Featured Columns

July 25, 2011

Movie Mondays: Captain America: The First Avenger

Title: Captain America: The First Avenger
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby)
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, and Tommy Lee Jones
Release Date: July 22nd, 2011

After failing attempt after attempt to fight for his country, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) gets the chance with a top secret experiment. After receiving a serum, Steve Rogers becomes the ultimate soldier for the US Army, under the persona known as Captain America. In the meantime, though, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has found the Cosmic Cube, an all powerful relic from another world. After harnessing the power of it, Schmidt/Red Skull plans for his Nazi organization, HYDRA, to take over the world. Now it’s up to Captain America and the Howling Commandos to stop Red Skull once and for all.

From IMDB.com http://www.imdb.com/media/rm4253335296/tt0458339

Time for one last Marvel movie for this year. And what better way to end it than with Captain America: The First Avenger. You know the hero. You know the comics. But just how good can he be on the silver screen (and no, the TV films don’t count)?

If you’ve seen the other Marvel films, like Iron Man or Thor, than you’ll get the feel of this one. Action, comedy, and a little bit of heart. However, this one also has many different aspects that keep it from being the same Marvel rehash. For one thing, it’s a period piece. And a well done period piece at that. It has a good balance between being modern and being a throwback to forties pulp and serials. Of course, I should have expected no less from Joe Johnston, director of The Rocketeer.

From IMDB.com http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1789298432/tt0458339

It was also a smart move for Marvel Studios to make Captain America: The First Avenger one of the later of The Avengers films. Had it been earlier, I don’t know how well the more fantastic elements of the film would’ve been received. But having it after Iron Man and Thor allows it to go beyond the imagination, with such key items as the cosmic cube and important key figures such as Howard Stark.

Also, the film is fairly faithful enough for the fanboys, but is also a great introduction to newcomers.

Are there some liberties with the film? Of course, plenty of them. Just as it should be, as most of these creative differences serve the film well. For one thing, Red Skull operates HYDRA. This is probably the best liberty they took. Why? Because after so many damn movies about Nazis, it’s time they spiced it up a bit. And besides, HYDRA fits into the story line as easily as a hand in a glove.

Taken from IMDB.com http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3338648320/tt0458339

But it’s not just a well written story the film needs. The other important aspect is Captain America. He’s the heart of the film here. If Captain America was written as a jockish oaf, the film would’ve just been a typical action flick. But here, Captain America is an extremely likeable and rootable hero, thanks in part to both the writing and Chris Evans’s performance. Evans plays both skinny Steve Rogers and serum Steve Rogers well. On one hand, when Rogers transforms into Captain America, he doesn’t suddenly lose all of his traits. He’s still compassionate, unsure of himself, and always the old kid from Brooklyn. When it comes to the skinny, asthmatic Steve Rogers, Evans exudes bravery, courage, and dedication, making us believe that he would be selected for the program. Let’s put it this way – if Tony Stark became Iron Man because of his brains, Steve Rogers became Captain America because of his heart. A hero in every sense of the word.

From IMDB.com http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3305093888/tt0458339

And of course, you could have a great lead, but you need a strong supporting cast if you’re ever going to have a good film. It’s a pretty big cast, so rather than talk about all of them, I’m just going to highlight a few.

Hugo Weaving as Red Skull: Actually, as much screen time as Red Skull gets, he’s not the main focus of the film, just the one and only main antagonist (and for a sensible reason). With that being said, Hugo Weaving does a good job with it. The necessary villain for Captain America and a great introduction to newcomers.

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter: As much as it was a stretch to think she could be somewhat of a drill sergeant during those times, it wasn’t really a stretch to think that she could be an (non-sleeper) agent. Not when you look back at WWII and find a few exceptional female agents such as Hélène Deschamps Adams. Atwell put enough life into the role of Peggy Carter, although I didn’t buy the romantic interest between her and Rogers. Maybe flirtatious friends at the most. But without the sexual heat being cranked to eleven, nor a back story between the two, the romance at the end felt forced.

From IMDB.com http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2479472384/tt0458339

Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes: In this film, Bucky isn’t a teenager, but rather an old friend of Steve Rogers who is around the same age. This doesn’t bother me, just like it didn’t bother me that Chris O’Donnell played Robin. A kid running around with a machine gun just would’ve been ridiculous on the silver screen. Still, I would have liked both his costume and sidekick partnership to be implemented more into the film. Not that I’m complaining too much.

Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark: Easily one of my favorite performances here. Tony Stark meets Howard Hughes. All the class and flash you’d expect from him. Now I wish they’d make a Howard Stark film (think The Aviator meets the Marvel universe).

From IMDB.com http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2613690112/tt0458339

Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine: Another one of my favorite performances. Tucci makes Dr. Erskine a very sympathetic character. And the moments between him and Rogers are the most heartfelt moments of the film.

All the production values here are great. Although some of Captain America’s wire stunts are sometimes way too over the top, none of the CGI or explosions are cheesy here. And although everyone will probably have a complaint or two against Captain America’s armor, the costumers did a good job and prevented the film from being a fashion disaster. Last but certainly not least, is the illustrious Alan Silvestri. I hated how the hero motif gets played over and over and over again. But otherwise, it’s a decent score.

When I went in to see Captain America: The First Avenger, I was expecting just a popcorn escape from the mundane weekend. However, I went out of the theater feeling very pleasantly surprised. Captain America: The First Avenger may not be the best superhero film of all time, but unless Cowboys and Aliens is beyond amazing, Captain America: The First Avenger is probably the best superhero film of the year.

Andrew Hudson