Review: Captain America: The First Avenger Blu-ray

Captain America Blu-raySTUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston | CAST: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci
RELEASE DATE: 10/25/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD $42.99, Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD $54.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, digital copy on Blu-rays, more
SPECS: PG-13 | 123 min. | Action adventure | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The action-adventure film Captain America: The First Avenger is based on one of the Marvel Comics universe’s first superheroes. Created in the early 1940s, Captain America was an intentionally patriotic wartime character who frequently took on WWII’s Axis powers and gave Americans something to cheer about.

That’s the feeling that made the comic a smash, and playing up that proud and patriotic retro appeal is what makes the film click, as well.

Captain America: The First Avenger movie scene

Chris Evans suits up to smash the bad guys in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Chris Evans (The Losers) stars as Steve Rogers, a scrawny little guy who’s recruited by Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones, The Company Men) and British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, TV’s The Pillars of the Earth) to take part in a “super-soldier” scientific program. An experimental treatment pumps Rogers full of strength and valor, and with the additional help of a USA-colored costume and a super-duper stars-and-stripes shield, he’s transformed into out titular hero. Cap’s mission? To smash the evil organization HYDRA, which is led by the villainous Nazi officer turned Nazi supervillain The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, The Boxer and the Bombshell).

Spirits run high in Captain America. As the normal guy transformed into a super guy at the beheset of his nation, Chris Evans brings the proper strength and enthusiasm to the role without ever getting too serious or nuanced and losing the film’s sense of fun. Director Joe Johnston, who hasn’t done much memorable work over the past decade (The Wolfman, Hidalgo) gets the tone right, balancing the film’s stylized Forties-era charm and straight-forward narrative strengths with the realities that lurk behind the fun (we are talking about WWII and Nazis, after all). His rendering of Captain America’s universe is reminiscent of the one he created in his 1991 comicbook film adaptation The Rocketeer, which was also about good guys smashing the Nazis during WWII.

On Blu-ray, Captain America‘s image is certainly rich and detailed but not overly bright—the popping is confined to some of the glowing visual effects that go down in the government laboratory or the Red Skull’s lair. That’s probably a deliberate decision in keeping with the more conservative color schemes of the period. Cap’s red-white-and-blue duds rise above the rest, as does his shield, which looks really great—weighty, shiny and cool.

The shield is also a standout in terms of sound. Whether it’s deflecting flying bullets, soaring through the air, or being used to clonk a bad guy across the head, the shield gets the best use out of the disc’s fine Master Audio 5.1 presentation.

The commentary track by director Johnston, cinematographer Shelly Johnson and editor Jeffrey Ford is adequate but still sort of light, not unlike the movie itself. The commentators cover pretty much everything—the cast, production, locations, their respect for their hero’s comic book origins and, most of all, the extensive visual effects used in the film–but overall, it’s not exceptionally energizing or engrossing.

The film’s most fascinating visual effect—the digitally altered appearance of Chris Evans as a bony, thin guy in the first half-hour of the film—is given an in-depth examination in one of a handful of featurettes. Other pieces cover the film’s wardrobe, cast, hardware and the history of the famed all-American hero and his hated enemy the Red Skull.

Also notable among the supplements is Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, a four-minute short about a gas station hold-up starring Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. As you remember, he’s the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who’s been popping up in most of the recent Marvel Comics movies to line superheroes for this summer’s hotly anticipated The Avengers. So we think we’ll be seeing him again soon.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.