Captain America: The First Avenger has a few things going for it, mostly in the set design, costume design and cinematography but most everything else was standard and unimaginative including actor Chris Evans himself. There’s certainly a fine jump off point for this potential franchise I think in the hands of a better director, it could achieve so much more.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Paramount | PG13 – 123 min. – $42.99 | October 25, 2011
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Writer(s): Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay)
Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones
Theatrical Release Date: July 22, 2011
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Portuguese, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
“I asked for an army. All I got is you.”
The comic book subgenre is in overdrive thanks in large part to Marvel assembling heroes for their Avengers live action feature film (set for release summer 2012). In the same year that saw the release of Thor, an entertaining if not slightly overrated action-adventure flick, a few months later Captain America: The First Avenger was unleashed. Having seen the movie in theaters (2D only), I’ve had time to let my thoughts simmer before seeing it once again on Blu-ray in the comfort of my home.
Let’s just say my opinions on this film hadn’t changed a whole lot…
Captain America stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid who is proudly patriotic and wants nothing more than to fight Hitler and the Nazis in World War II. However, he’s declined at every attempt until he received a visit from Dr. Abraham Erskine (STANLEY TUCCI), a German immigrant who invented a Super Soldier serum and is looking for prime candidates for the program. He feels Rogers, despite his small frame, is the perfect person for the project as he as a good heart, something Colonel Chester Phillips (TOMMY LEE JONES) learns after a series of training exercises, most of which Rogers fails but at the same time shows his bravery and smarts.
On the other side, we meet the cruel and murderous Johann Schmidt (HUGO WEAVING), a Nazi in charge of Hitler’s more scientific sector called HYDRA, developing new weapons for the fuehrer. At the beginning of the film, Schmidt invades a small town trying to find what we later know as the Cosmic Cube, which he intends to use for his projects and ultimate plans for… yeah… world domination! With the help of Dr. Arnim Zola (TOBY JONES), they develop vaporizing guns for the HYDRA soldiers.
Meanwhile, Steve Rogers undergoes the Super Soldier program supervised by Howard Stark (DOMINIC COOPER) where the procedure is a success turning Rogers from a scrawny kid to a muscled bound superhero. When the operation is sabotaged by a traitor, Rogers goes into action to chase down the man – with super speed and agility – who ultimately bites down on a cyanide pill. But the legend that would become Captain America is born.
Rather than use him in the field as Rogers had hoped, he instead remains home as a propaganda tool to sell war bonds. He later would go to Europe to lift the spirits of a growingly dejected army when, with the help of Agent Peggy Carter (HAYLEY ATWELL) – right-hand woman to Colonel Phillips – and Starks, he goes behind enemy lines to rescue POWs including best friend James “Bucky” Barnes (SEBASTIAN STAN).
Thus starts the legend that is Captain America, leading the troops from the grasps of Red Skill and HYDRA. Of course, Red Skull would make his getaway, but thanks to Rogers, the other HYDRA locations were found. Rogers puts together his own team – including Dum Dum (NEAL MCDONOUGH), Gabe Jones (DEREK LUKE) and Bucky amongst others – to the HYDRA sub sites and take each one down, confiscating weapons and taking prisoners one by one until they make a move to headquarters for a mano-e-mano confrontation between Captain America and Red Skull.
Alright, first things first, Captain America is a great looking movie. Helmed by Joe Johnston (best known for Jurassic Park III) and photographed by Shelly Johnson, the two certainly show the idealist look for the era with bright colors when in America with some darker elements during the war scenes. However, like Michael Bay, a movie might look good, but what about the substance behind the style?
As with a few of the other Marvel films, this one was just… there. The film had no forward momentum and as a member of the audience, both in the theater and at home, I didn’t feel involved with the storyline. It’s not that the plot is dumb, though it does involve the oldest motivation in the book, as there are a few decent twists and turns, and yet I felt like I’ve seen it all before. This isn’t also to mention a lame finale, much like in Iron Man (which was a great movie as a whole), the final match between the hero and villain was more or less a letdown and fairly paint-by-numbers to boot.
Where’s the ingenuity? It’s not enough to make a movie look pretty but to have something more to hang on to. So, the script certainly didn’t impress, you have to look to the main actor. For his part, Chris Evans is fine in the part but non-descriptive. He doesn’t have nearly the charisma as Downey Jr. (to be expected) or even Chris Hemsworth, instead the patriotic pretty boy was, well, downright boring. Given Evans was one the few bright spots in the two Fantastic Four movies, it was a bit disappointing that we didn’t get more from him as Captain America, though hopefully he’ll atone with a different director for The Avengers.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This release comes with a glossy, embossed slip cover.
Audio Commentary – Director Joe Johnston, Director of Photography Shelly Johnson and Editor Jeffrey Ford sit down for a low key but informative commentary track. The trio provides tid-bits on filming on-set, working with certain actors, providing insight into some of the visual effects, etc. It’s nothing groundbreaking but certainly not a bad track.
Marvel One Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (4:03; HD) – This is a funny short film where Agent Coulson (CLARK GREGG) stops into a convenience store to pick up snacks when its robbed and he calmly and coolly defuses the situation.
Featurettes (TRT 47:37)
Outfitting a Hero (10:52; HD) takes a look at designing the Captain America suit for a feature film by taking cues from the various comic book incarnations. It’s interesting to watch the process from artwork to the evolution shown in the film.
Howling Commandos (6:07; HD) – This featurette focuses on the CA’s supporting characters, their origins in the comic book and the casting of each role for the movie.
Heightened Technology (5:43; HD) is about the futuristic weapons created and used by HYDRA (as well as what would be Stark Industries) but basing it within the timeframe for the movie.
The Transformation (8:50; HD) is probably the most interesting featurette as it shows how they slimmed down actor Chris Evans before the enzyme is injected. It shows a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and members of the crew talk about Evans’ workout to bulk up to play Captain America as well as using the visual effects to shrink the character.
Behind the Skull (10:24; HD), as you can imagine, covers the film’s primary villain, Red Skull. It goes over his comic book origins to casting Hugo Weaving in the role using the prosthetics.
Captain America’s Origin (3:55; HD) is an awfully short featurette that covers the basics on the comic book character and how he got his beginnings.
The Assembly Begins (1:46; HD) is more or less a teaser for The Avengers showing scenes from the previous Marvel films that connect together that will culminate next summer.
Deleted Scenes (5:32; HD) – There are 4 scenes included, none of which were that interesting and obvious why they were cut down or completely removed. Three of them come with optional commentary.
The disc also contains 2 Theatrical Trailers, a Sega Game Trailer and “The Avengers” Animated Trailer.
Disc 2 contains a DVD/Digital Copy Combo Disc.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Captain America: The First Avenger comes to Blu-ray with a great looking 1080p high-definition transfer. The film is presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and simply put, it’s a clean and crisp looking picture. The detail level throughout is excellent and the color array, which range from brighter colors in the nostalgic 1940s U.S. to the darker tones, including Cap’s suit, in Europe.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
Equally as impressive is the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. It’s a robust soundtrack showing off Alan Silverstri’s score as well as the various action sequences especially the finale. The dialogue levels are also quite clear and easy to understand. The only thing holding it back is it doesn’t have as much depth as I had hoped, yet still it’s an excellent lossless track.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Captain America: The First Avenger has a few things going for it, mostly in the set design, costume design and cinematography but most everything else was standard and unimaginative including actor Chris Evans himself. There’s certainly a fine jump off point for this potential franchise I think in the hands of a better director, it could achieve so much more. As it stands, the movie is barely above average but a decent enough intro for the character as he steps into The Avengers.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2.