Marvel Phase Two Blu-Ray Set Review
Physical media is dead. Owning things has become a burden; in the last few years I have gotten rid of most of my CDs and DVDs, and my life (and apartment) feels all the better for it. Arguments about the longevity of physical media hold no water in the digital age, at a time when I can pop in a DVD from 2002 and find it unplayable due to laser rot. Old CD-R mixes have gone mysteriously blank. Yes, analog physical media - vinyl, books, celluloid - lasts when maintains, but the permanence of digital media is an illusion.
That means there needs to be a good hook for me to buy something physical these days. There needs to be a component that extends beyond the content, whether that be a gorgeous illustrated edition of a beloved book or a record with beautiful art on the gatefold cover. Or, in the case of DVDs and Blu-rays, an extraordinary presentation in packaging that is cool as well as collectible. Booklets, cases, additional geegaws - this is what sells me when it comes to physical media.
Which is why I bought the Marvel Phase One Blu-ray set. The discs came bundled in a big ass briefcase, just like the one in which the Tesseract was held at the end of Thor. Actually, it has a Tesseract inside of it, and a lighting system that makes the cube glow blue when you open up the case. It’s really cool, and it came with a package of extra materials that related to the Phase One movies and that added a bit of depth and richness to the set.
I liked that set so much I refrained from buying any of the Phase Two movies on Blu (not that I probably would have anyway, to be honest), and put in my pre-order for the complete Phase Two collection. Now comes the moment of full disclosure: Disney sent along a review copy, allowing me to cancel my order of the thing I was going to be buying anyway.
The first set’s briefcase is this huge thing; it’s cool but it’s also ostentatious in a big way, and it’s hard to keep with your other Blus. It also kind of looks weird, like you have a briefcase sitting on your shelf for some reason. The Phase Two set is much more clearly a collectible object; in this case it's the container within which the purple Power Stone was held in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s an orb with ornate carvings on it, and it rests upon a stand. When you open the orb there’s an oval Infinity Stone within, and like the first set there’s a light source that makes it appear to glow. Unlike the first set you will never, ever have a reason to open the orb, since all of the discs are kept in the base.
It’s a better system, though. The first set had the discs in cardboard cases that were kept in little sleeves inside the briefcase, and they weren’t easy to access. The Phase Two set has an opening in the back of the base, and the cardboard cases are all right there, easily identifiable and simple to grab. Each of the films in Phase Two (Iron Man Three, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man) exists on two discs. One is a standard Blu, the other 3D. I don’t have a 3D set up, so I can’t tell you anything about that.
The standard Blus look great, though. Each features a commentary track and deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage, all of which I believe are the same as on the initial releases. Look, you know whether or not you want these movies as movies, so I’m not going to get into deep detail reviewing each one, but I will say that I found the picture and sound on the discs to be great (to my non-technically oriented senses), and that I actually thought Guardians looked better on Blu than it had at my last, too-dim theatrical viewing.
Along with those discs the Phase Two set contains a bonus disc. Those crafty guys at Marvel held back some deleted scenes from the initial Blu releases, and they’re included on this bonus disc. Some of these deleted scenes are absolutely terrific, and the ones from Age of Ultron honestly should have been in the film. There’s an extended version of The Vision awakening in which he uses all of his powers, including becoming immaterial, while battling the Avengers. There's a bit where Quicksilver is evacuating civilians in Sokovia and stops to hit on a pretty girl. And there’s an extended sequence from The Dark World where an imprisoned Loki creates an illusion for himself where he is the ruler of Asgard. It’s a great little scene, and it’s the set up for the final bit of the movie, so I honestly do not know why it was cut.
The bonus disc also has a short doc about Phase Two and the interwoven stories, as well as laying out the initial plans for Phase Three. It’s a neat little sneak at Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, although containing nothing as in-depth as the footage shown at D23 this year (which I was really hoping to see included). It’s right on the edge between being a goofy EPK and something more interesting; for fans (ie the people who are shelling out 200 bucks for this set in the first place) it’ll be illuminating enough.
That brings us to the last piece of this set: the tchotchkes. The set includes a KBG dossier, inside of which is an assortment of ephemera: a Pym Tech security badge with Luis’ face on it, a wallet-sized black and white photo of James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, a “Jarvis Is My Co-Pilot” bumper sticker, a parchment that shows the history of the Infinity Stones, a page of runic text from an illuminated manuscript about Dark Elves, Ant-ony’s wing, a newspaper clipping about Howard and Maria Stark’s deaths, and more - including a copy of the Sokovia Accords, the flashpoint for the conflict in Phase Three’s Captain America: Civil War. It’s a cornucopia of carefully considered geek detritus, and it all delighted me. Right now, writing this review, I’m going through all the bits and pieces and having a great time.
I love these sets. The Phase One set has brought me a lot of joy, not only from the movies within but from putzing around with the briefcase. The Phase Two set replicates that, and I’ve had fun just playing with the orb and looking at the Infinity Stone. I really enjoy the Marvel Studios films, but I would not have bought these Blus if it weren’t for the set. Having the set, though, and displaying it as a collectible, makes all the physical ownership worth it.
Owning all the films in this set gives me the same sense of satisfaction that having a complete comic run in trade paperback form does. I may not like all the issues, and there may even be trade volumes that stink from beginning to end, but as a collector the completeness of it tickles a certain part of my brain. Same principal here: maybe I won’t be sitting through Dark World that often (although I think it’s better than the first Thor), but I like having it there. I like having the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe there at all times.
In fact I’ll tell you what the big problem is: I want it all. I want these sets to include the TV shows, even the crummy ones like Agents of SHIELD. That part of my brain that is being tickled by the completion? It’s also being irritated by the fact that Agent Carter and Daredevil are missing. Is there gonna be a Defenders Phase One box set? Should I start saving for that now?
Note: it turns out this set is an Amazon exclusive, so use the link below to buy it if you're interested.