New Release Tuesday: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

26 07 2011

The summer of comic book movies continued this past weekend with the fourth major superhero release in “Captain America: The First Avenger”. Unless the title didn’t tip you off, yes this is a set up movie for the much-anticipated “Avengers” film but nevertheless it stands on it’s own quite nicely since it takes place 70 years in the past. So we begin during World War 2 and young, slight, and sickly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) feels the need to join the army and after attempting to join five different times he gets noticed by a German scientist come over to America. Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) chooses Steve for the Super Soldier program because of his pure determination and spirit. Steven Rogers is transformed into a larger man of supernatural strength and uses this new-found ability to… sell war bonds. Yes the beginnings of Captain America weren’t that glamorous, he wasn’t allowed on the front line so he became a symbol back home. On an trip to Italy to visit the troops he learns that his best friend ‘Bucky’ Barnes is missing in combat, so Cap, with the aid of the lovely Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), breaks in and rescues the prisoners. Along the way he runs into Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) who was in charge of the base and after he escapes creates a unit dedicated to destroying Schmidt’s various bases set up throughout Europe. Once Schmidt’s diabolical plan to destroy the world is stopped Captain America crashes into ice and is frozen in time for over 70 years until he is thawed out and recruited by Nick Fury. This giant origin story is all put together quite well; the acting is good and effects are excellent, the film has a great old time atmosphere, and it is all paced quite well. Outside of the action this is one of the best Marvel movies, unfortunately the action isn’t up the standards of the other Avengers.

“Your task will not be easy. Your enemy is not what he appears…”

The primary problem with the action of the film is that it simply lacked tension. This is because of two reasons; one is that we all know Cap’ survives and two is that once he gets his shield he basically becomes invincible. He blocks any attack directed at him and can hurl it at any enemy to take him out. The first is an easy problem to get around because it is less that the hero survives (big surprise there) and more about how he survives and while Steve has his shield he is rarely in any form of danger. In fact a rare blast of tension is formed when he suddenly gets himself thrown out of a plane without his shield and has to find a way to survive. This is the most exciting part of the movie. Luckily this occurs during the final climax, giving it strength right when it needed it.

“Why someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power…”

I mentioned the film does many other things right and these are mostly in the character interactions and the atmosphere produced. In fact all the character are exactly as they should be: simple and effective. There is no great character depth in “Captain America; The First Avenger” but these fairly one-note people play that note very well. Peggy Atwell is charming and strong, Steve Rogers is courageous and noble, and Bucky is the perfect right-hand man. Simple characters are fine in movies, especially action films, as long as they are done well and most of the primary characters here do just that and play off one another very nicely too. Atmosphere in any movie taking part in another time period should be one of, if not the most, important part of the film. “Captain America: The First Avenger” captures it quite well, sneakily well in fact. They have the costumes, music, and general attitude down but it does something . It never feels like the 40’s fully, in fact it feels more like a movie from the 40’s. It has a certain glamor that doesn’t produce the right amount of grit to feel fully realistic but it worked in a sense. I didn’t know how much it actually worked until the final scene of the movie; Steve Rogers is awakened and notices something is wrong causing him to run out into the streets of modern day New York and see how the world has suddenly changed. For me this was an extremely effective scene as the filmmakers made modern day look like the future by slowly drilling the past into our heads for almost two hours. This small scene may have actually been my favorite of the entire movie as it set up the character’s particular viewpoint perfectly in his future endeavors.

I’d like to call “Captain America: The First Avenger” the Anti-“Thor”. “Thor had visceral action that was intermediated by poor character development and an awkward central relationship. Instead we have mediocre action, perhaps the worst parts of the movie, that separates a fairly engaging story and characters. It isn’t breaking any boundaries but that doesn’t mean it still wasn’t a fun summer movie that I found quite enjoyable.

Score: 73/100

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