Captain America: The First Avenger

I didn’t have high expectations for this movie, I have to confess. The marketing campaign seemed completely focused on the Steve Rogers / Captain America origin story. How many times did I have to see that weird, CGI skinny Chris Evans getting beat up in an alley before I began to wonder what they were hiding from the rest of the movie? I truly began to suspect there was something wrong with the post-Captain America-transformation part of the film.

Nah. Nope. Not really.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” is a really solid, fun Superhero movie. It won’t crack my top ten in the genre, but there’s nothing for Marvel/Disney to be ashamed of here. It’s a fun summer movie, does justice by the comic book character, and serves to further set up the upcoming “Avengers” movie (as if it needed it.)

The reason the marketing spent so much time on the Skinny Steve Rogers is that that’s actually a substantial portion of the film. I guess I had thought that they’d want to get the obvious photo manipulation stuff over and done with as quickly as they could and thus the origin would just be wham, bam, thanks Uncle Sam. But no. The origin is actually quite a section of the film’s runtime. Which is good, actually, because it’s also where the majority of the character development takes place. Once the fighting starts, there’s very brief respites from it from scene to scene.

As you can see in the commercials, Steve Rogers is a skinny, but brave young man who wants to serve his country during WWII. Do to his physical condition, he is rejected by the enlistment board on multiple occasions. He never gives up though. Eventually, he is selected for a top-secret military project where he will be injected with “Super Syrum” in order to make him a more advanced physical specimen, and thus a better soldier. The experiment is a success, and Captain America is born. 

None too soon, either. Across the sea in Germany, the Nazi’s secret science division, Hydra, has discovered a mystical artifact (The “Cosmic Cube”, although it’s never referred to as such) and has tapped its power to build extraordinarily powerful weapons. Headed by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Hydra has “defected” from Nazi Germany, if you will, and now has plans of their own for world domination. As such, they become the villains which Captain America faces, and not the Nazis.

Once the action gets going, it’s good, but not great. It’s not the fault of the production values (like “Thor”, which was so scaled down it was almost a stage play), it’s just that Captain America’s powers are best suited for hand to hand combat situations. As such, to me, there were times when it felt small. Cool, but small. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but there was nothing phenomenal about it, like seeing Spider-Man and Doc Ock slugging it out on the side of a bank, or watching Magneto flip a truck, or hell Batman flipping a truck. LOL.

The romance they work in is actually pretty decent. They keep it contributory, but unobtrusive. I still look forward to the day when a movie studio will make a Superhero movie without a romantic angle, but this wasn’t it. There’s some light comedy sprinkled throughout, including a sequence where Captain America does propaganda work selling war bonds and doing USO shows instead of fighting, but over all the film is pretty serious. This isn’t “Iron Man”, which benefits from Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark cracking wise.

And I think that that’s my main problem with the movie. I just didn’t get any spark off of Chris Evans as Cap. I know he can do it – I loved him as Johnny Storm in the first “Fantastic Four” movie (I had an expensive “Total Recall”-esque procedure to have “The Rise of the Silver Surfer” wiped from my memory). But I’m just not feeling it here. In the first half of the movie I just kept waiting for them to quit messing with his appearance, and in the second part, I think I wanted him to be… inspiring? Charismatic? Something was missing for me, I don’t know.

Finally, this paragraph is more of a bemused note, and not a complaint. I was really surprised over the degree to which they took “America” out of the movie. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s the heroes surname, you might have trouble figuring out exactly what country it is he fights for. He doesn’t seem overly nationalistic or patriotic. Instead of the traditional values you’d expect Captain America to fight for, like Democracy, Freedom, Liberty, Justice – things we use as catchphrases – now Captain America fights “Bullies”. He’s big on sacrifice. I hope they stick to those guns when he wakes up in the 21st century, cause, LOL, he’s got some reconciling to do.

Ah well, that’s always a problem with Cap.

Aside from some minor beefs, I liked this film quite a bit more than I expected to. It lays out the story of a really brave runt who just wants to be given the chance to make the same sacrifices that everyone else is. It’s got a decent side romance, a couple of fun supporting performances from Tommy Lee Jones and Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark). The action is pretty cool, and the Red Skull is serviceable, albeit forgettable (in my book). It’s a good time at the movies, just don’t expect to leave having to re-rank your favorite Superhero flicks.

B+

9 thoughts on “Captain America: The First Avenger

  1. After reading that review, that sounded so honest and heartfelt, I saw the B+ and muttered Wow! All your favorable comments must have been shadowed by the not so favorable because I expected a C at best. Maybe I will see it this weekend.

  2. Yeah, I had a feeling I was coming across harsh on it. But here’s the thing. I’m a comic book collector. I’m a Superhero movie fan. I just went cross country to go to Comic-Con, you know?

    So for me, giiving a Super Hero movie a B+ IS a disappointment. I wanted this thing to rock. To completely blow me away. And it wasnt bad… it certainly wasnt bad by any means. I just didnt come out all pumped up and dying to own it on Blu Ray, you know?

    So. B+

    • Yeah, weaving’s a fantastic actor… but somehow, and I still dont know what it was, it left me underwhelmed.

      Perhaps because I always imagined the Red Skull as more of a Hitler type himself. You know, lots of anger, very worked up, ranting a bit. And this Skull was definitely more… restrained.

      • I like that Red Skull was restrained…. I hated that Hammond guy in Green Lantern who just screamed and screamed. But I know you like that movie so…. O.O

      • LOL… It’s not you, man. You’re not the one making me feel bad… so don’t feel bad when I say…

        *Sniff* I feel like the world’s biggest loser for loving that movie!! *Sniff* Green Lantern, why do you hurt me??

        LOL. He was over the top I guess, yeah. I liked him better than Red Skull. Although at least the Red Skull wasn’t shooed in to this whole Tim Robbins the senator is my father somehow thing…

  3. Really enjoyed this movie, didn’t get to see it in 3D, though. Both my wife and I liked it. We liked the human element of the movie. The powers and effects sequences seemed to be secondary and didn’t overshadow the human drama. No, it’s not “Gone with the Wind”, but held it’s own as an ejoyable, entertaining, movie. My wife, who is not a graphic novel fan, is now interested in seeing The Avengers. Which they showed segments of at the end of the movie. I fear it being over the top, but also am intrigued.

    • Yeah. The Avengers is the big thing. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid.

      “it’s not “Gone with the Wind”, ” – Few movies are, and I thnk that’s a good thing. :D It’s a great flick. But I wouldn’t want to watch dozens of them a year.

  4. Well, the Red Skull is certainly very menacing… he just doesn’t have that long history of rivalry with Cap, like say, Thor and Loki… or Professor X and Magneto…

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