CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (PG-13) ★★★1/2
DIRECTOR: JOE JOHNSTON
STARING: CHRIS EVANS, HAYLEY ATWELL, TOMMY LEE JONES, HUGO WEAVING
Although I am definitely familiar with the characters, I have never read Captain America comics so this film didn’t have to live up to fanboy expectations. My biggest fear was that it would feel more like a prequel to The Avengers than a stand alone movie. For the most part, these fears weren’t realized and I really enjoyed watching it. That’s not to say that Captain America didn’t have its problems, but lets see how it stacked up in my rating system.
Story Elements (7/10)
The story of Captain America is straight-forward. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants nothing more than to enlist in the military to help fight against Hitler’s evil forces. Although his small stature and physical ailments prevent him from acceptance, his selfless and honorable nature make him the prime candidate for a government super-soldier experiment. Captain America is not a super-hero in the sense that he has no real super powers. He is simply transformed into the “perfect” human by the serum in preparation to battle Johann Schmidt (Red Skull), played by Hugo Weaving, the head of Hitler’s demonic skunk-works, Hydra. Hitler has lost control of Hydra and Schmidt is set to take over the world aided by an Asgardian power source. With his superior technology and a complete loss of sanity the only person able to fight Red Skull is, you guessed it, Captain America.
The characters in Captain America are somewhat lacking. The screen writers took every step to keep the script light, which I can appreciate. I enjoyed that they didn’t take the material overly serious, but there were far to many one liners and the only character with any depth was Steve Rogers, which isn’t saying much. However I did enjoy Roger’s relationship with his love interest, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). I found it refreshing that (SPOILER ALERT!) they never get to realize their love. However, I couldn’t bring myself to care all that much during the climax when Captain America is hurling toward the earth, sacrificing himself to save the world while saying farewell to Peggy. This might have been because it reminded me of Armageddon, but a stronger emotional attachment to the characters could have overcome my Michael Bay induced PTSD (END OF SPOILERS).
I was glad when I heard Joe Johnston would be at the helm for this Marvel character’s origin story. When at his best, Johnston makes extremely entertaining films and I loved his vision of the WWII era in The Rocketeer, which is one of my childhood favorites. Was he at his best for Captain America? Yes, and no. I feel that he relied too heavily on special effects when there really wasn’t a need to do so. Also, his depiction of the era, while enjoyable, was often over-the-top and sometimes downright campy. However, Johnston did a great work in channeling the adventurous spirit of the time. Often this film had a real “Indiana Jones” vibe. Especially when it full-on showed what happens when someone comes in contact with a spinning propeller.
As glad as I was to see Johnston at the helm, I was equally sad to see Chris Evens as the lead. I have never been a fan of his. I find him to be cheesy and over-the-top. I suppose that is why they picked him. Surprisingly, I liked him here. His aforementioned qualities worked great for this role and he toned it down enough to satisfy me. Hayley Atwell did a fantastic job and Tommy Lee Jones was his usual self. Hugo Weaving was a good pick for the villain. He played his part fine, although I did find his German accent to be spotty. The same goes for pretty much every German accent in this movie. Why can’t they just use Germans to play Germans in Hollywood films? Thats a question for the ages I suppose.
I like films that begin at the beginning and end at the end. Sounds stupidly simple, I know. If it is so simple, than why is is screwed up to so often? (SPOILER ALERT!) I didn’t mind the opening bookend that kicked things off in the present. It was short, to the point and then we quickly got into the real story which takes place during WWII. The closing bookend, however, bothered me. I feel that this film would have been much better had they just ended it in the past. The only purpose for ending in present time was to tease the audience for The Avengers and somehow insert Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) for the fans. It did not add to the story. In fact, it detracted from the story taking away from what I thought was a fine resolution. If it had to be done, it could have been done in a much less-rushed and more clever way. Or, they could have put it after the credits to adequately separate it from the movie itself. I know that I am nitpicking here, but like I’ve said before, it’s my pet peeve (END OF SPOILERS).
Other than that, I felt that the body of of this movie was pretty evenly paced. It was a tad slow going in the middle, which resulted in a rushed rising action, but the final battle was exciting enough and it was overall Captain America fresh and exciting.
I was very entertained by Captain America. It was fun, adventurous, and had some good action sequences. Most importantly I was never bored. As comparisons go, I would say that of the recent Marvel movies this is one of the more entertaining. It is more broadly enjoyable than Thor, which I liked quite a bit, but without the charismatic Downey it can’t quite top the first Iron Man film.
Likelihood of Repeat Views (7/10)
Will I venture out to see this again in the theater? No, but I definitely will want to watch it a few more times when it comes out on video. Will I purchase Captain America? Eh, maybe.
With 34/50 points (★★★1/2) , Captain America is exactly what it is supposed to be, a summer blockbuster. Its fun, entertaining, and well worth the cost of admission. I don’t think it is going to top anybody’s list of favorite films, comic book or otherwise, but it is definitely a solid action/adventure movie.