PG-13 Dir: Joe Johnston | Disney (Marvel) | 2h 4min
Plot: What’s it about?
Captain America: The First Avenger was the fifth Phase One Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It had been preceded by Iron Man and its sequel as well as The Incredible Hulk and Thor. Clearly there was something happening and it wasn’t until the release of the next Marvel film, The Avengers, that brought everything into place. These early Marvel films all have one thing in common in that they’re “origin stories.” The name should dictate what that is, but in layman’s terms, it’s where they came from and/or how they got to be where they are. And, in my opinion, Captain America: The First Avenger is the best of the bunch. We all have our favorites.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is the epitome of a 95-pound weakling. Through the magic of CGI, Evans’ body was used and made to look like he was half the size of his normal physique. The USA is in the midst of World War II and Steve wants to enlist in the Army. But his size and numerous physical ailments make that just a pipe dream. On his fifth try he catches the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and is subsequently selected to undergo a super-secret process. Rogers has a procedure that literally inflates him to a 6’4” man of steel and a metabolism that rivals Wolverine. Rogers is used as a poster child for the U.S. Army and, while not exactly he had in mind, is still doing his part for the cause. This all changes when Rogers gets personally involved and recruits a team to help defeat the evil agents of HYDRA. What’s HYDRA, you ask? It’s a super elite group of soldiers under the leadership of the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who’s also benefitted from the same sort of “experiment” that gave Rogers his super powers. This begs the question: can Captain America defeat HYDRA and thus shift the balance of power for the USA or will the evil forces of HYDRA come out on top?
While some super hero movies are a bit hit and miss, I’ve found that the Marvel adaptations are among the best. In fact, with the exception of The Incredible Hulk I’ve found these to be some of the best. I’m now a big fan of Iron Man and I enjoyed Thor as well. Captain America was very well-received and while not shattering box-office records, it did manage to make a profit (how many movies can actually say that). Couple this with the natural segue into The Avengers and, well, it’s a no-brainer to say that the stage is set. Evans is great in his role as Steve Rogers, embodying the natural look and charisma that the comic book hero epitomized. Also turning in great performances is the always-reliable Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips and Hugo “Agent Smith” Weaving as the Red Skull. If Captain America is any indication of what’s in store for our heroes, then I wait with bated breath.
Video: How does it look?
I remember first watching this on Blu-ray when it first came out (and was still issued by Paramount, things have changed). I found the overall color palette a bit on the dull side, but it had a certain sepia quality that highlighted the time period. That aside, the 4K offering offers up a more detailed picture with just the right amount of HDR sprinkled in to really be noticeable. Though browns tend to dominate early on, we do move on and see some very well-defined interior scenes. The overall look and feel of the film is really hard to fault. The Blu-ray already looked good, but with this new 4K disc there is a tangible improvement in picture quality.
Audio: How does it sound?
I’m a very visual person, but I have to admit that films just aren’t the same if they don’t have a robust soundtrack. The film has all the action we’d ever need and want from a film and with the inclusion of a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack, this is the icing on the cake. I know there have been some complaints from the online community regarding some of Disney’s Marvel titles. I’m happy to report that this is one of the best-sounding examples of Dolby Atmos I’ve heard, so whatever they’re doing now is working. And this soundtrack pretty much has it all, from the opening sequence in the Arctic to the LFE induced battle sequences toward the middle and end of the film. Dialogue is very rich and strong. In fact, my only real complaint about the film is that while they did a very good job visually with Evans’ physique, his voice is still the same. All of your speakers will get a workout here, so don’t worry. Captain America: The First Avenger delivers on all the technical levels so if you had any doubts that this wouldn’t live up to some of the other super hero movies – it does.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This new 4K set is simply the old Blu-ray along with a new 4K disc that contains the movie only. All of the features (as well as the Blu-ray version of the film) are on the included second disc. Sadly, nothing new has been added, though the supplemental material was fairly robust to begin with.
- Audio Commentary – Director Joe Johnston is joined by some of his technical staff. This is more of a technical track that I rather liked, though I can see where some will find it a bit on the mundane side.
- Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer – This tongue-in-cheek feature sees our S.H.I.E.L.D. agent discussing a robbery at a grocery store.
- Outfitting a Hero – We get a look at the costume design of Captain America’s suit and some of the other dated outfits used in the film.
- Howling Commandos – This focuses on Cap’s entourage and some of the faces in that crowd, notably the underused Dum Dum Dugan (Neil McDonough).
- Heightened Technology – This shows us some of the rather odd combination of weapons used that really shouldn’t have been present in the 1940’s.
- The Transformation – Yes, that really was Chris Evans in the first part of the film, large-head and all. This supplement tells us how that effect was achieved.
- Behind the Skull – We get a look at the character, its casting as well as creating the look for him in the film.
- Captain America’s Origin – Joe Simon, who created the character, recounts the iconic hero’s history through the comics.
- The Assembly Begins – Why not use this to promote the then forthcoming The Avengers?
- Deleted Scenes – Three of the four of these are available with commentary, the exception being the last one.
- Attack in Norway
- The Battle at Azzano
- Steve Rogers Gets his Medal
- Steve Rogers Meets Nick Fury
- Trailers – Four total.
The Bottom Line
Even with the multitude of Marvel movies, Captain America: The First Avenger remains my favorite (sorry, Guardians of the Galaxy, you’re a close second). I’m sure the Captain America films have run their course, but this one had it all. It’s, as Rotten Tomatoes puts it, “a throwback to good, old-fashioned entertainment.” An improved picture and sound along with a wealth of supplements make this one a must own for your 4K and/or Marvel collection.