Captain America: The First Avenger
Oh, Captain America, where to begin? Let’s first off say that I saw this in 2D not 3D, because “Three Dollars More” really isn’t cutting it for me anymore. First the picture is usually too dark, and the 3D is for the most part extraneous. It may be a good trick to help boost your box office numbers, but sadly, if that is what you need to do, you should have probably stayed in the editing room a little bit longer. Enough ranting about filmmaking in general.
Captain America is another feature from the Marvel Universe of super heroes. The story is basic, as most of the early Marvel tales were. Scrawny, patriotic boy from Brooklyn (or perhaps the Bronx, I don’t remember right now), tries repeatedly to enlist in the Army to serve his country during WWII. Of course he gets the dreaded “4F”. As his best friend prepares to go overseas, Steve Rogers is taken in by the Strategic Scientific Reserve for “Operation Rebirth” which will turn the 98 pound weakling into a Super Solder, by means of a special “Super Soldier Serum” and early comic books greatest friend, radiation. The experiment is a success! Sorry, if that was a spoiler for anyone. Yes, it was a success, but the scientist responsible is shot by an enemy agent, and his secrets die with him, leaving Steve Rogers the only Super Soldier. You would think that we are now set up for a slam-bang action film, with Captain America ready to kill Nazis and take it to Hitler. Well, slow down, because that is what the director did. This film seemed to plod along very slowly for a lot of the 2 hours and 4 minutes.
We now diverge from what could have been very promising to a bit of a disappointment. First we are no longer fighting Nazis, the war is now against Hydra, formerly a Nazi special weapons branch, broken off on their own. I have no problems with this at all actually, as it makes sense in the broader comic book sense of the way Marvel is pushing their movies and linking properties. Next we get Captain America “benched” basically as he is stuck at home selling War Bonds in a song and dance USO act, funding the war from home; not travelling abroad to fight and make the difference he expected to . Here we have a little too much “forties song and dance” that really drags the audience out of the action. Eventually Cap breaks off on his own, and “one man army’s” a breakout of captured allied soldiers, including his best friend James “Bucky” Barnes, and several soldiers who if you were an observant watcher and reader of the comics were “Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos”. Of course now Sgt. Fury has gone from being a Caucasian guy with greying temples, scruffy beard and an “Infinity Formula” that retards his aging (so that’s how he can still be active in the present and have fought in WWII) to Samuel L. Jackson… Captain America and his “Howling Commandos” (though not named that specifically) start to take the fight to Hydra and the action resumes.
You may think I’m being a little too negative about First Avenger, but I really did enjoy the film. Once the action came it was fun and furious, not that fast however. The pacing of the entire film, as I said earlier, seemed off from what it should have or could have been. This film seemed to play to every cliché in the book, and you could spot them a mile away. In one scene a female officer pulls Steve Rogers behind a filing cabinet for a kiss, and you know that his real romantic interest will be coming around the corner in about two seconds. One scene has a giant hook on a chain/crane/hoist unit hanging from the roof, and you know that someone (Cap) will be swinging on that into someone’s face and hitting them with the crane. The action was fun, and the battle scenes were well done. Captain America throws his mighty shield (sorry had to quote the cartoon intro) all throughout the movie, and being the comic fan I am, I suspended my disbelief and went with it.
The casting was quite well done. Chris Evans made for a passable Captain America, after being rather creepily digitally altered to be the weak Steve Rogers. I’ve actually thought Evans made a pretty good Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies, and also enjoyed the humour he brought to The Losers, again based on a comic book/graphic novel. Tommy Lee Jones was very good as the gruff Colonel Philips, quite possibly a substitute for our missing Caucasian Nick Fury (sans eye-patch). The “Howlers” were good too, with Neal McDonough as “Dum Dum” Dugan, Derek Luke as Gabe Jones, Kenneth Choi as Jim Morita and JJ Feild playing James Montgomery Falsworth. Stanley Tucci played a very good Dr. Abraham Erskine, filling a nice fatherly role for the future Star Spangled Avenger. Stan Lee did a great cameo as he usually does, though he has a tough cameo act to follow after seeing the surprise cameo in X-Men First Class; the only recent Marvel film not to have Stan that I can remember.
On the evil side of things, Hugo Weaving was surprisingly flat as the Red Skull, showing his maniacism but little else. Toby Jones as Dr. Armin Zola was a pleasant surprise, though not adorned with a one-eyed robot head and holographic face in his stomach. After watching the film, there was the classic after movie discussion as to where we had seen him before. With the wonder of modern smart phone technology we quickly learned he had voiced Dobby the house elf in the Harry Potter movies. He has done more than voice work, and I had a feeling I had seen him recently in something but couldn’t quite place it. I thought that he could have been a character called “The Dream Lord” in last year’s (Season Six’s) Doctor Who episode “Amy’s Choice”. Upon arriving home and consulting the Internet oracles, I was correct.
As with most Marvel movies there is a treat after the credits, but this one was really quite poor. I will spoil this so if you don’t want to hear it, look away. All we got was the trailer for the Avengers movie coming out next year. Literally a trailer, cuts and quips and quick flashes of characters. Not what I was hoping for, as that same bit will be all over television when the time comes. I would not be surprised to see the exact same bit as a Super Bowl commercial. I want a bit more story, something of a cliffhanger to whet my appetite and make me discuss and debate for the next ten months, not just a trailer.
All in all Captain America: First Avenger was fun, rather mindless, perhaps a little thin on plot and characterization, all in all a good night out for the summer movie crowd, but if you miss it in theatres, renting this one won’t be the end of the world. Still have Captain America’s cartoon theme stuck in my head. Hopefully playing this will help cure me!
Posted on 11-07-31, in 3.5 Star, Comic Book Movies, Movie Reviews and tagged 3.5 star, after the credits, Captain America, cartoon, comic book, First Avenger, movie, review, theme song, Toby Jones. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.