Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger
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PLOT: Early in WW2, ninety pound weakling Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who, despite his small stature, is desperate to serve his country, is chosen to undergo a procedure that the army hopes will create a new breed of super-soldier. The experiment is a success, but when it can’t be duplicated, Rogers, dubbed Captain America by his army handlers, takes it upon himself to rid the world of Hydra; a fanatical Nazi cult commanded by Johann Schmidt- a.k.a Red Skull.

REVIEW: Of all the superhero movies we’ve been getting this summer, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was easily the one I was most looking forward to. I don’t think I’ve ever read a single issue of the comics, but I loved the fact that the filmmakers were going period, and seemed to be emulating a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK vibe based on the trailers.

How does the finished film hold up? Pretty damn well I’d say. When you’re making a movie called CAPTAIN AMERICA, you know there’s going to be a bit of a cheese factor at play, as he’s simply the product of a different era. The character is much easier to accept against the WW2 backdrop, and is a beautiful way to introduce the character into a more modern setting, which will happen next summer with THE AVENGERS.

As inspired as the period setting was the choice of Joe Johnston to direct. When he was first announced, I’ll admit I was nervous. Other than OCTOBER SKY and THE ROCKETEER, I haven’t really liked any of his movies. That said Johnston brings CAPTAIN AMERICA an earnestness it desperately needs, with this almost feeling like an ersatz sequel to THE ROCKETEER. Some will say the movie is cheesy, and while yes, it does indeed have a bit of fromage sprinkled in, it’s totally appropriate to both the character, and the type of film they’re making. It’s fashioned like an old-fashioned Saturday matinee serial, or the kind of patriotic WW2 adventures Errol Flynn used to churn out regularly (especially a gem called DESPERATE JOURNEY).

I was also a tad worried about Chris Evans taking the role, as I loathed the FANTASTIC FOUR films, even though he was the best thing about them. CAPTAIN AMERICA is finally a superhero vehicle worth his talents, and he delivers in spades- looking every bit the superhero is his ridiculously buff physique. It was also a smart move to superimpose his head on a smaller actor for the opening scenes, as it establishes both continuity in the character, and gives Evans a chance to add some real pathos to the role. He’s excellent at conveying the kind of “aw-shucks” naiveté and innocence the role requires, and I imagine it’ll be a lot of fun to watch him play opposite Robert Downey Jr.,as the womanizing, egotistical Tony Stark in THE AVENGERS.

The rest of the cast is also quite good, with Stanley Tucci having fun as the scientist that transforms Rogers (complete with a cheesy, but fun “zee Germans” accent), and Tommy Lee Jones bringing a surprisingly lighthearted touch to the gruff army commander in charge of Roger’s unit.

And yes, the Howling Commandos are all here, with Neal McDonough sporting some fine moustachery as the bowler-hat wearing Dum-Dum Dugan. I wasn’t all that keen on Sebastian Stan as Bucky though. Not that he was bad, but the role just seems underwritten for a character that’s supposed to be so important to the CAPTAIN AMERICA mythos- but alas, it’s a two-hour movie, and I suppose they wanted to put him in the 21st century as quick as possible, and Bucky had to get short-shrift.

As the obligatory love interest, we get the drop-dead gorgeous Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. She strikes all the right notes, and the chemistry between her and Evans is good enough that I hope they manage to bring her into later films. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, as the villainous Red Skull, we get the perfectly cast Hugo Weaving, who seems to be having the time of his life, and camps it up wonderfully. While I found he was a little too easily foiled in his schemes to be a real threat, I assume he’ll be even more dastardly in the sequels.

In all, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is not a perfect film, but it’s a damn fun one, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I’d say it comes in about on par with THOR as far as recent superhero movies go, but slightly behind X-MEN FIRST CLASS. It’s about as good a CAPTAIN AMERICA movie as we’re likely to get, and I hope we see more (but please, NOT in 3D!).

Extra Tidbit: No AVENGERS trailer on the print I saw, but Marvel often leaves the end tags out of the prints they make for preview purposes. I'd wager it'lll be included on the copies that go out Friday.
Source: JoBlo.com



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