“Captain America: The First Avenger” Blu-Ray Review
– for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving
Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: July 22, 2011
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 25, 2011 (Amazon.com)
Captain America: The First Avenger focuses on the early days of the marvel universe when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the super soldier known as Captain America. As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to wage war on the evil Hydra organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
Since 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel has been prepping audiences for a major motion picture event that will unite four major superheroes and franchises in one epic film. Captain America: The First Avenger is the final character introduction film, which centers on bringing the patriotic hero to the big screen in a big way. The character was given his own film in 1990, but to say it was poorly executed (and even more poorly received) would be an understatement. But skillful director Joe Johnston, who’s no stranger to making period films (my favorite of which is The Rocketeer), takes on Captain America, bringing the story back to Steve Rogers’ 1940s origin of joining the Army and soon becoming our nation’s first “super soldier.” Johnston’s approach is more of fun and adventure than plausibility, but with the story having its roots deep in science fiction, you can really expect nothing else.
I wasn’t sure if casting Chris Evans as the title character was the best choice, especially since Evans is more known for taking slacker and smart alecky roles. Not only that, but Evans has already played another superhero – The Human Torch – twice in the Fantastic Four movies (and appeared in last year’s The Losers which is based from a graphic novel). However, Steve Rogers is quite of a stretch, then, for Evans, and he embodies the wholesome and noble hero quite comfortably. It’s Evans’ performance and charisma that help make The First Avenger as strong as it is. Also, having most of the film take place in the forties is really fun. Johnston had said they were going for a Raiders of the Lost Ark feel for the movie, and considering the presence of Nazis as villains and Odin’s powerful cube that Red Skull harnesses the energy from giving things a supernatural angle, it very much feels like an Indiana Jones film (and is much, much more satisfying and well-told than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). The only thing that was somewhat distracting at times was Johnston’s use of a soft lighting to give the movie a vintage look. Whether this was partly due to the heavy use of CG to recreate the 40’s or it was an effect he was aiming for, I’m uncertain, but it made some scenes feel less “grounded” than it could have benefited from (The look was very similar to Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow at times).
Johnston also assembled a great supporting cast for our titular hero. British actress Hayley Atwell is charming as the female lead, Peggy Carter. She’s got plenty of backbone and guts as a U.S. officer who works alongside Cap. She also provides just enough romance to give the film a romantic subplot without it being too corny or intrusive. Tommy Lee Jones is excellent, as usual, as Colonel Chester Phillips, channeling his signature, amusing, all-business schtick into his character. Finally, Hugo Weaving is menacing without being too over-the-top (although the concept of the villain itself is borderline) as Red Skull. Add in a story that doesn’t rush the character development just to “get to the good stuff” and plenty of fun consistencies with the other individual Avenger films (namely Iron Man/Tony Stark’s dad Howard Stark having a big part in the plot or the super soldier plot aspect that lines up with The Incredible Hulk), and you have one fun trip to the movies this summer.
The content appropriately warrants the film’s PG-13 rating. While language and sexual material are kept to near-bare minimums, the biggest caution is in the film’s constant violent action. While I can’t say it’s on par with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, it surprisingly comes pretty close. Red Skull uses the cube of Odin to create a series of weapons that obliterate the human body when its beam makes contact. We see many, many characters and soldiers go up in a puff of smoke and debris. We also see some characters shot to death with regular bullets, and some of these instances are a little bloody. However, the bloodiest scene is when Cap and a miscellaneous goon are struggling on top of a flying vehicle and the goon gets thrown into huge propeller blades, reducing him to a large mist of blood. It’s a bit jarring and unexpected when it happens, too. Language consists of about 10 “h*ll,” a couple uses of “G-d,” and a couple uses of “a–” and “d*mn.” Sexual content is mostly just kept to some dancing girls in short skirts that also show some cleavage in 40’s-style outfits, and Cap misunderstanding the relationship between Stark and Carter (assuming that “fonduing” is a sexual inference, instead of its literal sense).
Fans of the character shouldn’t be disappointed in his first real, worthy big screen adaptation, and those eager for The Avengers next May should get their money’s worth as well (stay until after the credits roll to see a special teaser for next year’s The Avengers. It’s worth the wait). The movie feels a little more cartoony at times than this summer’s Thor or even the Iron Man films, but it’s an entertaining adventure movie nonetheless. It’s also refreshing to see a superhero whose main flaw was his physical weakness before becoming a super soldier. Steve Rogers was more concerned with upholding justice and ridding the world of bullies than his own well-being. And that’s a hero to root for. Not only that, it’s also refreshing to see a movie so unabashedly patriotic in a time where it’s not very popular to be so. While it’s not a perfect film by any means, and the violence is enough to keep it from being a true “family film,” Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun summer movie and the perfect one to experience on the big screen.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/23/11)
Blu-Ray and Special Features Review
One of the highlights of the 2011 summer film season was undoubtedly Captain America: The First Avenger. If you’re looking to add this one to your movie collection, you can choose from a Limited Edition 3D Blu-Ray/Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack, a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack and a separate DVD-only version. In high definition, this colorful film looks sharp and vibrant. In addition to the various means of watching the feature film, there are a wealth of really great bonus features…
Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer – Picking up where the “Marvel One-Shot” on Thor left off, this is another short film based around the post-credits tacked on to the end of one of the individual Avengers’ films. This one once again involves SHIELD’s Agent Coulson as he is driving into Mexico on the way to the landing spot of Thor’s hammer. In this one, he stops at a gas station where two guys come in to rob it, and he kicks into action and saves the day. It really has absolutely nothing to do with any of the Avengers stories, but it’s an amusing little flick.
Deleted Scenes – There are four deleted scenes, three of which have optional commentary from director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson, and editor Jeffrey Ford. The first is a completely pointless brief sequence where two soldiers are seen running away from an unfinished CGI tank. I’m not really sure why it was even included here. The next scene is a cool war sequence where Bucky and the guys Cap ends up freeing from prison are in the trenches when the huge tank from before shows up and vaporizes some men with Red Skull’s lethal weapon ray (1 “h*ll”). This would have been the audience’s first introduction to the “Howling Commandos.” The third scene is an extended moment of where Stark challenges Rogers’ claim as to the severity of Red Skull’s weapon. The last one is a real gem; in it, we get an extended version of Steve meeting Nick Fury in Times Square. It answers some questions and gives a little more of a natural conversation between the two, but it’s understandable why it had been clipped for pacing. It’s a wonderful addition to the Blu-Ray set at least, but I would have preferred to see it kept in the finished movie (1 “h*ll”).
Outfitting A Hero (10:52) is the first of seven featurettes, which is dedicated to the Captain America costume. It starts by addressing its comic book origin and then explains what went into bringing it to the big screen while keeping it as realistic and true to the source material as possible. They then give a rundown of its evolution through the film. We also see some of the details in how they actually constructed the costume in the film. “Outfitting A Hero” draws to a close with a look at the designing and filming of Cap’s shield. It’s a very interesting featurette.
Howling Commandos (6:07) focuses on Cap’s help in the film – from Bucky Barnes to “the Howling Commandos.” They give some spotlight to each character and their comic book origins as well.
Heightened Technology (5:43) takes a real in-depth look into the design of Hydra’s weapons and vehicles, and we even hear from the lead vehicle designer as he discusses his vision for the look of the props. There’s some great behind-the-scenes footage here as well.
The Transformation (8:50) – The effect of shrinking down and thinning out Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in the first act of the film was something that I’ve tried to figure out while watching the movie each time. Here, we’re given a very thorough look at how this was achieved — from thinning down Evans digitally to face-swapping onto a body-double. We see some fantastic before and after footage and lots of their film tricks revealed here.
Behind The Skull (10:24) is dedicated to the film’s mega villain, Red Skull. Here they talk about Red Skull’s design from the comics to the movie, Hugo Weaving’s performance, as well as how they transformed him to Red Skull for the movie. What’s really intriguing that I didn’t know was that they tweaked his look digitally throughout the film to make Red Skull look as realistic as possible (sort of post-production makeup techniques). You can definitely say that the attention to detail concerning him really strengthened the outcome.
Captain America’s Origin (3:55) – Here we hear from Cap co-creator Joe Simon as he talks about the birth of the character and how he created Red Skull. We then hear briefly from Joe’s family on the red carpet at the premiere of the film. It’s a great additional featurette.
The Assembly Begins (1:46) – Lastly, we get this little teaser that shows clips from Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America that pave the way for next summer’s The Avengers film. We then see a split-second shot of Joss Whedon announcing the beginning of The Avengers filming and then see snippets of the footage that appears at the end of Captain America‘s credits. Aside from Whedon’s footage, there’s nothing new here, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting!
Trailers – There are two theatrical trailers included here as well as the Sega game trailer for the game based on the movie and then an animated Avengers movie trailer.
And finally, there’s a feature-length commentary by director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson, and editor Jeffrey Ford. Captain America: The First Avenger was one of the best movies this summer and a favorite of 2011. If you like comic book films, definitely check this one out on Blu-Ray.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 10/23/11)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: We see a bunch of shirtless men in their underwear taking physical exams to get into the Army; A soldier suggestively tells Carter that he has some moves that he knows she will like, so she punches him; We see Steve without his shirt on before and after his super soldier procedure; We see a lot of dancing girls during a stage show that show varying amounts of cleavage and bare thighs in their outfits; We see a man start to pull his pants down to moon Captain America, but we don’t see the actual act (but we may see a split second of the top of the guy’s butt crack just before the scene cuts away); A girl comes on to Steve and pulls him in for a passionate kiss, but nothing else happens; Stark comments that he and Carter should stop somewhere for fondue. So Steve awkwardly responds, “I didn’t know you guys were… fonduing;” Steve later comments on how Stark and Carter “fondue” and Stark finally responds “Fondue is just cheese and bread!”; Peggy kisses Steve and right before he leaves, the Colonel remarks, “I am not gonna kiss you!”
Vulgarity/Language: 10 “h*ll,” 1 “S.O.B,” 2 “G-d,” 2 “a” words, 2 “d*mn”
Alcohol/Drugs: Dr. Erskine offers an alcoholic drink to Steve and then realizes that he can’t have any before his super soldier procedure, so Erskine drinks both of their glasses. The next day, Steve asks the doc if there is any of that drink left for him and the doctor replies “Not as much as there should be” (or something like that); We see a bunch of guys drinking in a bar and Steve orders them another round; Some guys raise a toast at a bar to a fallen soldier
Blood/Gore: Steve has a bloody lip after being punched several times; We see the skeletal remains of a person in a coffin; A man is shot and we briefly see blood (and the wound) shoot out the man’s back. Red Skull then has some blood on the Hydra pin on his jacket; A man is shot a couple times and we briefly see a little blood; Cap briefly has a little blood on his side after being shot while chasing a man. The man he’s chasing has some bloody scrapes on his face; Red Skull shoots several soldiers with a new weapon he’s devised that vaporizes the victims. We see them burst into a blue mist with nothing left; We see a large scale attack where prisoners escape confinement and we see more of people being vaporized; Red Skull peels the skin off his face, which reveals the skin to have just been a mask, and we see his creepy looking red-colored skull-shaped face. It may be disturbing to some viewers (we see his face like this for the rest of the movie); Cap has a slightly bloody lip; While Cap is fighting with a miscellaneous goon, they are struggling on top of a flying vehicle and the goon gets thrown into huge propeller blades, reducing him to a large mist of blood; We see a man start to deteriorate/be distorted in an energy beam, but it’s not specified whether he dies or was actually transported somewhere
Violence: Heavy action violence; Lots of hand-to-hand combat, people being shot to death, obliterated by a sci-fi weapon; A soldier suggestively tells Carter that he has some moves that he knows she will like, so she punches him; The Colonel throws a grenade to prove a soldier’s heroism, but Steve is the only one who jumps on it to try to save his fellow soldiers. It turns out to be a dummy grenade; A factory/Red Skull’s base explodes through a self-destructive sequence and we see massive explosions; A man falls off a train to his death in a canyon below; We see some evil soldiers with flame throwers several times. In one instance, one is shot and explodes in flames; Cap throws his shield at villains and hits them with it during battle; Peggy shoots Steve’s shield to test it out; During a fight with miscellaneous bad guys, Cap throws a knife and we see it sticking out of an evil goon’s back; A man falls out of a plane to his death; A goon gets diced in a plane’s propellers; Cap and Red Skull fight; A huge plane crashes; Cap tears up a room and goes running through the streets before he’s cornered; and lots of other explosions, fights, and more action