Betrayals. Conspiracies. Ambushes. Marvel goes dark.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D Blu-ray Review
Not only one of the best Marvel superhero movies, and one of the best movies of the year, but one of the best 12A/PG13 action-thrillers full stop.Arguably taking its cues more from Bourne and Bond than from its superhero blockbuster brethren, The Winter Soldier delivers on all counts; providing a superior conspiracy-style spy thriller narrative packed with interesting characters, driven by a relentlessly oppressive score and defined by a quintet of exceptionally-staged action sequences.
Whilst Marvel did a fantastic job of building up its characters in preparation for Avengers, Phase 2 of their seemingly unstoppable franchise ups the ante in ways that casual viewers and ardent fanboys alike simply could not have foreseen. Seemingly unfettered by Studio interference or potential audience alienation, the Phase 2 movies thus far have defied expectations on all counts, delivering darker, game-changing fare, unafraid of taking risks in their narratives.
And The Winter Soldier is one hell of a game-changer.Nobody remains undamaged in this relentlessly intense tale, which accelerates from 0-100 in a heartbeat and then simply never lets its foot off the pedal. Sam Jackson’s Fury gets his best moments in the Marvel series thus far, and arguably the best action scene in the movie, whilst Chris Evans remains a strong leading force, but it’s Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who really surprises, finally coming into her own. It's not just the excellent screenplay or the masterful action direction which define the piece – nor even the welcome character developments along the way – but also the superior score that enhances the suspense and drives home the dark tone throughout, reminding us at every stage in the piece that there's nowhere to run, nowhere to escape to and nobody to trust.
Breathlessly entertaining, The Winter Soldier thunders from one brutal set piece to the next with relentless determination and undeniable foreboding.
What is Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D Blu-ray Picture QualityCaptain America: The Winter Soldier hits UK 2D/3D Blu-ray complete with a stunning, unquestionably reference-quality 1080p/AVC-encoded 2D presentation and an equally demo-worthy 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D counterpart, on separate discs, both framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.
Assessed using an ISF-calibrated Panasonic VT50, this is an expectedly excellent offering that, whilst it won’t quite not some of the big boys off the top spot – like Oblivion – certainly proves to be one of the best-looking releases of the year.
Winter Soldier offers up Summer spectacles with reference video on both the 2D and 3D front.
First up, the 2D. Detail is superb, taking in fine object minutiae, offering up welcome skin textures, impressive clothing weaves and excellent background flourishes – all with no signs of any digital defects: no artefacting or blocking, and no edge enhancement whatsoever. Seamlessly blending much of the CG into the spectacle, with no obvious glaring separation, this is an immaculate offering that impresses at every level.
The colour scheme is broad and rich, although steeped in more sombre tones than its predecessor, favouring a darker, more oppressive palette – even right down to Cap’s uniform. Still, the tones are never less than well-represented, frequently deep and vibrant, rich and rewarding. Black levels too are strong and seemingly limitless, whilst affording us excellent shadow detail no matter how dark things get.
Thankfully things don’t get too dark for the 3D counterpart however, which presents arguably one of the best-looking 3D demo titles of the year too, delivering some truly impressive depth in spite of the post-conversion work done to bring it to life. Indeed, with conversions getting higher and higher scores every year (Pacific Rim was surprisingly good), it’s becoming arguably less important to ask that classic question: was it shot in 3D?
Certainly the Russo brothers were going for a classic 70s look when it came to the moody style and broad scope of the piece – and, sure, there are no in-your-face moments where the Shield comes spinning right out of the screen – but, conversely, there’s a lot of what most 3D purists really love the format for: depth. Some of the wider shots take you right through foreground characters to middle-ground sets to background scenery and blend the layers in-between almost seamlessly. The characters themselves look well-rounded, and seldom feel like cardboard cut-outs (although it’s been a while since I’ve seen ‘bad’ 3D which showcases this) and, of course, the myriad effects sequences look simply stunning.
Overall the video presentation gets demo and reference assessment across the board, and earns a perfect-10 score in the process.
How Does Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is similarly spectacular, delivering the aural elements with precise but potent efficiency; making the full use of the surrounds and LFE undercurrent; and providing one of the best audio tracks of the year.
Sounding just as good as it looks, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 track cements this title’s position as one of the year’s best demo discs.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the fronts and centre channels where appropriate, although it happily makes way for the rest of the elements on the track, which take charge for the duration. Effects are wonderfully represented, not just focussing on the louder, bombastic sequences, but also offering precise observation on the finer atmospheric flourishes, crafting a wonderful ambience irrespective of the setting. Of course, when things ignite, your whole living room is engulfed, as if they’ve declared war on your house, with gunshots, explosions, roaring engines and crashing ships all around you, bouncing off the surrounds, coming at you from the rears, and thundering beneath you with the LFE input.
The score, however, is what really impresses beyond even the effects, providing one hell of an accompaniment to the tense, punchy, perpetually oppressive proceedings – it’s one long chase actioner, and the score delivers non-stop, never letting up.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D Blu-ray ExtrasPerhaps the only area of marginal disappointment is in terms of Extra Features. Sure, we get an Audio Commentary and a few Featurettes; some Deleted Scenes and a Gag Reel, but none of it feels particularly substantial. Funnily enough, one of the things that I've most become accustomed to with Marvel's releases is their generally excellent One Shot efforts, which, reportedly, they are no longer doing. Just as they stopped doing them, I realised that they're one of the best Extras ever offered.
Instead we get a quartet of watch-once Deleted Scenes; Featurettes focussing on Anthony Mackie messing around on set, looking behind the action set-pieces, and reflecting on Steve's various musical choices, and how they varied from territory to territory. Bloopers and Trailers round off the disc and, aside from the Commentary, there's little here for fans to revel in.
Is Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D Blu-ray Worth BuyingBreathlessly entertaining, the second Captain America outing thunders from one brutal set piece to the next with relentless determination and undeniable foreboding. Guardians of the Galaxy may have been an awesome sci-fi fantasy blast – easily the most fun we’ve had all summer – it was also much-needed relief after the dark, game-changing spectacle that was The Winter Soldier.
I can't wait to see what happens next in Marvel's (Earth-based) Cinematic Universe.
This Region Free UK release boasts stunning video - reference both in 2D and 3D terms - as well as demo audio, and it's probably only the limited extras that marginally disappoint. Still, it's easily a must-have release - one of the best releases of the year for one of the best movies of the year; highly recommended - blind buy it if you haven't seen it and realise the mistake you made by missing this at the cinema.
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