Avengers Age of UltronFor proof that Hollywood wants you to buy your movies digitally in HD instead of on discs, see Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was released on Digital HD on September 8th. In case you’re looking for it in stores right now, it doesn’t get released on Blu-Ray, DVD or standard definition digital until October 2nd. Fans who have already leaped into the disc-less future or who simply couldn’t wait another month can now enjoy one of the best films of 2015 in the comfort of their home, as well as anywhere they go.

The follow-up to the record-breaking Marvel’s The Avengers, aka the highest grossing film of 2012, hit theaters in May and nearly matched its predecessor’s worldwide box office haul despite competition from this summer’s juggernaut, Jurassic World. These two movies made this one of the best movie going summers in a long time (can you imagine if Star Wars hadn’t been delayed until December?).

The Avengers assemble again to take down the last of Hydra’s bases where they discover Loki’s scepter. When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner explore the power within the glowing jewel stored inside, they unintentionally create Ultron, an evil robot who sees humanity as a genetic mistake that he must correct. This formidable foe is more than the original Avengers can handle, as they seek the assistance of two enemies turned allies to save the world from destruction.

The question that inevitably comes up is “Which Avengers movie is better?” Fans are pretty divided and I personally side with Age of Ultron as the superior film. With well-defined character relationships pre-established, it is able to dive right into the action without a lot of scenes where characters are just talking on a plane. It also explores these characters deeper and makes each Avenger more interesting by extension. And in addition to Ultron being an awesome villain, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver steal the show. Two characters I had zero affinity for suddenly became two of my favorites. I also find it to be much funnier than the first film, despite the stakes being higher (end of mankind vs. becoming slaves to an alien race).

This review is based on the Digital HD release, but can be applied to the disc releases as well. You can currently buy it digitally from all major providers (including iTunes and Amazon) and it’s also available digitally in 3D from Vudu. It is compatible with Disney Movies Anywhere, which features an exclusive bonus feature and allows you to watch the movie through five different services regardless of which one you purchased it from (iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Microsoft).

If you’re willing to wait until October 2nd, the Digital HD version will be packaged with both Blu-Ray releases (3D/2D Collector’s Edition or standard Blu-Ray). The DVD will be released on that same day, but doesn’t come with a digital copy.

Video

Avengers: Age of Ultron looks marvelous in 1080p HD. My preferred digital provider is iTunes, who not only allows you to download the films (this one is 5.68 GB) but also streams beautifully to my Apple TV with a DVD-style menu. Detail is crisp and clear during major action scenes and black levels are handled well. However, Digital HD still hasn’t caught up with the capabilities of Blu-Ray and this will no doubt be outshined by the disc version.

Audio

Audio options with the Digital HD version are English 5.1 surround, as well as stereo Spanish and French. One of the limitations of Digital HD is that HD Master Audio files are too big to easily stream and would make download file sizes so large that hard drives would have less space for more movies. This 5.1 track is decent, utilizing it’s full sound field and putting the subwoofer to work, but will also inevitably prove inferior to the 7.1 HD-MA track on the forthcoming Blu-Ray.

Bonus Features

Marvel has assembled a worthy assortment of bonus features for Avengers: Age of Ultron. With a digital purchase, these can be viewed on iTunes, Vudu and Disney Movies Anywhere via menus. Amazon Instant Video also has the bonus features, where they are sadly tacked on to the end of the film without the option to select them individually.

  • From the Inside Out: The Making of Avengers: Age of Ultron (20:53) – This making-of featurette takes you along for the ride to showcase how the film was made. From the actors reunion and detailed sets to location shooting and the premiere, this making-of covers all the bases of production.
  • The Infinite Six (7:31) – This featurette discusses the Infinity Stones, providing a recap of the four that have appeared in the MCU so far and a tease at the next two. Jeremy Latcham, Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon talk about the stones in the comics vs. how they brought them to the movies.
  • Global Adventure (3:00) – This bonus feature showcases the worldwide filming locations that brought authenticity to this global battle.
  • Gag Reel (3:36) – This hilarious gag reel almost feels too short. It features bleeped out swear words, cheesy mugging, and man-on-man smooches between Thor and Vision. In other words, Best. Gag Reel. Ever.
  • Deleted Scenes (12:05) – Four deleted scenes are offered.
    • The Man in the Church (1:11) – Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch help citizens, but are alerted that Ultron is present by a boy who says an “Iron Man” is in the church.
    • Watch Your Six (2:49) – This extended scene features the Avengers discussing Ultron after he crashed their party.
    • Bruce and Natasha Talk (4:21) – At Clint’s home, Natasha and Bruce talk about what they saw when Scarlet Witch messed with their heads.
    • The Norn Cave (3:44) – Another extended scene, this one showing Dr. Selvig talking to Thor in the cave pool while he was possessed by a Norn, a Norwegian fate (and yes, Hemsworth has his shirt off for nearly the entire scene).

All of the above bonus features will be on the Blu-Ray disc that is coming on October 2nd. There is one bonus feature that is sadly absent from all digital versions that will be exclusive to Blu-Ray, which is the audio commentary with Joss Whedon. The only bonus feature that will be on the DVD is the making-of documentary.

Disney Movies Anywhere has their own exclusive bonus feature, available for free to anyone who has unlocked their digital copy through iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Google Play or Microsoft. This can be accomplished by using the code with the Blu-Ray set or by purchasing it from any of these providers directly and linking your accounts.

  • Connecting the Universe (4:53) – This fun featurette highlights how all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films are connected to Avengers: Age of Ultron and also reveals comics references that are lost on most fans.

Disney Movie Rewards Gifts

If you link your account through Disney Movies Anywhere, there are a few rewards you can access through Disney Movie Rewards. Two digital comics (Black Widow #1 and Hawkeye #1) are available as free downloads. A Hulkbuster laptop decal can be redeemed for free with $2.95 shipping and handling. An exclusive t-shirt showing Hulkbuster blueprints is available for sale to those who buy the movie for $19.99 plus $3.75 shipping. And a special promotion for Marvel Unlimited, the digital comics subscription service, which gets you a year for just $5 per month.

Final Thoughts

Avengers: Age of Ultron is awesome and I’m excited to be able to watch it anywhere I go. The bonus features are wonderful; I just wish the audio commentary was included in the Digital HD release. Disney Movies Anywhere makes it incredibly easy to share your purchase across multiple platforms and the free and exclusive goodies from Disney Movie Rewards sweeten the deal for Marvel fans.

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