Published on May 4th, 2010 | by Greg0
Superheroes and Science Fiction on Blu-ray and DVD
It appears the whole world has already seen it, but for the two or three of you out there that are just coming out of a coma, there is this movie called Avatar that’s a pretty big deal. If it seems like it hasn’t been that long since seeing it in IMAX 3D… well, that’s because it hasn’t. But post-Oscars, and before they can re-release it back into theaters with a few extra minutes of footage, the DVD and Blu-ray versions have hit the street and are already raking in the cash.
We confess to being suckers for sci-fi, and Avatar hits that sweet spot between a pure, entertaining blockbuster and pushing the envelope of film technology. It’s certainly spectacle of the highest order, and if Cameron’s story is a little predictable, there are enough twists and turns as it speeds through action sequences to keep you excited. The most expensive movie made to date, you truly do see every penny on the screen, and it’s a visually arresting world. As a fantasy, it leaves something to be desired, and it definitely won’t have quite the social or critical impact that films like Star Wars or even T2 had. But as a pretty family-friendly movie with a decent message, it works.
Of course, Blu-ray is the preferred way to watch this one. Now, it does lose a few things by being confined to two dimensions; a few scenes felt a bit flat compared to the 3-D version. But if you haven’t seen that version, you likely won’t notice or miss it. On the other hand, you might notice a few other things that are absent- like the aforementioned deleted scenes (wait for the re-release), or even many other special features. For those who just want to watch the film, pick this one up, but film buffs or serious fans should wait a while for the inevitable Ultimate Extreme Edition. The suggestion is that extras were passed in order to maximize audio and video quality, and we can accept that- it’s a dense, lush transfer. And since this version includes the DVD disc as well, you can convince your friends first-hand as they see the obvious difference between the two. $20, available everywhere.
But with the release of Iron Man 2 this weekend, perhaps a bit of comic book nostalgia is more your speed? For fans who weren’t growing up in the mid-nineties, you may have missed the Iron Man: The Complete Animated Series, way back in 1994. Stan Lee and Marvel presented this show, which only aired until for two seasons and 26 episodes, and now you can see the first on-screen version of this superhero. Some of the characters from the new film are presented here, though the first season is oddly awkward (especially compared to the movies). It’s a bit goofy at times, but worth seeing for the decent second season, which unfortunately ends too soon. This set doesn’t offer much in the way of bonus features, but is sharp and sounds good enough. Three DVDs in total, $20, and available in stores as of today. The perfect thing for the kid not quite old enough to see the movies but who wants to see Tony Stark do his thing!
On a similar note, the Marvel back catalogue continues to get mined with the release of X-Men, Volume Five, the latest chapter in the animated series and also released today on DVD. This was a classic series, which comic lovers remember fondly, and it turns out to have stood up fairly well- though the earlier seasons were certainly better. Sure, the three movies (and spin-off) have made an impression, but this cartoon left deep imprints. This two-disc set combines seasons four and five, actually- the final run of the show that debuted in 1992 and ran through 1997. Also, one episode got reshuffled into this release, but as it isn’t a serial you’re unlikely to notice the oddity (“No Mutant Is An Island” belongs in the third season). No extras and a “just OK” presentation mean that this is probably best for completists and those nostalgia for their younger days, but at $18, it’s a good bargain for five hours of fun.