BLOG The Marvel Avengers Dilemma

You'll never hear the anecdote from this scene if you live in the UK. NEVER.

Commentary or not commentary, that is the question…

Last night my other half asked me if I wanted to pre-order The Avengers film. I’m not calling it Marvel Avengers Assemble, I’m just not; I’ve typed that far too many times over the last few months OK! We all know which film I mean.

Anyway… I said, “Yes.” We both loved the film and we definitely wanted to own it. The next question was which format. I wanted the Blu-ray, mainly for the “Item 47” Marvel One Shot short film and also for the commentary, because I’d heard there was one.

We’ve had a Blu-ray player since we picked one up in a sale earlier this year. We needed to replace our bedroom DVD player so we decided to upgrade to Blu-ray because we’re both fed up of the DVD/Blu-ray special features disparity. You might remember my vitriol fuelled blog about the subject last year. So now we have the choice between getting the DVD or going for the Blu-ray if we particularly want any extras there might be.

So, we decided on the Blu-ray release; as I said, I wanted the “Item 47” short film and I also wanted the Joss Whedon commentary track because Mr Whedon is always good for a decent, entertaining commentary. A quick search on Amazon found several Blu-ray releases with “Item 47” but none said anything about a commentary. We looked to see if there was a commentary, I was sure I’d heard there would be but thought it better to make sure.

I found a complete list of the expected special features on Geeks of Doom, and it did indeed confirm the fact that a Joss Whedon commentary had been announced. Sure, Geeks of Doom is an American site, but that didn’t matter did it?

All the US releases of The Avengers we found on Amazon.com said there was a commentary; it seemed to feature on all the release over there and it’s even featured on their single DVD version. Scroll down a little on this page to see all the various releases, and the included extras, the US market is getting.

Over on this side of the Atlantic a release with a commentary was nowhere to be found. There was talk of a DVD release, a Blu-ray release, a 3D Blu-ray release, a digital release and various combinations of all of those. There’s even an exclusive Sainsbury’s release with a 90 minute documentary, but there’s no mention of a commentary anywhere in UK releases. In my hunting I also noticed a 6 minute run time difference between what it says on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK; all the UK site say 137 minutes and the US site says 143 minutes and I have no idea what that’s about [Ed: this is likely down to PAL speed-up and the DVD runtime being incorrectly labelled on the Blu-ray product details on amazon.co.uk]. But surely there would be a commentary on the UK releases wouldn’t there? Joss Whedon speaks English doesn’t he? It’s just not been mentioned in error, they wouldn’t leave it off would they?

Wanting to find out more I looked around a few Blu-ray enthusiast forums and sure enough I found that this subject was being discussed in several places. It would seem that the home release of The Avengers is being handled by Disney – Paramount and Universal have been responsible for the release of all the earlier Marvel Phase One films – and people aren’t very happy with the way Disney release films in the UK and some of Europe. Apparently we tend to lose out on extras that the US gets as standard and commentaries are routinely left off to allow for more languages and the ability to use the same disks for release Europe-wide. I’m pretty sure I own many DVDs and Blu-rays that manage to have quite a range of different languages and manage a director’s commentary too; this seems like a pretty crappy excuse. I found a thread on Blu-ray.com where posters were discussing the relative merits of which format to buy to get the best all round package, which releases had which extras and bemoaning the fact that we don’t get a commentary unless we buy one of the US versions which, by the way, don’t seem to be region free.

All I wanted was a Blu-ray of The Avengers with a little short film on it and a commentary giving me the insights and thoughts of the very entertaining Joss Whedon concerning this film. When my other half suggested pre-ordering it I, like any sane person, thought a few quick clicks on the internet and we’d have it done five minutes later. Instead I’d had over an hour and a half of hunting and searching, over an hour and a half of getting slowly more and more wound up because it seemed likely that I wouldn’t be able to get the Blu-ray package that I wanted. Oh, how I wish Zoë had asked me if I wanted to pre-order The Hunger Games or season five of The Big Bang Theory instead.

So, can anyone out there shed any light on this? Will there be a UK release of The Avengers which contains both “Item 47” and a commentary, or not? Are Disney just being mean with their UK release and does the excuse that various added languages mean they just can’t fit a commentary on as well actually hold any water?

Does Joss Whedon know about this?

Steven Ellis

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