Published on July 25th, 2011 | by Chris0
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Aw, yeah. So what if its “yet another comic book movie?” Captain America is just a whole lot of old fashioned fantasy fun. Of course setting it against the backdrop of WWII doesn’t hurt things either, and gets it a spot on the old WMB, too!
The backstory: 98-pound weakling Steve Rogers gets tapped for a government experiment to create a new breed of “super soldiers” to fight the Nazis in Europe. Only it turns out there is a more sinister menace to deal with. That of course is the still more ambitious world-domination-bent group HYDRA, helmed by the more-evil-than-Hitler “Red Skull” aka Johann Schmit. After his initial transformation, he’s sent out to be a spokesperson in a “Captain America” themed war bond tour, finally ending up in Europe and having to rescue his best friend, Bucky Barnes. He’s re-re-purposed (back to his original, uh, purpose) and he and his team hunt down Hydra’s bases and ultimately (as always, without spoiling the fun) the good guys win.
I’m not about to debate the merits of this movie from a realistic or historic point of view. Because it really hasn’t any. But that’s not the point. Actually, I fear a lot of the subtler points of the movie will be lost on today’s generation, who a) don’t understand a lot of WWII history, and b) don’t get things like war bond drives and 4F jokes.
Of course, the real purpose of this film is to set up an “Avengers” movie somewhere down the road, along with the other recent Marvel onscreen characters Thor, Iron Man, and probably another Hulk movie. (I can’t remember if the last one was part of this effort or not!) So yeah, SHIELD will make an obvious appearance here. There’s also a subtle tie-in to the Thor movie at the beginning, but its done in a way that if you didn’t see Thor, you’re not left scratching your head.
All-in all, there’s lots of war-movie-like action to be had. Even if it does involve human-vaporizing laser weapons, various Nazi-might-have-beens and other obvious anachronisms. Actually I felt in a lot of places certain elements may have been “borrowed” from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Such as the giant and imagined flying wing aircraft, and Schmit’s scientist sidekick looking suspiciously like Major Toht at times. Don’t miss the visit by Himmler and Goebbels to Hydra’s compound either, another moment probably lost on a lot of people as I don’t think it was explained who they were. At least it looked like it was supposed to be them. *shrug*
But what I thought really made this movie was its “respect” if you will for the entire character and mythos of Captain America, and the time he was conceived in. Just another kid from Brooklyn turned super hero during the war. The whole war bond tour and 4F routine, while probably foreign to a lot of viewers, are a big tip-of-the-hat to past war movies. And, I’ve heard a lot of complaining about the in-your-face patriotism and “propaganda” present in this film, BUT THAT’S KIND OF THE POINT, isn’t it?! If anything it only makes everything better.
Chris Evans has the looks and chemistry to pull off this character big time, I can’t say anything bad there. They definitely found their “All American Boy.” Of course you’ve got to have a female character/love interest, and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter manages to be a strong, yet somehow stereotypical 40′s female character at the same time. Hugo Weaving is (as always) menacing as the evil Red Skull, even if the character’s makeup kept reminding me of British heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie. And Tommy Lee Jones steals the show all around as Col. Philips, managing to be both the archetypal hard-ass superior and the source of a lot of straight-man comic relief. Then there’s the Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) character. I’ve heard a lot of griping from the comic-purist community about how this was handled, and not knowing anything about the character’s previous incarnations, I still thought it sucked.
The rest of the good Captain’s team just seems to be along for the ride, though, which is understandable, not everyone can be front and center. And (as I said) there is a cameo near the end by Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role from Iron Man 2 as part of the SHIELD organization.
What can go wrong? Turns out, that much like Thor, there is a great deal of time spent on explaining the “origin” bit, which leaves precious little time for action. From Roger’s initial transformation and “discovery” we’re left with quite a lull in the action. Get past it, though, and it doesn’t stop.
So, if you’re willing to shut off your brain for a couple of hours, sit back and enjoy the ride, Captain America: The First Avenger just might take you back to the glory days of superheroes and war movies at the same time. Maybe. It did me, anyway.
Summary: So, if you're willing to shut off your brain for a couple of hours, sit back and enjoy the ride, Captain America: The First Avenger just might take you back to the glory days of superheroes and war movies at the same time. Maybe. It did me, anyway.