Blu-ray Review: Captain America: The First Avenger



Who would have thought that the huge success of a film based on the lesser known hero Iron Man would be the catalyst to the creation of something so daring that no other studio in Hollywood had ever attempted it before? While a scene was left at the end of the film that hinted at the idea of a bigger picture, nobody knew for certain if this huge gamble would pay off. Two years later, Iron Man 2 hit it big and this time there wasn’t just a scene thrown in, but an entire story arc inside the movie revolving around the idea that Marvel could do in film what it’s done in comics for so long. That idea? The creation of a film universe filled with characters that existed in not only their own franchises, but also in one another’s films. Whether it be through name dropping, as a part of an inside joke or even a brief cameo just to show you they were serious, Marvel pulled out all the stops to prove that they meant business and that they had a plan. That plan flourished earlier in the year with the success of Thor and finally saw all the pieces fall into place with the release of Captain America: The First Avenger, arguably the studios best and most impressive work to date.

For those who don’t know, Captain America tells the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a weak, scrawny young man with a good heart who wants nothing more than to proudly serve his country. Unfortunately, various medical issues keep Rogers from fulfilling his dream and he’s forced to sit on the sidelines as his friends go overseas to battle against evil. That is until Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who sees Rogers true potential beyond his physical appearance, takes him under his wing and enlists him in a top secret program that sets him on the path of becoming America’s first recipient of the Super Soldier serum. I say America’s first because across the globe the Nazi leader Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has already injected himself with the serum; however, due to his heart being pure evil Schmidt’s body burned from within causing his face to become permanently disfigured, leading to the creation of The Red Skull. With Red Skull focused on world domination, it’s up to Steve Rogers aka Captain America to stop him.

Captain America was one of the most visually stunning films of the year and fans will be happy to know that its transfer to Blu-ray changes none of that. The story begins in the modern day but quickly goes back to 1944 during the heights of World War II, and it’s this transition that really allows the film to stand out from its superhero brethren. The masterful work done by director Joe Johnston, cinematographer Shelly Johnson, as well as editors Jeffrey Ford and Robert Dalva and visual effects supervisor Christopher Townsend all comes together to transport not only the characters to that era, but the viewers as well.

While the visuals are breathtaking, one wouldn’t be doing the film justice without mentioning Alan Silvestri’s brilliant score. While music is something that’s not always noticeable in films, it’s impossible not to be swept away by it multiple times throughout the course of Captain America. Silvestri literally hits all the right notes through and through and it’d be a shame if his work isn’t noticed come Oscar season.

Beyond the visuals and fantastic sound, it would all be for naught if the acting wasn’t up to par; luckily when it comes to perfect casting, Marvel has done it once again. Chris Evans brings Steve Rogers to life not only in his superhero form, but also back before he’s injected with the serum. With the film focusing on Rogers in his weak and scrawny form for roughly 45 minutes of the film, it’s incredibly important that the audience is behind this character before he dons his costume. Evans is perfect in the role, really making the viewer believe, early on, in this young man who looks like he could be knocked over by a gust of wind. Add on the absolutely amazing visual effects done by Townsend and his team (who actually thinned out Evans’ body, neck and face for a great number of shots unless a body double was needed) and it never feels as though Evans isn’t this twig of a kid who ultimately transforms into a tall, chiseled hunk.

Mention must also go out to Hugo Weaving who plays the part of Rogers’s nemesis, Red Skull. Weaving is superb, which is anything but shocking. Unfortunately, Skull turns out to be one of the weaker characters in the film, which is never a good thing for a main villain. There’s just so much going on with the origin of Captain America that his confrontation with Red Skull seems anti-climactic, and one can only hope that this isn’t the last time the two will cross paths. Speaking of Red Skull, here’s a bit of food for thought: Did you know that Joe Simon (the creator of Captain America) needed a bad guy for his new hero to face off against, and got the idea for Red Skull while looking at an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top?

Captain America: The First Avenger is a beautiful film with a wonderful origin story and when it comes to comic book films, if you get that right then you’ve done your job. Lucky for us the filmmakers went above and beyond and have created a movie that doesn’t just rank up near the top in superhero films, but also puts on a damn good show as far as period pieces go as well.

The film looks gorgeous and the visuals stand strong in this transfer to Blu-ray. Those who saw it in 3D may be surprised at just how vibrant some of the colours are, while also remain in awe at just how well the visual team created such a unique look to bring the viewer back to 1944 alongside the actors. The sound is also crisp and clear in DTS-HD, with a musical score that will leave you searching for the soundtrack once the film is over.

The extras here hit all the notes that anyone who saw the film would want them to hit. While there aren’t any that go on at great length, the quality is strong for what we do get.

Commentary with Director Joe Johnston, Director of Photography Shelly Johnson and editor Jeffrey Ford —
Here’s a commentary track that’s filled with talking. There’s little left to be filled in after this one, as these three really hit on a great deal of notes throughout the course of the film. Definitely worth checking out!

Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Thor’s Hammer (HD) — Here’s a four minute feature that sees Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) enter a gas station on his way to check out Thor’s hammer. It’s a quick, fun little short that will definitely get a laugh out of fans.

The Transformation — This is the featurette I’d been waiting for since I originally saw the film during the summer. It’s only nine minutes in length, but it’s packed with quality material and answers pretty much any question one had as far as how they made Chris Evans go from skinny to muscular so seamlessly. I was actually shocked to learn how much of it was done through computers over a body double. Simply amazing stuff here.

The Assembly Begins (HD) — This is just a quick trailer of sorts that’s just under two minutes showing clips from Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. It’s a big tease for The Avengers, but still damn cool to watch.

Behind the Skull — This is a featurette that runs at 10 minutes 30 seconds and talks about the creation of the Red as well as the direction they took him in the film, and how Hugo Weaving was their first (and only) choice to play the part. Some fun information here, like how it took 4 hours to apply the Red Skull facial make-up to Weaving each time.

Captain America’s Origin — This featurette is basically a four minute interview with Captain America creator Joe Simon, which is definitely worth checking out. Where do you think I got the food for fact bit above?

Howling Commandos — This is a six minute featurette that focuses on Steve Rogers’ friends in the film. Back during the WWII setting in comics there was a comic where Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos would go out and wreak havoc against the bad guys. The filmmakers thought it would be fun to pay homage to those characters since this will very likely be the only film set during that era.

Heightened Technology — This featurette is also almost six minutes in length and talks about the creation of various weapons and vehicles in the film, and how they tried to use only items available during that time. Of course, Hydra had found the cube, and thus a little leeway was given as far as adding disintegrating lasers and such.

Outfitting a Hero — This is an 11 minute featurette and is quite interesting. Here the filmmakers as well as comic book artists talk about the origin of Captain America’s suit, and how it came to be and how it’s barely been changed since the start. They talk about the challenges in making the suit seem real and modernized, while also paying homage to the original “spandex type” suit by adding it to the USO show in the film.

Deleted Scenes — There are four deleted scenes, most of which are slight alterations to existing scenes. There’s a bit of an addition to the final conversation between Nick Fury and Steve Rogers, but it’s definitely best left as they did it in the final cut.

Trailers

Captain America: The First Avenger has definitely set the bar as far as just how good a Marvel film can turn out. It was also the final piece that had to be placed in the Marvel puzzle so that The Avengers could assemble together in the same film in the near future. If this film is any indication of what’s to come, I seriously cannot wait.

Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment presents Captain America: The First Avenger. Directed by: Joe Johnston. Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, and Dominic Cooper. Running time: 123 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray: October 25, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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