Friday, July 29, 2011

Review : Captain America - The First Avenger

Are you aware that when Captain America throws his mighty shield all those who chose to oppose his shield must yield?  Captain America is easily one of my favorite superheroes of all time, being in my opinion one of the most heroic and, when written properly, badass characters ever to grace the medium.  Created in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack “The King” Kirby first appearing in Captain America Comics #1 the character was one of many patriotic themed heroes introduced during the Golden Age of Comics but is almost certainly the most memorial and long lasting.  The character was reintroduced into Marvel Comics in 1963 in Strange Tales #114 as a sort of tease and then in earnest in 1964 in Avengers #4 and he hasn’t left us since.  There have been several film adaptations over the years but shared this in common: they weren’t very good.  Enter Marvel Studios’ attempt to set up a big budget Avengers film.  Having huge success with Iron Man, and to a lesser extent the Incredible Hulk, in 2008 production for Captain America movie was inevitable.  Unlike the other films in the franchise this movie was supposed to directly lead into the Avengers movie.  Thus it was called Captain America: The First Avenger.

It was directed by Joe Johnston who also directed Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, and The Rocketeer so he’s done a pretty decent amount of variety in his films.  So far this year there have been ups and downs wit comic book films; Thor was pretty good, X-Men: First Class was really good but, even though I didn’t get a chance to review it, I was very disappointed in Green Lantern.  In theory a Captain America movie, especially one that is set in the 40s, should be hard to mess up.  Give a scrawny guy a super soldier serum and have him beat the shit out of Nazis?  Box Office Gold!  But seeing as we haven’t gotten the formula right so far one wonders if there’s any reason to give this film the benefit of the doubt.

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: The following review has some spoilers so read at your own risk]

Red Skull will make you have nightmares
In 1942 Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), crazed leader of the Nazi Army sub-group known as HYDRA, has discovered an ancient Asgardian relic that can change the course of World War II.  Meanwhile in America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a sickly young man, has been repeatedly trying to enlist in the US Army in order to fight for his country and for what’s right but his efforts have resulted in repeated failures.   Eventually Rogers gets the attention of scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who selects him as a candidate for a secret new project designed to create a new breed of super soldier.   It is successful but Rogers is left the only product of the project and deemed useless by his superiors (Because they don’t need one advanced soldier).  He must prove his worth in order to be the Allies’ only defense Schmidt’s mad schemes.

Let’s get this out of the way: this flick has a lot of goofy elements despite not tiring to be a goofy movie itself.  This is an impossible thing to avoid since any historical period piece set during WWII that features any science fiction or fantasy elements is going to be ridiculous.   But even if that’s the case that doesn’t stop it from being really fun (Just look at the Indiana Jones movies). Don’t go into this movie thinking it’s anything close to historical fiction because you will go insane over it.

Cap in a rare moment of "Not Killing Nazis"
But yeah, this movie is really fun. How could it not be? A superhero fighting super technologically advanced Nazis?   Hell yes!  And thankfully just because it’s kind of silly it manages to be pretty damned well written.   The action is great so if you are looking for a popcorn flick with a lot of shooting and explosion this is as good as anything else in that department while also possessing a decent plot.   Much like Iron Man and Thor this movie is  very successful in translating the characters from the page to the screen making several changes to the property that make a lot sense within the context of the film.  And unlike, say, Thor, it manages to avoid a lull in the storytelling where the action slows to a halt.  No, here once Steve Rogers truly becomes Captain America it’s him hammering villains with his shield and shooting Nazis in the face.  Also the ending is significantly more satisfying than Thor and, unlike just about every other superhero film (Though not every single one) it has a tragic element added on.  Also, much like with the two previous leads, Chris Evans is a picture perfect Cap and the character himself was written wonderfully.   I’m pretty sure that this portrayal of the Captain may be the most heroic comic book superhero movie protagonist in history.  Most other characters need a tragic origin or some other catalyst to become “the hero.”  Rogers however has all of his self-sacrificing, people-protecting traits from the beginning even when he was a skinny wimp who regularly got beat up.  Rogers stands up for what’s right no matter what; all the super soldier serum did was made him capable to doing it successfully (And with a badass shield).  The supporting cast is pretty good as well though it’s mainly a serviceable ensemble rather than a really great one.  Most everyone does their job decently enough to make the film work but once a sequel in present time is made I doubt I’ll be missing them too much.  Hell, the Howling Commandos, here used as Cap’s personal strike team, aren’t very well developed and unfortunately, and I’m not 100% sure on this, most of them don’t even seem to get named properly during the actual films.  Weird.

Cap, Bucky, and...um...some dudes, I guess
Hugo Weaving is pretty good as the Red Skull though he’s not as entertaining as he was as Agent Smith in the Matrix film series film, and it’s too bad they didn’t make any sequels to it.  I do however like the character’s altered origin.  In the original comic, if I recall correctly, he’s just a Nazi wearing a red skull mask to intimidate people but just not really capable of fighting Cap on even levels (Though this often changed throughout his long history).  Here however the Skull’s only mask is a Hugo-Suit and he’s just as super steroid up as Rogers so it’s pretty cool.

Truth be told this is an incredibly solid film with no major problems, but even so there were a few things that bugged me.  I didn’t like [SPOILER ALERT] the way Bucky, played by Sebastian Stan, met his doomed fate as it seemed to come out of nowhere and felt a bit pointless, especially seeing as there was a big rescue scene earlier in the film where Cap went on a suicide mission to bring his friend back.  Of course any comic fan can tell you that Bucky won’t stay dead and I recall hearing that Stan ad signed on for a multiple film deal with Marvel Studios so take that how you like it.   I also felt the romantic subplot was a bit annoying.  Not the subplot itself, but they way it unfolded seemed pretty much by the numbers for a Hollywood film meaning there‘s the cliché “Wacky Romantic Misunderstanding” (In the form of Cap swapping spit with Natalie “Anne Boleyn” Dormer) and it really felt forced.  It’s a shame because I really liked the way that romance played out.   Also pre-steroids Steve Rogers at times looks pretty freaking inhuman (Presumably the effect of a skinny Chris Evan was created through CGI madness).  I especially noticed this when I saw it in a properly bright theater.  Plus the subtitle, “The First Aveneger”, sounds pretty lame and only makes sense outside of its relation to movie that hasn’t even come out yet.   It’s not like the Iron Man flick was called “Iron Man: The Armored Avenger”.

Those complaints are mostly nitpicking.  Bottom line is that this is a solid outing that is on the top tier of superhero comic book movies. Possibly as good as Iron Man, certainly better than the Incredible Hulk and Thor no contest though I’m pretty sure that I enjoyed X-Men: First Class more than this one (In this movie’s defense it doesn’t have January Jones pretending to act in it).  If you haven’t checked this movie get your ass down to the theater and for the love of God people stay till the end of the goddamn credits!

Helloooooo Nurse!
I give Captain America: The First Avenger 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


Pros

-Greta action

-Decent plot

-Chris Evans IS Captain America (Who may be the best superhero in any movie)

-Very, very fun

Cons

-Skinny Steve Rogers looks a bit terrifying

-Romantic Subplot a bit cliché

-May be a bit cheesy for some people

1 comment:

  1. nice one.. action was not pretty much cool for me though..

    ReplyDelete