Blu-ray Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

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Science fictional World War Two propaganda never looked so good in high definition. The last of Marvel's recent summer blockbusters arrives on home video with Captain America: The First Avenger on Blu-ray. But is this Blu-ray more 'skinny Steve' or 'Super Solider' when it comes to bang for your buck?

The answer is it's actually a little of both. The Blu-ray version of Captain America comes with a bunch of special features, yet all seemed liked they could have been expanded on. Here is a look at what was included for Marvel's home video salute to that kid from Brooklyn.

The Film:

Being able to view the film in a crisp 1080p HD it just made seeing the visual effects that transformed the star Chris Evans into a scrawny 98lbs asthmatic that much more impressive. No shot, scene, or transition ever once looked like a visual trick. Proving that even in the highest picture quality the movie magic used remains seamless. But it's not just the visuals that get their boost on Blu-ray it's the sound quality is amplified here as well. From every explosion to shield toss the film's audio is top notch, surround sound or not. The only thing about the audio being so good is that the sound effect used from Red Skull's cube powered weapons becomes more obvious to fans of the Iron Man films. Yes, Marvel leant The First Avenger the signature Iron Man repulsor blast sound; and yes only a geek would recognize that subtle similarity. Finally, I only wished I had a 3D TV to test out the movie for that extra bit of home experience. With Captain America being probably the only film to incorporate 3D effects well, for a movie released this year at least, this is the rare time I would have liked that addition to my home movie experience.

The Special Features:

This Captain America Blu-ray follows suit from the THOR Blu-ray release a month ago in that Marvel added pretty much the same types and amount of special features. Like the THOR version this Blu-ray to has the standard audio commentary track, deleted scenes (with optional commentary), mini featurettes, an Avengers teaser, and another one of those comical Marvel One-Shots.

First, and probably the most interesting, has to be the six different featurettes that go into the 'making of' for the film. Each featurette breaks down into its own sections or processes for how the 70 year old icon was brought to the big screen (properly that is, that business in 1990 doesn't count). From creating the Cap suits, the Howling Commandos, Evans' digital transformation, to a closer look into the history of both Captain America and his nemesis, The Red Skull. Combine the featuettes run roughly an hour in bonus material. Perfect for the average viewer at home, but I'm no average viewer so I was hoping for a little bit more.

That in mind all are interesting, regardless if you are a fan-boy or not, but the most fascinating featurette has to be about how they shrunk Evans for the film's first act. The producers and visual effect supervisors explain how they made Evans into a believable 98lbs, 5'7, scrawny asthmatic; while he was already filming with his new super solider physique. They used everything from CGI, body doubles, Evans in a green screen only shots, or a variety of all those combined. This showed how smart the visual effect people on the film had to be as they changed their 'shrinking' technic to adapt to certain scenes or shots and not use one effect the whole way through. If you haven't already seen the film trust me the time and effort that went into finding the right effect balance for Steve Rogers pre-transformation pays off immensely.

Other highlights from the rest of the featurettes have mostly to do with the details within the film and it's comic book history. One featurette does what the film didn't have the time to fully do; introduce and give backstory to each of Cap's Howling Commandos. Another gives a closer look at the film's impressive set designs, vehicle and prop concepts given the movie is a period piece technically.

As for the audio commentary for the film director Joe Johnston is joined by the film's director of photography Shelly Johnson, and Editor Jeffery Ford. Unfortunately the three of them don't seem to add much more additional information about the film that wasn't already shown in the featurettes. When they weren't restating that information from earlier they were praising the individual actors that stood out for them. Don't get me wrong Johnston and his crew have every reason to praise each actor they talk about but I was hoping for more stories on the film you would only get from those behind the scenes like them.

Then there are the film's deleted scenes, where three out of the four scenes make sense why they were cut out. The last scene is more like an extended version of the film's last scene with Rogers in New York's 21st century Time Square. The additional dialogue in the scene explains a bit of the specifics of Rogers' nearly 70 year slumber. The funniest thing in that extended scene was, because it wasn't finalized for the movie yet, it had a trailer for the THOR movie playing on one of the Time Square's big screen.

Like THOR's Blu-ray there is a quick 90 second look at the road to The Avengers, which right now is currently being filmed. Most of this short minute and a half window is spent replaying clips from all the previous Marvel Studios films. The rest of it is flashes of exerts from the film's first trailer, concept drawings, and some behind the scenes shots. All too quick to see without the aid of the slowmo button on your remote so be sure to have it in hand to catch everything.

Lastly, and again like THOR's special features, Marvel provides another one of their funny 'One-Shot' shorts. This 'One-Shot', entitled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer, again follows Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and adds to his trip to New Mexico before the teaser at the end of Iron Man 2. I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it but Gregg does another brilliant job with his dry wit and great comedic timing.

The Verdict:

With my constant references and referrals back to the THOR Blu-ray I reviewed earlier it shouldn't be shock Captain America on Blu-ray shares the same results. Both suffer from the lack of additional features like stills of concept art, posters, or production stills. Granted not all of these features maybe totally important to have, or would likely be viewed by the average viewer, but I would have at least liked the option. Even though I was hoping for bonus material then what was provided Captain America: The First Avenger is a top tier action movie with tons of replay value for anyone's film library.

Tags: Captain America, Marvel Comics, Joe Johnston, Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, THOR, The Avengers, Blu-ray

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Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.

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