(Thanks to Smurfin' the Web)
With Marvel Comics creating their own movie studio and making a series of superhero films that will culminate in next year's Avengers movie, you knew that Cap would be one of the mainstays of it. That would be Captain America: The First Avenger. The question was, would director Joe Johnston, following the typical Hollywood lead, water down Cap's patriotism to make him more a "man of the world" with deliberate moral ambiguity and a denial of who Cap really is? And even if he didn't, would the movie just suck?
Thankfully, I can say that the answer to both question is a resounding "no."
The movie mostly takes place in World War II, though there is a framing sequence in the modern day to explain why Cap can be in the Avengers despite being a 40s superhero. Scrawny lightweight Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is trying desperately to enlist in the army to fight Nazis, but he's got a number of physical frailties that keep him out of it. He's determined to keep trying, though, and this comes to the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who is perfecting a serum to create the ultimate soldier. He chooses Rogers because he sees that he is a good man who wants to do the right thing, whatever it takes.
The serum enhances everything about Rogers, making him ripped like (ladies, fill in your perfect male specimen here), along with other physical and mental improvements. He starts out by out-racing a car, for example. Bureaucrats, being what they are, decide that the best use for somebody like this is to sell War Bonds! Steve reluctantly agrees, but he ends up taking the war to Hydra (the Nazi scientific division, headed up by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), who is an insane product of Erskine's serum) instead. Schmidt, also known as the Red Skull, wants to go beyond even what Hitler envisioned, and he's got the intelligence to do it.
(Thanks to Wolfman Cometh)
The movie is a lot of fun, though the pacing is really slow in the first 45 minutes or so. Once things get moving, though (pretty much after the USO tour), the movie really takes off and is at its comic book best. There are some great action scenes, if a little CGI heavy at times. The fight choreography is really good, both the hand-to-hand combat as well as the various attacks on Hydra bases.
(Ladies, don't say that I don't post anything for you)
The characters aren't anything to write home about, not being nearly as nuanced as they could be (heck, even Iron Man has a bit more of a dimension), but that's not really a problem in this flick. They are pretty much archetypes, and fairly good ones at that. It's fun to finally see a movie where there aren't any grey areas; there's simply right and wrong. Cap is excessively good, the Red Skull is a megalomaniac. What could be more stark?
I appreciate that, despite pre-publicity comments from Johnston and Evans that seem to contradict this, the Stars and Stripes are very prominent throughout this movie, and with no apologies. Rogers is a hero, an ordinary man who, while given heightened everything from the super serum, is just a man underneath. A man who wants to do what's right and fight evil wherever it is.
Red Skull: "What makes you so special?"
Cap: "Nothing. I'm just a kid from Brooklyn."
Yet the film isn't jingoistic at all. It lets its imagery do the talking.
(Thanks to OiMag)
I appreciated that.
I really enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger. There are some great performances that really add to that enjoyment. Tommy Lee Jones steals almost every scene he's in as the head of the scientific branch of the army that's facing off against Hydra. He's got some great lines ("I asked for an army. All I got was you."). It's always fun seeing Stanley Tucci (though his German accent is simply dreadful) and Weaving chews the scenery with relish as the Skull. I kept waiting for him to call Cap "Mr. Anderson," but he didn't.
Hayley Atwell is gorgeous as Peggy Carter, British liaison with the army scientific group, but she also does a good acting job too. The character is written very nicely, as well.
(beautiful and awesome, all in one package!)
One final note of interest. When Steve Rogers is the scrawny mess at the beginning of the movie, Chris Evans' head is CGI'd onto a scrawny body. It works a lot better in motion than it does in still picture form.
(Thanks to Geek Girl on the Street)
I barely noticed it in the movie itself, but when you look at the picture, you can see how disproportionate the head is to the rest of the body. Thankfully, it didn't bother me like it did some other people.
Ultimately, while not a perfect movie by any means, Captain America is a fun popcorn movie that embodies a lot of what we love best in heroes, something that seems to be missing from a lot of other movie heroes nowadays. An essential goodness and a willingness to fight evil because it's the right thing to do.
To quote Dr. Erskine, when explaining his choice of Rogers as test subject:
"Why someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power..."
Also, don't forget to stay until the end of the credits! As with all the other Marvel movies, there's a post-credit sequence, though this time it's a full-blown trailer for the Avengers!