Captain America (2011) Review
Captain America: The First Avenger was surprisingly, at least to me, one of Marvel’s better outings. I think I may have liked it even more than Iron Man. It’s not Marvel’s best film, but is good summer fun. It has some hiccups, but overcomes those easily.
If you’re a fan of the comics you know the basic story; maybe not exactly how the origin has been told (in various ways) in the comics, but all of the familiar elements are there. The movie begins with a strange plane being found frozen in the ice of the arctic. Inside is a frozen shield and you know what the shield will be attached to. The movie then flashes back to 1942(?) and the majority of the film remains there, which is appropriate since World War II is where the roots of the character lie.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is introduced as a 5 foot nothing, 98 pound weakling who is awkward around women (and ignored by them), who is desperately trying to join the war effort for noble reasons, but is repeatedly rejected. His friend ‘Bucky’ Barnes who has enlisted successfully, is there to bail him out of repeated beatings and attempts to help him with his love life to no avail. Rogers’ luck changes when a military backed scientist (Stanley Tucci in full comic book scientist mode) overhears a conversation between the two friends and believes Rogers may be the perfect specimen for his secret super soldier experiments to help fight the NAZIs. And of course, he will be or we wouldn’t have the comics or the movie.
Along the way, he meets Peggy Martin, a military liaison played by the lovely Hayley Atwell. While having a few lines or actions that didn’t particularly work (the fault of the writer and director), she was still a bright spot in the film. She had the innocent appeal of starlets of the era and worked very well with Evans.
Peggy was best when they weren’t trying to make her a modern girl power action heroine. Her back and forth with Steve was clever, except for the occasional mental (lazy) lapse by the writer, as when Peggy walks in on a newgroupie of Captain America that forces herself on him at the appropriately ‘wrong’ moment.
Tommy Lee Jones seemed (again, at least to me) a little out of place in a superhero movie, but he just proved he’s good in practically anything you put him in. He delivers quite a few one liners in the film. he demonstrates one of the biggest weaknesses of the film, though as Colonel Phillips. He is a military type of the comic book variety as he oversees the new recruits training, a secret experimentral program, front line planning as well as direct assaults that never turns out to be the NAZIs, but an offshoot called Hydra led by the villainous Johann Schmidtt a.k.a. the Red Skull.
The Red Skull has decided that Hitler’s usefulness was at an end and that he would be the new guy in charge. I was never quite sure whether he wanted world domination or world destruction. He certainly didn’t treat his underlings very well and I have to wonder what the average Hydra soldier saw in the benefits of being part of the organization.
Even with that, Hugo Weaving was quite fun as Cap’s arch-enemy. That’s indicative of the entire film. The more I think about the film, the more it fails to hold together, but when watching it, the actors involved keep the story hopping along. I won’t nitpick the flaws or the contradictions. The Red Skull’s main flunky Arnim Zola ( Toby Jones) was good in the film, also, although he is played very sympathetically in the movie. NAZI scientists weren’t very sympathetic, trust me.
The movie would not be what it is without its star Chris Evans playing the titular character. I have long been a supporter of Evans and thought if he ever got the right role, he’ll become one of the bigger stars in Hollywood. I think this may be that role. He handles the acting as easily as the action. He’s a funny guy and comes across as genuinely humble in this, which is the essence in my opinion of who the character is. The FX used to make him short and scrawny were very well done. I found it funny that those FX were far better than many of the FX in the rest of the film. The parts where he is running barefoot at superhuman speeds reminded me of the FX in the 1978 superhero film Superman where the the young Clark Kent races the train in Smallville. It had the same kind of stop-motion jerkiness to it, but that’s fine. I actually enjoyed that.
And that’s how I felt about the film overall. There are still some glitches. It’s fairly shallow. Lightweight. But as I said. it’s fun. I liked it. They didn’t get everything right, but they got enough right with the right actors for me to have come away with a positive movie experience. I also liked the fact that the Rave theater handed out the required glasses and showed it in 3D, even though we all paid for 2D. I don’t demand 3D, but it doesn’t bother me to see it that way. I do applaud that they actually got a director to let the story unfold at its own pace. there is lots of action, but the film allows for plenty of time to get to know the characters, They tell a story instead of just making a highlight reel for CGI FX animators.