 4K, and now back to 2K. Whatever the resolution, the 4K disc looks substantially sharper than other formats. The Blu-ray is a fine watch on smaller setups.
We do know it was captured on 8K and 6.5K cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio), providing an amazing level of clarity and fidelity. There is a big difference in close-ups and wide shots, which dominate the “Infinity War” landscape including outer space, the planet Titan and the Wakanda battle sequence on Earth. HDR black levels are striking and deep, while the expanded highlights are bright and intense. The overall color palette is rich with bold greens, reds, orange, blues and purple. Marvel and Disney pulled Dolby Vision from the 4K disc; still, the HDR10 toning is stunning.
The 4K disc is coded with the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, delivering some ambient effects and musical cues to the height speakers. Even so, it’s not an aggressive track. The overall sound experience has plenty of punch from the bass to mids to highs in sound effects, and Alan Silvestri's score, following his previous work on “Captain America” and the two other Avengers’ films. Don’t worry – dialogue doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of music and effects. The Blu-ray is encoded with a DTS-HD eight-channel soundtrack, which will satisfy the most discerning listeners.
SIDE NOTE: The week of August 14, fans can also pick up the first two Avengers’ films on 4K. As a bonus for Vudu users, “Infinity War” is available in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, a first in the streaming world. In previous 4K disc vs. streaming comparisons, the physical disc won out with its higher bit-rate. We’ll examine “Infinity War” from Vudu once the digital code is unlocked.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer