Friday, July 22, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

When it was announced that director Joe Johnston  would be at the helm of the Cap movie, my first thought was "uh oh, Jurassic Park 3," my second thought was "oh, but Rocketeer!"

Well today I found out where on that crazy spectrum it fell. Spoilers after the jump, but I'll give you a hint: it's better than Jumanji.

I've had a very hard time sitting back and enjoying the ride with both this movie and "Thor." I attribute that to the fact that I know very well that we're getting an Avengers movie next year and I know where these characters are going. I won't go so far as to say that these two movies are basically 2-hour trailers for the Avengers as some have implied, but I can't help but want to see the story lines move faster - to get to the good stuff. Because of this I found myself waiting for scenes to be play themselves out as I watched. When the current issue onscreen is "Will Cap get into the Army?" you think "Of course. Get on with it." When Cap might not survive the super serum - "Of course he will. Get on with it."

I'm quite confident that I'll enjoy this movie much more on the second viewing. I'll know how much of the story is going to be told and I will be able to appreciate each scene without wondering if there's going to be a Baron Zemo cameo. Now, this is not to say that I did not enjoy this movie. In fact, I did very much. I just feel that Johnston (like Branaugh with Thor) is saddled with very high expectations of the Avengers. There's not much he can do about that other than go out and make a damn fun movie. Thankfully, hes done just that.

Set almost entirely in the WWII era, Cap is completely an origin tale, which are notoriously hard to pull off. Especially to hardcore comic fans. We know eveyone's origin by heart. Want to know why? Because Stan Lee presented them to us in about a page and a half 70 years ago. They're simple, quick plot devices that get us to the punching. Yet, it's pulled off here. The origin is still simple, but by putting together a fantastic cast and giving them all "real", three dimensional characters to play in these scenes, they makes you care. Even, Stanley Tucci's Abraham Erskine, the doctor that gives Cap his powers is interesting. Most movies these days don't have main characters that are so well fleshed out. Kudos to the writers here - they gave us a large side of story with our extra large helping of special effects.

I would say that the biggest success of this movie is Chris Evan's Steve Rogers. I had my doubts, but Evans fits the role so perfectly, it wasn't at all jarring to see the Human Torch play Cap. Cap is written exactly as he should be: honest, noble, determined, strong and heroic. He just all around good. To me, that's Cap. They do take him on kind of a weird tangent with the whole USO show deal, but I suppose they needed a plot device to allow Cap to prove himself on his own. By this I mean, instead of having someone else deploy him into a battle to be heroic, Cap has the opportunity to break away and be heroic on his own terms.

Once he becomes full-on WWII Captain America, the story becomes fast-paced and exciting. Lots of punching. Hugo Weaving makes a great Red Skull and it's great to see them face off. Cap uses his shield a lot, and it looks amazing. Anytime someone got CLANG-ed with that bad boy, a smile sprang to my face. The Howling Commandos were also smirk-inducing. Some very good character actors used there as well and they're always in on the action.

One thing I could have definitely done without is the lasers that the Red Skull's organization, Hydra, uses. Not necessarily from a story perspective, but more from an aesthetic feel of the WWII era scenes. I suppose it offended my delicate sensibilities to see lasers being shot in otherwise very well done period shots. After all, if they had lasers in the 1940s, then what's so impressive about Tony Stark's tech in the 2000's? Right? I wish they stuck to bullets and found another way to work in the power of the cosmic cube. Oh yeah. Did I not mention the cosmic cube? Seems like something they might use in the Avengers movie, huh? I wonder.

So which end of the spectrum? Firmly on the Rocketeer's end. Hopefully higher with repeat viewings and more time spent with Evans as Cap. Avengers Assemble!

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