Captain America: The First Avenger Three-Disc Blu-Ray Combo

Actors: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Christopher Markus, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Stephen McFeely
Producers: Alan Fine, Amir Madani, Dan Masciarelli
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, 3D, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Region: A/1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 3
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Paramount Studios
DVD Release Date: October 25, 2011
Run Time: 124 minutes





Perhaps more than any other Marvel movie, Captain America benefits from the awful straight-to-video garbage that the comics company used to put out!

Previous incarnations of the patriotic superhero were stunning in their crap-itude, and the mere presence of good character development and high production values make this one look like a winner.

It also benefited from being released in the wake of the dreadful Green Lantern, tempering expectations that soared into the stratosphere after the grand Thor and outstanding X-Men: First Class earlier in the summer. Truth be told, it’s rather second-tier as comic book movies go. But the bar has been raised so high in recent years that “second tier” still constitutes reliable entertainment.

Director Joe Johnston hits upon a magic bullet that ultimately overcomes the film’s structural flaws. Cap started out as 90-pound weakling Steve Rogers before one of those marvelous four-color plot devices turns him into the pinnacle of human perfection. Chris Evans, who plays Cap in the film, never lets us forget that fact. Somewhere in there is the shy little guy with the heart of gold: plucky and fearless, but used to being a living doormat. It helps the character transcend his cardboard nice-guy persona and become a figure we can actually care about.

Johnston gives him some help as well with a few interesting plot twists and a gaggle of strong supporting players. Initially created as the first of an entire army of Nazi-bashing he-men during World War II, Cap finds himself alone in the world when the kindly scientist in charge of the operation is gunned down by an evil spy.

He initially serves as a USO performer, surrounded by dancing girls and admonishing the public to support the war effort. That gives the filmmakers a chance to outfit him in the “classic” costume for a bit, as well as heightening his frustration at not socking it to the bad guys like he should. Johnston augments that with a wonderful retro feel for the film, evoking a slightly skewed 1940s world of weird science and daring deeds.

The assembled cast takes to it with gusto. We can count on old pros like Hugo Weaving (as the sinister Red Skull) and Tommy Lee Jones (as that guy Tommy Lee Jones always plays) , but comparative newcomers like Hayley Atwell (as Cap’s steely girlfriend) step up to the plate as well. It often feels more like an ensemble piece that the story of a single hero, and with a cast like this, that proves to be a very good thing.

Would that the storyline kept up with the sets and performers. Captain America, unfortunately, can’t find a proper engine to drive its handsome chassis forward. Johnston keeps the proceedings pointed more or less in the right direction – starting with the ubiquitous origins story and moving forward towards an inevitable showdown with the Red Skull – but while individual action scenes work just fine, they feel curiously isolated from each other rather than part of an organic whole.

That drags the film down during its middle portion as we fumble vainly for traction and the narrative thread loses its way. It never quite regains its momentum, despite Evans’ solid work in the lead. Partial fault for that may lie with Marvel’s grand scheme to bring its heroes together in The Avengers; a lot of what we see here represents prep work rather than an actual movie, forcing us to wait until next summer for payoff that should have been present here (as it was in Thor and the first Iron Man).

Captain America carries enough terrific elements to excuse such shortcomings, and its popcorn fun holds up pretty well to additional viewings. But its flaws are tough to entirely overlook, and prevent it from entering the upper echelon of superhero movie elites. Thank God there’s still an interesting figure at the center of it all, and that the filmmakers love him enough to flesh him out properly.

THE DISC: The Blu-ray extras are typical but fairly nice. A silly short film called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer brings SHIELD’s Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) into the forefront as he takes down a hapless pair of stick-up men. The disc also includes six flashy behind-the-scenes featurettes (including another thinly veiled Avengers preview), deleted sequences, audio commentary from Johnston and his team, and a DVD and digital copy (along with a 3D Blu-ray for those who really, really need 3D). Like the movie itself, it’s solid and reliable, but does little to stand out from the crowd.

WORTH IT? Yes, provided you haven’t stocked up on other, better Marvel movies before. If it’s between this and Thor, go with the hammer, but as the second half of a double bill, Captain America holds its own.

RECOMMENDATION: The Marvel train keeps moving forward, albeit a little slower than we might like. Cap is pretty well set for The Avengers; we just wish he could focus a little more on the movie at hand. 

- Rob Vaux



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