Captain America: The Winter Soldier Blu-ray Review

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I still remember sitting in the theater during the closing credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and spamming all my social network feeds with the proclamation that I had just witnessed the best Marvel movie ever…or at least so far.   As I left the theater I was already researching the Blu-ray release date, and that date is upon us.  In just a few more hours you can head to your local store and pick-up your very own copy of The Winter Soldier.

The original Captain America movie was something unique, daring to explore the superhero genre from the perspective of a period movie.  When we left Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) he was the proverbial fish out of water, or in this case, man out of time, thrust into the future where his greatest challenge was still ahead of him – adjusting to a new world and a new mentality when it comes to freedom, both personal and as a nation, or even the world.   The intricately detailed storyline not only uses the events from the Avengers movie as a launching point for all sorts of new conspiracy drama, it even managed to integrate a unique crossover plot into ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. series.

When the movie opens we are quickly reminded of Steve’s superhuman powers as we seeing him literally running circles around Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) on his daily jog around the reflection pool in Washington D.C.  We are then treated to an exciting mission sequence that has Steve regaining control over a hijacked tanker using all of his perfectly honed fighting skills and some witty repartee with his partner, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).  Their onscreen chemistry is quite dynamic and surprisingly platonic; almost like a brother and sister, as she is constantly trying to find Steve a girl.

Meanwhile, back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ evil shenanigans are underway as HYDRA has infiltrated the organization – seems they’ve been here all along – and are planning to use a new fleet of heli-carriers and an orbiting satellite tracking system to systematically kill anyone and everyone their new super-AI deems a threat now…or in the future.  This is Minority Report gone extreme, and also a great way to rid the planet of anyone opposed to HYDRA’s new world order, and it’s all being led by Alexander Pierce (Robert Redrord), the current head of S.H.I.E.L.D.   With Nick Fury presumed dead and Captain America now a wanted and hunted outlaw, Steve must change up his tactics and style, working covertly with Black Widow to uncover the conspiracy and set things right; even if that means the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D.   But when a ghost from Steve’s past arrives with abilities that match his own, his true power of character will finally be revealed.

Perhaps the reason I enjoyed this movie so much is that it was a Marvel movie that was rooted in reality.  Flying aircraft carriers aside, there weren’t a lot of CG or crazy effects; no Norse gods or alien vortexes.  This movie was about real people in real situations with realistic battles using weapons and martial arts and one of the best car chase sequences of recent memory.  People who would typically scoff at a superhero movie will find this just as enjoyable as any Bond or Bourne film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier looks amazing, and is quite simply flawless with a pristine 1080p/AVC transfer that is loaded with details, great contrast, black levels, and a reserved used of rich vibrant colors when necessary.  After repeated viewings I am still unable to detect a single artifact or spec of noise that would distract from this fine film.  This is one of the best-looking Marvel movies in the batch.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, which definitely had some mixing issues when it came to the dialogue track.  There is great LFE support and the side and rear channels are put to ample and expert use in surrounding you in the action and suspense, but this combined with the energetic soundtrack simply overpowers the dialogue.  On my first viewing I found I had to turn my amp up from my normal -.15db to -.08db to comfortably hear most of the dialogue and even then I had to turn on subtitles to catch the bits I was still missing.  I tested the disc in my PS3, PS4, Xbox One, and a standalone Sony BD player with similar results.   I ruled out my Yamaha amp since none of the other 800+ Blu-ray movies in my collection had any problems.   I then contacted Disney who sent a replacement copy just to rule out any defect on the disc – same issue.   My entire system is THX certified and calibrated, so I wasn’t going to go in and start tweaking the channel settings for a single movie, but my Yamaha does have a voice-boost feature that I was able to use to finally hear the dialogue without blasting out my neighbors with the rest of the audio package.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes with a nice selection of bonus material that will please fans of the film and those interested in how it was made.  First up is an outstanding Audio Commentary with directors Anthony & Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely who go into great lengths in discussing every facet of this film and where the franchise is heading. On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America’s Battlegrounds is a ten minute look on the production of the film and offers some cool behind-the-scenes footage. On Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check! is a short two-minute look exploring the Falcon character.   There are four minutes of Deleted and Extended Scenes and an interesting look at Steve Rogers’ Notebook that was subtly tweaked for the various international releases of the film. Last up is a three minute Gag Reel good for some laughs.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still my favorite Marvel movie to date with a great story and a refreshing physical approach to filmmaking, but sadly, with the sound issues it falls short of being my favorite Blu-ray movie.   The visuals are a shining testament to Blu-ray technology, and the movie has one of the best commentaries I’ve listened to this year.  Disney/Marvel continues to raise the bar with each new release and I can’t wait to see what they do with Guardians of the Galaxy.

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