Captain America: The First Avenger [Blu-Ray] Joe Johnston

Captain America: The First Avenger [Blu-Ray] Joe Johnston
As tricky to pull off for its potential to come off as nationalist camp as it was to strike a comfortable balance with Thor's theatrical cosmic dramedy, Captain American: The First Avenger continues Marvel's mostly successful run towards next summer's big team up event, The Avengers. While it sets the stage for that possible mega-franchise, Steve Rogers's story is his own and it's the heart of this professionally composed, nostalgic, WWII-era action adventure film. Sickly and scrawny, but burning with earnest nobility and bull-headed bravery, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is an unlikely hero – despite possessing all of the necessary emotional and moral characteristics innately, he simply lacks the physical means. After being repeatedly rejected from military service, Steve attracts the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who invites him to take part in a top-secret military program. We spend a good deal of time getting to know Steve before he's selected to be transformed into the first Super Solider, and the movie is actually more compelling before he becomes the muscle-bound Captain America. Seamless effects, a quietly strong performance by Chris Evans and good chemistry between he and Tucci balance the outlandish larger story of a Nazi-occult scientist trying to harness the energy of a jewel lost by Odin. Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) manages to be menacing and ridiculous with his portrayal of Johann Schmidt, a man too extreme for Hitler, having a blast as the story gives him increasing leeway to go way over the top, wandering accent and all. On second viewing, what works about this tale of a good man given power because he understands its value still holds up: dashing adventure and old-fashioned romanticism set against period-appropriate design aesthetic punctuated by elements of steam-punk. What doesn't – a bit of sloppy editing and silly logic due to the commitments of story trajectory, some iffy looking physics in fight scenes and a feeling of decreased emotional investment once Steve's transformation takes place – doesn't play any better, but neither does it detract much from the overall film. As a Blu-Ray package, Captain America's features are a little bland. Marvel could, and should, be doing better with their "One Shots," featuring crossover character Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer" is an inconsequential goofy gas station action piece. Would a connective story element be too much to ask for? The behind-the-scenes featurettes are standard quality: talking heads with illustrative clips. "Outfitting a Hero" takes on costume design and how the star-spangled tights were translated to something that worked on screen. "Howling Commandos" gives a bit of context to the crew that forms the Captain's elite squad of Nazi slayers, including info on the wise decision to make the character of Bucky a grown man in this adaptation. Additionally, there are features on various gadgets and machines, the VFX used to transform beefy Chris Evans into an emaciated Steve Rogers, the Red Skull character's history and design, a preview for The Avengers using recycled footage and an interesting piece on Captain America's origin with co-creator Joe Simon. While four deleted scenes with optional commentary are rather pointless, the same team of director Joe Johnston, DOP Shelly Johnson and editor Jeffrey Ford do a better job on the feature commentary, giving detailed descriptions of how the movie magic on screen was accomplished and pointing out various mistakes and Easter Eggs. (Paramount)