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Joe Johnston
Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson , Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci
Writing Credits:
Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Joe Simon (comic books), Jack Kirby (comic books)

The first Avenger.

After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending USA ideals.

Box Office:
$140 million.
Opening Weekend
$65.058 million on 3715 screens.
Domestic Gross
$176.636 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Description
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 10/25/2011

• Audio Commentary with 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” Short Film
• Seven Featurettes
• Four Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Trailers
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Captain America: The First Avenger [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 25, 2013)

With 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, audiences got to witness the final “lead-up” film on the march to 2012’s Avengers. That trend began with 2008’s Iron Man and progressed through 2008’s Incredible Hulk, 2010’s Iron Man 2 and 2011’s Thor. With Captain America, audiences finally felt prepped for Avengers, and this paid off, as the 2012 flick became one of cinema’s all-time biggest hits.

Though the least successful of the pre-Avengers movies, Captain America still did fine – and will get its own pre-Avengers 2 sequel in 2014. Of the characters involved in the movies that preceded Avengers, Cap was my favorite, so I looked forward to this big-screen adventure.

Unlike the other Avengers-related efforts, Captain America doesn’t take place in the present day. It goes back to 1942 and introduces us to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a scrawny guy with a big heart. With the US involved in World War II, Steve wants to enlist in the military, but the literal 90-pound weakling can’t pass the physical.

Steve gets his shot when he learns of the “Super Soldier Program”. This injects Steve with a serum that allows him to develop better-than-human physical abilities. After a period in which “Captain America” gets used as nothing more than a propaganda figure, Steve enters the fray against the Nazis, with an emphasis on a battle to stop evil genius Lt. General Johann “Red Skull” Schmidt (Hugo Weaving).

If I were to guess why the film’s producers chose Joe Johnston to direct First Avenger, I’d think they did so because of The Rocketeer. Over his many years in the business, Johnston proved himself to be an able filmmaker, but 1990’s Rocketeer offers such a strong correlation with this one’s subject matter that I have to think it influenced his selection.

21 years after Rocketeer, Johnston continued to show a nice affinity for the World War II era and its connection to comic book action flicks. In particular, I like the way that Johnston largely refuses to “update” the movie. By that I mean that First Avenger has a general period feel to it and it doesn’t attempt to shove 21st century attitudes and issues into the 1940s setting.

No, this doesn’t mean that Johnston goes all Good German on us; he doesn’t attempt to create a movie that strongly looks like something from 70 years ago. We get a surfeit on modern niceties, mostly via visual effects; those use the techniques now at the filmmakers’ disposal.

However, Johnston avoids cinematic choices that would feel out of place in a movie from the 1940s. Not unlike Spielberg with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Johnston creates a movie that updates its subject matter but still shows a connection to an earlier era. First Avenger manages to feel fresh and “period” all at once.

It helps that the movie refuses to wink at the viewer. Given the earnest nature of the lead character, some filmmakers would’ve delivered more of a comedic “camp” take on the material, but that doesn’t evolve here. The film comes with humor but it doesn’t do so at the expense of the characters.

In that regard, Evans bolsters the movie. He creates a Cap who feels right; this Cap shows the appropriate levels of genuine patriotism and innocence but never comes across like a one-dimensional stiff. We like Steve/Cap and root for him without viewing him as a cartoon flag-waver. I also really appreciate the utter lack of irony with which he plays the character; any sense of smirkiness would’ve been totally inappropriate.

Johnston manages to tell the film’s story in a satisfying manner, too. In particular, its first act works uncommonly well. Superhero movies that must indulge “origin stories” can drag, so I like the choice to involve action from the start. Rather than just focus on Steve, we see the events in Germany and meet Schmidt early on; those decisions prevent a slow-paced intro that forces us to wait forever for something exciting. (For an example of how not to pace an origin story, see 2012's Amazing Spider-Man.

Actually, in a twist of the usual pattern, First Avenger gets a bit less interesting as it goes. Normally I’d enjoy the big action sequences the best, but in this guess, the character development and build up are more satisfying. Still, the third act works fine for what it is; it’s not a great climax, but it’s exciting and enjoyable enough.

Of the five films that led to Avengers, I find First Avenger to offer the most satisfying experience. To some degree, that could sound like faint praise, as I wasn’t totally wild about any of them; there’s no Dark Knight in the bunch. Nonetheless, I think this is a good intro to Captain America and an enjoyable action flick in its own right.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus B

Captain America: The First Avenger appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This wasn’t a killer presentation, but it was very good.

My only minor complaints related to blacks and shadows. Dark tones could be a little inky, and low-lights shots occasionally appeared a bit dense. These tendencies weren’t significant, but they kept the image from “A”-level consideration.

Otherwise, everything about the presentation excelled. Sharpness looked terrific, as the movie appeared crisp and concise. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes or print flaws. Colors tended toward the sepia feel typical of period flicks, but the movie still exhibited some warm, rich hues. Despite the modest concerns with blacks/shadows, I felt pleased with the image.

I felt even more impressed with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. As expected from an action movie like this, the soundscape provided a frequent assault on the ears. This was most obvious during the battle sequences, of course, as those used all five speakers to form an engrossing sense of place. Bullets zipped around the room, various vehicles moved cleanly and blasts exploded into our faces. Quieter scenes delivered a nice sense of ambience, but the louder sequences brought the best punch and created a sensational soundfield.

In addition, the mix boasted solid audio quality. Music was rich and full, with crisp highs and taut lows. Effects followed suit, as the various military elements delivered strong and accurate reproduction, with some bold bass response. Speech was also concise and crisp throughout the film. This turned into a strong soundtrack.

Plenty of extras occupy this set, and we open with an audio commentary from director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson and editor Jeffrey Ford. They deliver a running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, cast and performances, props and vehicles, various effects, story/character topics, costumes and makeup, music, stunts and action, editing, and a few other areas.

While we get a lot of information here, I must admit I think the commentary feels a bit flat. Although the participants cover a lot of ground, the discussion tends to seem somewhat dry and technical. We learn a reasonable amount but it can be a slow ride.

A new short film called Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer lasts four minutes, three seconds. It shows Agent Coulson’s attempts to thwart a convenience store robbery. It’s a fun diversion – especially since it lets us see the normally buttoned-down Coulson kick some butt.

Under Featurettes, we find seven programs. These include “Outfitting a Hero” (10:52), “Howling Commandos” (6:07), “Heightened Technology” (5:43), “The Transformation” (8:50), “Behind the Skull” (10:24), “Captain America’s Origin” (3:55) and “The Assembly Begins” (1:46). Across these, we hear from Johnston, producer Kevin Feige, Captain America suit developer/visual development supervisor Ryan Meinerding, co-producers Victoria Alonso and Stephen Broussard, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, comic book editors Ralph Macchio and Axel Alonso, comic book publisher Dan Buckley, executive producer Louis D’Esposito, costume designer Anna B. Sheppard, writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, suit modeler Patrick Whitaker, property master Barry Gibbs, visual effects supervisor Christopher Townsend, lead vehicle designer Daniel Simon, body double Leander Deeny, visual development supervisor Charlie Wen, prosthetics designer David White, character co-creator Joe Simon, and actors Chris Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sebastian Stan, JJ Feild, Bruno Ricci, Kenneth Choi, Derek Luke, Neal McDonough, and Hugo Weaving.

The featurettes cover the design of Cap’s suit and shield, cast, characters and performances, various props, vehicles and technological choices, training and various effects, aspects of the original comic book Cap, and the connection to The Avengers. That latter element is really just a glorified trailer, but the other six segments offer some good info. We find a nice array of subjects and the featurettes explore them well. I especially like the programs that show us how the filmmakers turned Chris Evans into the scrawny version of Steve Rogers. Expect some quality pieces here.

Four Deleted Scenes occupy a total of five minutes, 32 seconds. We see “Attack in Norway” (0:42), “The Battle at Azzano” (1:36), “Steve Rogers Gets His Medal” (1:02) and “Steve Rogers Meets Nick Fury” (2:12). The first two deliver more with the soldiers Cap eventually supports, while “Medal” and “Fury” expand sequences in the final film. All four give us some interesting footage, but none of them seem crucial.

Except for “Meets”, we can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Johnston, Johnson and Ford. They give us pretty mediocre notes and don’t reveal a whole lot of interest.

The disc finishes with four trailers. We find both the teaser and theatrical promos for Captain America, a video game ad plus a clip for an animated Avengers program.

A second disc supplies a DVD Copy of Captain America. This provides a bare-bones version of the film without extras.

Captain America: The First Avenger delivers a mostly satisfying superhero flick. While it’s not as good as the Nolan Batmans or the Raimi Spider-Mans, it tops most others in the genre and provides a fun action effort. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture, excellent audio and a reasonably informative set of supplements. I like First Avenger and look forward to the film’s 2014 sequel.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.25 Stars Number of Votes: 36
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