[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=7323&w=l[/img]Title: Captain America: The First Avenger
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Runtime: 124 min
Release Date: 10/25/2011 (Blu-Ray)
HTS Overall Score:86
After being deemed unfit for military service, weakling Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project to create the next super soldier. When Steve emerges from the program he has turned into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America's ideals.
It was a great summer for superhero movies with Marvel's release of Thor followed by Captain America. Of the Marvel movies I have seen, I can now confidently call Captain America my favorite. A lot of Marvel movies seem to devolve into formula films these days - especially the origin film:
Character is introduced, character suffers some hardship, character overcomes hardship and transforms into a hero, hero kicks some serious butt, standard ending, Nick Fury scene.
Was Captain America a victim of the same formula? I suppose to some extent it was, but unlike its predecessors, no gimmicks were used to tell the story. A lot of time was invested in back story and investing the viewer in the main character. The film takes its time portraying Chris Evans as a scrawny, sickly young man with no hope of ever winning a fight, and when the transformation occurs it's nothing short of shocking. I think what separates this film from its peers is the character of Captain America himself. He's not a cocksure young genius like Tony Stark, nor an arrogant warrior like Thor, he's a weakling with the heart of a hero - who is transformed and gains the abilities to match.
For me, it was much easier to like and identify with the character of Steve Rogers than Tony Stark or Thor. The viewer can't help but want the best for Rogers as he evolves - because he is all of us. Stark possesses genius and wealth, Thor is the son of a god and has incredible strength and powers - while Steve Rogers is a weakling, an average guy with above average courage. It's hard to imagine any of us identifying with a billionaire playboy or a god, but we can all identify with the brave, noble young American that Steve Rogers represents.
Though a certain amount of comic book cliche makes its way into the film, it is important to remember that we are ultimately making a movie based upon a comic book, and despite this the film never strays into being cheesy or excessively over the top. There's plenty of action and ridiculous heroism on the part of Cap, but we all feel like this is how it should be, a good old fashioned American hero fighting evil for the rest of us.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=7321&w=l[/img]Captain America has moments of real brilliance and manages to be quite emotionally fraught at times, at others it's simply a fantastic comic inspired adventure that you can't help but enjoy being caught up in. You will probably laugh, almost certainly smile, and definitely want to cheer at some point during this film, and to me - that's perhaps the most surprising part of all. Marvel has given us a real hero in Steve Rogers, and whether he's smashing Hydra soldiers or simply looking heroic, Cap sure is a lot of fun to root for.
Captain America arrives on Blu-Ray with a great looking 1080p transfer. Stylistically speaking, it's apparent from the start that in order to give the film the 1940's feel the color palette tends to lean toward sepia tones and darker hues. The result is an organic and authentically real looking window into the past that manages to feel just like the 1940's in America. Fine detail is excellent and superbly resolved though just shy of razor sharp and shadow delineation is impressive with rich, full bodied blacks devoid of any crush or lost detail. While there aren't a plethora of eye popping primaries here, the presentation is truly enjoyable and looks great on the screen.
Visual effects are seamlessly combined with practical effects resulting in an utterly convincing story from start to finish. I never found myself identifying something as obviously effects based and was surprised to learn just how cunning the effects work was in the special features. For the first act of the film Chris Evans was digitally altered to become the small, emaciated sickly version of himself we all see. The quality of these effects are breathtaking and it's important to realize just how incredible an achievement this is. Not once did I question whether he looked like himself - the effects staff outdid themselves to achieve this look and surprisingly, no visible DNR is present in any of these shots, once again affirming that effects artists can blend practical and CGI elements without the use of DNR or excessive processing in post.
Please note that reviews from this point forward will be ranked using Transformers: Dark of the Moon as a reference level comparison - thus films that would have scored higher in the past will now be ranked relative to our new reference standard and may as a result have slightly lower audio scores.
Though certainly not as bombastic as recent competitors, Captain America's 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a great mix. The track certainly sounds a little softer than the Transformers mix, but this is nothing the volume controls can't fix. I found that it was about 3-4dB cooler than Transformers for reference, but once I matched the levels I was pleasantly surprised. Surrounds were not used to quite the effect that other titles have - but they are actively engaged whenever required and add a lot of depth and dimension to the audio. Dialogue is perfectly resolved as should be expected in current releases and suffered from no noticeable flaws. Directed effects such as explosions, gun fire and energy discharges were assertive and precisely localized, strongly engaging the front channels and resulting in a very involving listening experience - especially in the larger action scenes. LFE content is plentiful but reserved - avoiding the gut wrenching ULF content seen in some films, but still full of detail and packing a lot of mid-bass punch.
The integration of the musical score with other effects is sublime, and is a great deal of fun - I especially enjoyed the musical numbers as they are a great demo of 40's style choral arrangements and how good they can sound given the appropriate technology.
All in all a solid list of extra content with more information than most. While it's not as impressive as the best out there, extra fanatics should be busy for a couple of hours at least.
- Audio Commentary - A very informative but somewhat bland commentary from Director Joe Johnston, DP Shelly Johnson and Editor Jeffrey Ford. While it's not as eye-opening as the best commentaries out there, it does provide a lot of technical insight into the film.
- Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer - A short film that's quite funny, although it's a bit of an Acura commercial.
- Outfitting a Hero - A very interesting piece describing how the costume was developed for the movie, with a lot of extra info about set design and costume design in the film as a whole with great insight from Marvel staff.
- Howling Commandos - A brief feature on the supporting characters and their contribution to the story.
- Heightened Technology A look at the technology used in the film and how it was styled to match the period while still looking modern.
- The Transformation - A really interesting supplement that talks about "skinny-Steve" and a great eye opener to the complexity of these effects.
- Behind the Skull - A feature on Red Skull, his origins, casting and getting his look right.
- Captain America's Origin - The history of the comic book and the iconic character.
- The Assembly Begins - A look ahead to The Avengers.
- Deleted Scenes - Five minutes of deleted footage.
- Digital Copy
- DVD Copy
Marvel may not consistently release Oscar worthy films, but Captain America feels like they got the formula "just right". The casting, acting and overall presentation are superb and it's a lot of fun to watch from start to finish. The A/V presentation is hard to fault and while it may not be the absolute pinnacle of reference material, this is a wonderfully presented film across the board and easily deserves a rental for any viewer. For the Marvel, comic book or action fans out there, I can easily recommend this film as a blind buy. Recommended.