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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
3D Blu-ray Edition

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Evans, Samuel Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan

Director:  Joe Johnston

Audio:  English 7.1, Spanish/French/Portuguese 5.1, subtitles in all four languages

Video:  Color Widescreen 1.85:1

Studio:  Paramount Studios

Length:  124 minutes plus special features

Release Date:  October 25, 2011

 

“General Patton has said that wars are fought with weapons but are won by men. Our goal is to create the greatest army in history. But every army begins with one man. He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldier. We are going to win this war because we have the best men. And they, personally, will escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell.”

 

Film ***1/2

 

In the 1940’s Golden Age of Comics, Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the original Human Torch fought the Axis powers and inspired young men to bravely face the challenges of tomorrow.  Captain America was revived from suspended animation in the late 1960’s series Tales of Suspense issue #59 (the series had previously introduced Iron Man).  From #100 on it was all Captain America and Iron Man was granted his own comic book series.  In one memorable frame of his first appearance, a policeman even gets choked up and says that Captain America came back right when America needed him most.

 

Captain America is not the best movie of the Marvel collection, but it is a very good one that does not significantly alter the comic mythology.   The film plunges us into the early urgent days of America’s entry into the Second World War, when every young man was signing up to serve.  We meet young Steve Rogers, who has been rejected repeatedly from military service due to poor health.  But when he argues with recruiters about how badly he wants to serve, he is overheard by a German scientist who is developing a new chemical formula that will help the Allies defeat Hitler.  He wants to win the war as desperately as Steve, since he saw the horrors of Nazi Germany up close. 

 

Rogers begins training with other soldiers who are better physical specimens already, with Tommy Lee Jones as his commanding officer, who can’t believe the scruffy undersized Rogers will amount to anything.  But when it comes time to test the new formula, Rogers is given the first dose because his will and determination are unequaled in the special squad.  We meet Tony Stark senior, father of Iron Man, who has built the special equipment that will accelerate the effectiveness of the new chemical, and sure enough Steve Rogers is transformed into physical perfection, looking every inch like the Aryan Superman that Hitler dreamed of for his own.  But in the moment of triumph, one of the observers is revealed to be a Nazi spy, and he kills the scientist, losing the chemical formula’s secret forever. 

 

Chris Evans is excellent as the underdog patriot who is given a chance to become a soldier.  The CGI making him seem short and puny is astounding considering how physically imposing he really is.  Evans was excellent as the physically daring chick magnet Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch in the moderately successful Fantastic Four movies.  The role of Steve Rogers is completely different, and Evans is much more serious and

 

Every good hero needs a good villain, and Hugo Weaving is great as Johann Schmitt, a Nazi scientist hunting for supernatural sources for more power.  He becomes the mad and intense Red Skull, the prototype for almost all future comic villains, controlling but brilliant.  Viewers will remember Weaving as the Elfin father in Lord of the Rings. 

 

The story is slightly more complex than just going to get the bad guys, as Cap is originally paraded around like a monkey to raise money for the war effort and to entertain the troops, but since he had never actually fought in battle, the soldiers laughed at him.  This would change soon, of course, as Cap and others hunt for Hydra, the Red Skull’s organization.  Cap’s rides on motorcycles through the German countryside culminate in a fight on a train that will remind viewers of Indiana Jones, but this goes to greater heights and not everyone makes it out alive. 

 

The story is also interesting because Cap has to get from the 1940’s to the modern era.  One of the last scenes is of Cap running barefoot through Times Square, which is so realistic that I felt like I was there, even though I know that in reality there are far more people and cars going through it than in the film and no one could actually walk barefoot through one of the busiest intersections in America. 

 

Hayley Atwell from Pillars of the Earth plays a British officer working with the Americans, and she and her amazing cheekbones are great as Cap’s feisty love interest. 

 

Audio  ****

 

This is one of the films that reminds me why I bought a 5.1 system, with bullet fire, car crashes, and plenty of ambient sound in the calmer scenes to fill the room with excitement.  Normally I subtract a star for no DTS but I can’t imagine how the 5.1 could have been any louder, clearer, or better done in any way. 

 

Video ****

 

Flawless transitions from a CGI NYC of the past and future, mountains, tanks…old fashioned but modern all at once, the producers and cinematographers had their hands full and pulled it off.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I had a chance to view the 3D edition of this movie, and it is pretty flawless.  Though this film doesn't make as many outlandish uses of the technology as some, the images were crisp and clean throughout, with perfect coloring and no hints of ghosting or artifacts.

 

Features **

 

The commentary track is pretty ho-hum, lessening the interest of the film instead of increasing it. 

 

Most of the featurettes are nice but mostly they are brief discussions of the film that are not revelatory.   The second featurette is about the comic Howling Commandos and also Bucky, Cap’s longtime sidekick and the producers explain that while the Commandos were a different comic, they fought the me enemies as the classic Cap and that was source material for the soldiers that Cap chose to go back into Nazi territory.  More recent Cap comics also have Bucky as more of a grown man partner instead of an obvious Robin rip-off.  We do get to meet Joe Simon, creator of Captain America.

 

Deleted scenes are mostly forgettable with one big exception:  there is a longer version of the ending, which I like better than the released version because it is just a little longer and more explanatory.  There is also a completely forgettable short called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer

 

The version I reviewed included a DVD with the movie itself and a digital copy compatible with iTunes, the second disc is the Blu-Ray with the film and special features.

 

Summary:

 

And now we wait until May of 2012 for The Avengers….

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