Captain America: The First Avenger 3D Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a widescreen 2.35:1 1080p 3D transfer that is Region Free.
Another 3D Blu-ray, another 2D to 3D conversion. Still, at least Marvel have a reasonable track record in this department, so whilst it’s not a native picture, the attempt will be commendable; and indeed it is, it’s not Thor good, but it’s very close. The biggest problem that conversions have is the lack of solidity to the layers, now this aspect is being addressed and the latest techniques do add relative volume to the object, Captain America does suffer from this very problem, but there are signs that the technology is improving. Objects within the frame are starting to resemble real shapes, characters faces are beginning to look ‘round’, the Red Skull’s eyes are inset in his face, character noses protrude out from their faces, vehicles have a tangible front, middle and back and guns not only point out of the screen but also retreat back into it. These are, of course, highlights, because for the vast majority of the picture the 3D is framed to give a reasonable amount of depth to the frame, set ups anchor the foreground with an object while the middle contains the ‘action’, all set apart from the distant background – some shots work extremely well; looking down into Dr. Erskine’s lab, or Bucky tight-roping over the exploding munitions warehouse for example. But other, more explicit scenes show little to no effect where you’d expect there to be a ‘wow’ factor, the storm-trooper’s return salute to Schmidt on the hanger bay, for example, should, by its set up, stretch far off into the frame, sadly it is as flat as a pancake. Where the 3D really shines though is in its subtle use, in the bar, looking back into the distance, in the war room, all the objects on the table giving a true sense of distance on the table, or simple two shots where there is a good distance between the characters talking. There are even a couple of decent wow moments, the iconic shield zipping around the frame, or better yet the debris from explosions scatters in and out of your field of view. Overall there is still that prevailing sense of false 3D, though, flat layers retreating into the screen – I’ve seen much, much worse and so whilst the effects work, within reason, there is still room for improvement.
The rest of the picture, though, is truly excellent. Detail is absolutely finite from skin to clothing, from wood grain to metal damage everything has a clean edge from the close ups, to the far off distance.
Colouring is also extremely well seen with no hint of wash or bleed. Primaries come off bold and strong from the blue and red of Steve’s outfit to the clean sky blues to the deep red of the Skull’s head and that is even in the slightly muted/sepia tones of the flashback portion of the film. The modern day elements are blistering in their intensity.
Brightness and contrast are set to give wonderful blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) that help to extend the frame and contain plenty of shadow detail when required; they are far richer and help add plenty of atmosphere.
Digitally I encountered no compression problems, edge enhancement or banding issues. Using passive 3D technology I encountered no crosstalk and only minimal aliasing. The 2D picture is reference all the way, the 3D, whilst retaining the detail and colouring has to be scaled back due to its inherent converted weakness, so, and this is a really tough call, I am going have to go with a 7 but only because I can’t award half marks, because it’s very close to Thor, which scored 8, just not quite there.
I concentrate on the English dts-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. The visuals are bolstered with the engaging and accurate surround track that covers all the bases and still has a wallop up its sleeve. First and foremost this is an action adventure film and it has the required amount of bombast to fill that quota, explosions, bullet shots, ricochets, aircraft engines, motorbike engines, futuristic blasts, all are given surround representation with pin point accurate steering. I particularly liked the future gun charging whine which is a combination of an old flash on a camera and Stark’s Iron Man weaponry. Even the ‘tinkle’ of spent shell castings on concrete are present and correct. The surrounds are utilised to their fullest during these action moments, but equally they fill out the ambience, from the cinema projector and crowd murmurings to street and forest noise, not to mention wind and rain. Bass comes through loud and strong and the sub gets plenty of action for the numerous LF effects, even if it doesn’t plumb the absolute depths that the very best do. Dialogue is clear and precise, sounds perfectly natural and given some directionality when needed. Alan Silvestri’s score comes through loud and clear, as does the Star Spangled Man theme, using all the speakers to fill the room. On the whole another top notch mix from Marvel.
- Audio Commentary – Director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson and editor Jeffrey Ford take us through the production of the film with a heavy reliance on the technical side of things, which is unusual and also refreshing. They explain away many of the special effects, camera trickery and CG as well as more ‘traditional’ elements including location shooting, set design, casting, performances, nods to the comic-book origins which lend itself towards a more anecdotal nature. The three strike a good natured balance between the two and make this an informative as well and entertaining track.
- Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer (04.03, HD) – Second in the ‘One-Shot’ series and involves Agent Phil Coulson and his stopping a robbery at a petrol station, to put it in continuity takes place between the events after the credits of Iron Man 2 and those before his arrival in Thor.
- Outfitting a Hero (10.52, HD) – A short piece about the evolution of the Captains iconic uniform and how it was represented in the movie, from a straight up copy during the ‘stage shows’ to the full combat suit.
- Howling Commandos (06.07, HD) – Takes a look at the Captain’s help during the film, from his infiltration unit to those in the command bunker.
- Heightened Technology (05.43, HD) – Is a closer look at the futuristic weapons and vehicles that Hydra develop compared to those that Howard Stark, on ‘our’ side, is instrumental in bring to the war effort.
- The Transformation (08.50, HD) – An all too short feature explores the computer elements utilised in digitally shrinking Chris Evens. Inevitably there is a little overlap with the commentary, but as a standalone feature this delivers an awful lot of information in its short run time.
- Behind the Skull (10.24, HD) – A closer look at the main antagonist of the film, his history in the comics, the casting of Weaving and developing the right look for him in the film.
- Captain America's Origin (03.55, HD) – A look at the Captain as he has appeared over the years in the comic-books, his history and development, hosted by co-creator Joe Simon.
- The Assembly Begins (01.46, HD) – Little more than an ad for the up and coming Avengers film
- Deleted Scenes (05.32, HD) – Four scenes that can be played with or without commentary. Very little here, their titles tell you what to expect: Attack in Norway, The Battle at Azzano, Steve Rogers Gets his Medal, and Steve Rogers Meets Nick Fury.
- 2D Blu-ray – The film in its 2D form, this is the same disc that is also available and contains all the supplementary material.
- DVD & Digital Copy – The film in DVD and Digital form.
A pretty solid amount of extra material that covers pretty much all of the bases, as noted above all content is found on the 2D Blu-ray, which is the same as the currently available disc.
The latest in Marvel’s build up to the much touted The Avengers movie is Captain America: The First Avenger. Director Joe Johnston leads a well honed cast, including the likes of Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell in what amounts to a terrific interpretation of an iconic comic-book hero; Steve Rogers, a weak and sickly individual, with the heart of lion, is the recipient of a formula that turns him into the super soldier Captain America; whose daring acts of heroism leads a team of army friends against the infamous Red Skull and his nefarious scheme of world domination. Capitalising on action, adventure, comedy and suspense, the narrative drive has a very ‘Saturday morning serial’ vibe that oozes charm and a style that is a simple winning formula.
As a Region free 3D Blu-ray set, Marvel has produced a very nice package, the 3D picture contains plenty of depth and stand out moments, though still suffers from the inherent weaknesses that a 2D convert posses, but the rest of the image is top notch, along with a top level sound mix and backed up by a small but nevertheless engaging extras package and also including the 2D Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copy, makes this a comprehensive future proof buy.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £34.09
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