Rating: 6 out of 10
Yes, this is yet another comic book superhero movie. Yes, this is another Marvel comic big-budget franchise trying to get off the ground. You might start to wonder why you should bother seeing any of these if a new one just hits the screens one month later. First off, it definitely helps to be a comic book fan from the start, but beyond that, in terms of pure movie magic and box office trending, this newest chapter gets a little boost from being the last in a long line of films leading to a culminating epic fanboys have been frothing over for years now…The Avengers! But, I’ll dip more into that later, for now, let’s look at the throwback hero of the group who takes us back to a time when heroes were not only cheered for their strength, but also for their conduct.
Captain America: The First Avenger details the transformation of a skinny kid named Steve Rogers into the national icon (and medically-induced super-soldier) known as Captain America. Rogers is created into this new evolution of man in order to combat Hydra, the deep science/black arts division of the Nazi army, led by a ruthless tyrant named Johann Schmidt, who is more frighteningly referred to as The Red Skull (you know, cause his face fell off and such). Captain America must prove to the people who gave him his powers, and to himself, that he was the right man to do the job of saving the world from utter annihilation.
I had fairly muted expectations going into this movie, mainly because Captain America is essentially a retro-hero, a classic clean-cut good guy with no character flaws. He always does the right thing, or at least attempts to, no matter the cost to himself. It flies in the face of everything we have been seeing in terms of comic book heroes over the last decade. The grief and anger of Batman, the drunken power trips or Spider-man, the ego and pride of Thor; all these traits give the characters layers that assist in making them human, someone the audience can try to relate to. Captain America really doesn’t have any of those flaws, but here’s the surprise…they made it work anyway. The opening thirty minutes of the film we see Steve Rogers pre-magic-roid-juice, where he is a ninety-pound poster boy for the “Before” shot in workout ad campaigns. In those early scenes his struggle is how to find a way to match his frail muscles outside with his unbreakable drive inside. We find ourselves in the hopeful spot of routing for the little guy (and I mean really, really little, like me in high school) and those opening scenes help pull the crowd in, hopefully holding them there through what comes later.
Once we lose the physicality of the “before” picture and it’s replaced with superhuman “after” shot, it loses a bit of the charm. Chris Evans should take no blame for this, in fact I think he was cast perfectly. He held on nicely to the innocence of his smaller self and truthfully brought to life the heroic nature of those comics from the late 40′s and early 50′s. The real downfall was that he didn’t face any real obstacle after he got his new physical form. We never really felt he was ever in any real danger because he could basically accomplish anything that came to mind, no matter how insane.
On the topic of the shield, our iconic piece of comic book memorabilia, I was torn on it. I liked the design and the fact it could get scuffed up, dirtied and otherwise sullied, but I would have appreciated one scene where we got to see him learn to throw it. Within one scene of him picking it up for the first time, he was chucking it around like a world-class discuss champion, fully expecting it to return to him, instead of wondering how the hell that worked. The minor flaw sort of mirrors the bigger issue that the latter half of the movie was really just a long montage of Captain America jumping, swinging, shield tossing and otherwise being heroic (lots of it in slow motion). The heart fell out of it and the movie descended into flashy colors and catch phrases.
In terms of the cast, as I said before, Chris Evans did a hell of a job and I look forward to him building up the character even more, hopefully with more internal struggles in movies to come. Sadly gone after the first thirty minutes, Stanley Tucci was wonderful as Dr. Abraham Erskine , the scientist behind the super-serum, which made the man out of the molehill. Tucci worked in such charm and natural flavor into his German accent and characterizations, I really wish he could have stayed on screen much longer.
Getting back to the real buzz around this movie, the next film in line for Marvel Studios is The Avengers, the first time any studio in the recent decades has tried to tie together a handful of other movie franchises into one single film. The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Nick Fury, Hawkeye (who Jeremy Renner cameoed as in Thor) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2) will all assemble on screen for the eagerly anticipated culmination of Marvel’s long term film plan. The genius inside is they are using all the original actors who made these roles so popular (with the exception of Hulk, who was played by Edward Norton in the franchise film and now replaced by Mark Ruffalo). For me, as a movie junkie, this is where the franchise will become something truly special. Just to see all those actors on screen playing off of each other is immediately worth the price of admission (and maybe a box of Raisinettes too).
The End of the Page recommendation: Captain America is a light-hearted throwback to the heroes of before, but the back half of the movie doesn’t hold up the charm and warmth of the opening. Matinee on the big screen could be valuable though, just for the special effects.
Thoughts? Are you looking forward to The Avengers?