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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/25/2011

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/25/2011

In case you don't pay attention to movies (and if that were the case, why would you be on this site?), super-heroes movies and films based on comic books have been appearing left and right lately. Many critics have become up-in-arms over this fact and some say that the films are becoming redundant and interchangeable. So, let's say that you're a movie producer with a hot super-hero property. Do you take a chance and make something different or do you make a film which will simply be lumped in with all of the other costumed characters? The makers of Captain America: The First Avenger chose the former of those two options. Did their gamble pay off?

Captain America: The First Avenger opens in 1942 during the height of the World War II. German scientist Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), who heads a special unit known as Hydra, has discovered an ancient relic which give his weapons unprecedented power. Meanwhile, in the United States, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is desperate to do his part for his country and join the Army, but his small physique and his history of illness disqualify him. Scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) overhears Steve's plight, and has him enlist for a special experiment. Steve is given a serum (it was known as the "Super Solider Serum" in the comics, but I don't remember them saying that in the movie), along with other forms of treatment, which turn him into a taller, muscular soldier with incredible strength and agility. At first, the military uses Steve, who now goes by the name Captain America, as a recruiting tool, but when visiting Europe, he seizes an opportunity and rushes into battle. This impresses Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), who sees Steve as an option to stop Hydra.

I've got to hand it to those behind Captain America: The First Avenger, they chose a gutsy way to handle this movie. Captain America is a fairly popular comic-book character and someone who is somewhat known to the general public who don't follow comics. In case you weren't aware Marvel Studios has been putting together a series of movies -- Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor -- all of which will culminate in next summer's The Avengers. Captain America is to be part of that group as well, and for his movie, they could have easily thrown together any old story to introduce him to the public. Instead, they went back to Captain America's origins in pulp comics of the 1940s. You see, the character was created at that time, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and immediately became a symbol of American power over the Nazis. The movie goes back to that era and examines how Captain America came to be and how he made a name for himself in World War II, putting his super soldier powers to work.

The problem here is that this plays more like a World War II movie than a super-hero movie, and that will decidedly narrow the audience for this film. Sure, there are laser guns and Captain America can leap over a 10-foot fence, but the movie still skews more towards old-fashioned war movie. The film has all of the benchmarks of a classic war film -- the evil Nazis who aren't above murdering their own men, the American soldiers who live to fight and then celebrate, the hard-nosed commander, and the strong, but smoldering female character. This could have easily been played with a modern twist, and a wink at the audience, but it's all played straight. The result is a movie which is full of action, but it's not always very exciting. The movie definitely takes its time transforming Steve Rogers into Captain America, and once the battle scenes start, there isn't anything very original about them. The whole thing is very brown and sort of boring.

I've really grown to like Chris Evans in his various roles, but I'm not sure if he was the right choice for Captain America. He can pull off the heroic part, but Captain America is a very earnest and stoic character. Evans has shown in the past that he can be very funny, and I kept waiting for Cap to say something clever, but he never does, because that's not who he is. I'm not saying that Evans is bad in the role, but it's almost the opposite of someone who we can't take seriously -- Captain America is too serious and we want Evans to cut loose some.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a very well-made movie which shows that Marvel was taking this character seriously. I really wanted to like the film, and as mentioned above, Marvel must be congratulated for staying true to Captain America's root. The movie has some nice set-pieces, but the final result is a film which does a great job of introducing the character, but doesn't provide a very exciting ride. Still, I'm definitely looking forward to The Avengers.

Captain America: The First Avenger makes us uncomfortable with the scrawny Chris Evans on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on grain or defects from the source material. While the movie has the aforementioned brown look, the red, white, and blue of Cap's uniform look great and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is loaded with detail and we get can every detail of Cap's uniform. Despite the fact that this isn't the 3D version, the image has very nice depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an outstanding track which shows great detail. The surround sound effects in the battle scenes are spectacular and we can hear every last sound. The explosions rock the subwoofer and the stereo effects show great separation. The score sounds great and none of this overpowers the dialogue.

The Captain America: The First Avenger Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Joe Johnston, Director of Photography Shelly Johnson, and Editor Jeffrey Ford. "Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer" (4 minutes) is another short starring Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and plays like a deleted scene from Thor. "Outfitting a Hero" (11 minutes) contains interviews with Marvel Comics reps and the filmmakers who talk about the challenge of taking the costume from the comics and designing something for a real person to wear. We get a nice amount of concept art and behind-the-scenes design ideas. "Howling Commandos" (6 minutes) takes a look at Bucky and the soldiers who follow Captain America into battle. "Heightened Technology" (6 minutes) looks at the gadgets seen in the movie and how Howard Stark was brought into the Captain America mythos, as well as the Hydra uniforms and weapons. This involves some concept art and behind-the-scenes footage. "The Transformation" (9 minutes) shows how visual effects were used to shrink Chris Evans down to 98 pounds for the first section of the film. We see how effects and a double were used to create the illusion. "Behind the Skull" (10 minutes) looks at the history of the Red Skull in the comics and then takes us on-set to see Hugo Weaving playing the character. (We also see that the movie was shot under the name "Frostbite".) "Captain America's Origin" (4 minutes) is a great extra, as Captain America co-creator Joe Simon talks about how the character came about. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Johnston, Johnson, and Ford. The "must see" moment here is an extended version of the final scene from the film which they really should have left in. (Note that there's no commentary on this scene, which is interesting, as I would have liked to have heard their reasons for cutting it.) The final extras are two TRAILERS for the movie.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long