Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America Review

In a summer movie season dominated by mythic hammer wielding gods, societal outcasts with uncanny abilities, and intergalactic lawmen with sparkly green finger bling, perhaps the most unabashedly patriotic of superheroes finally steps up to receive his cinematic due in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Chalked with explosions, superheroics, and Nazis getting stomped under Cap’s shiny red boot heal, Captain America, while not quite as intense and thought provoking as it should have been given the hellish WWIi setting, is still a lot of fun and a solid entry into this summer’s superhero movie lineup.
At the heart of the movie is Steve Rogers, (Chris Evans) a shrimpy kid from Brooklyn who longs to be out on the front lines fighting against Nazi Germany but is met with rejection every time he tries to enlist due to his numerous physical ailments and an all around stick figure build. Steve’s persistence and earnest desire to help in the war effort catches the eye of Dr. Erskin, (Stanley Tucci) a German refugee and brilliant military scientist who has perfected a serum that enhances strength, stamina, and regenerative capabilities, literally transforming ordinary men into super soldiers. Impressed by the admirable qualities he sees in young Rogers through talking to him in person and observing his behavior in basic training, Erskin asks Steve to be the first American to undergo the controversial super soldier program.
As the square jawed, no-nonsense Cap, Chris Evans gave probably his best performance yet in a role that was succinctly different from the smirky wise guys he has gained recognition for playing especially well. I admit I had plenty of reservations when I heard of Evans casting, mostly due to the redundancy of his already having portrayed a Marvel superhero, Johnny Storm, aka. “The Human Torch,” in the now dried up “Fantastic Four” franchise. However, after seeing his range deftly handled in the character’s journey from literal nobody to American icon, I can definitely say that Evans was definitely the right choice to wield Cap’s shield.
Probably my favorite scene in the movie is the thrilling chase sequence that ensues after a mole for Hydra assassinates Erskin. Having barely survived the super soldier treatment and narrowly escaping being killed himself, the newly buff Rogers chases down the Hydra agent who flees the scene in a cab, barefoot, across several city blocks of 1940‘s Manhattan. Being the selfless, willful man that he is, Rogers is so bent and determined on catching the guy that he doesn’t even register the borderline superhuman feats he performs until he nabs the culprit and the scene draws to a close.
Just like in the comics, Cap’s mission pits him against the nefarious Red Skull, well played by Hugo Weaving. the leader of “Hydra, a splinter division of Nazis with more occult leanings who is eager to get out from under Hitler’s thumb and pursue his own megalomaniacal agenda. Ensuring his success is the cosmic cube, a shimmering sapphire ruminant of an age when gods walked the earth that is infused with powers of a catastrophic level.
There to assist Cap on his quest to stop Hydra and save the day is a Colonial Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) a world weary veteran who enjoys some of the movies most genuinely funny lines, private James “Bucky“ Barnes (Dominic Cooper) a young soldier who is also Steve’s best friend from home, Howard Stark, (Sebastian Stan) a slick weapons contractor and eventual father of another certain iron clad marvel superhero who equips Cap with his decidedly un-spandexy red, white, and blue duds and state of the art vibranium shield, and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) a tough military gal from across the pond who develops a soft spot for Steve and plays a pivotal role in his ascension to All-American hero.
Despite all its positive attributes, Captain America is not without a few drawbacks. The more fantastical elements of the film, (e.g. the cosmic cube) are fun and succeed in evoking a “Raiders of the Lost Arc” kind of feel but in the long run, detract from gritty, low tech approach I would have preferred to see in a Captain America origin story. I think it would have been interesting to watch Steve endure some of the horrors of WWII while struggling to keep his pure and virtuous character in tact.. I was disappointed that this was one aspect of the comic books that was almost entirely glossed over in favor of the cosmic cube subplot that I‘m sure works in to this big Avengers movie that Marvel studios will finally get out of their systems in 2012..Another aspect of the movie that kind of let me down was Red Skull. For a villain that has the potential to be truly terrifying I found Red Skull to be more or less your typical, run of the mill super villain with a bad complexion and a superiority complex. While I think Hugo Weaving is a phenomenal actor and probably did his best with the script, I didn’t quite feel the hatred and intensity that is so synonymous with the character.
Overall I would probably have to rank Captain America behind Thor and Green Lantern as being my third favorite superhero movie to come out this summer Though a bit too removed from reality at times, Captain America reinforces everything that is fun about superhero movie escapism and like its protagonist, will surely win you over with its quaint charm and never say die attitude. Oh Captain, my Captain!


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