Captain America--A review by Robwrite
Three & a half Stars for the Star Spangled First Avenger
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER: (Three & a Half stars out of Five)
The man in the red, white and blue comes through. After a weaker than expected performance by Thor and the disaster that was Green Lantern, the shield-slinging First Avenger is here to save the super-hero genre. Director Joe Johnson has delivered a fun adventure film, which is safe for kids to see.
The best thing about Captain America: the First Avenger, is the time and place the story occurs in. The World War Two setting gives it a whole different feel than other comic adaptations. Earlier versions of the Captain (The 1970s TV series with Reb Brown and the 1990s direct-to-video film with Matt Salinger) were modernized. Purists will be happy to know that the good Captain's origins as the Living Legend of WW2 remains intact.
The movie walks a delicate, tight-rope balance between being a 'Rah-rah America' patriotic movie, while not making the film too pro-America to alienate foreign markets. Obviously, a character called Captain America is going to be an all-American hero, but the story and dialogue is careful not to hit the viewer over the head with jingoistic " God Bless America" speeches.
The story takes place at the height of the second world war, when the united States is scrambling for new recruits. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to join but the army doesn't want him. Steve is a skinny, asthmatic, 5-foot-nothing 4-F. (This effect is very cleverly done by super-imposing Chris Evan's face on a diminutive body-double via some impressive visual trickery.) Steve's lament about not being able to serve his country is overheard by compassionate scientist Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who is looking for volunteers for a new procedure. Eskine is a German defector who has created a way to turn men into physically perfect super soldiers. He fled the Third Reich to work for Uncle Sam. He takes a fatherly interest in the runt-of-the-litter Steve.
Even before Steve is put through the super-solder process, we see that he is smart, brave and resourceful. He just needs the muscles to match his fighting spirit. The experiment proceeds beyond anyone's expectations and puny, little Steve become a big, hunky example of physical perfection. Unfortunately, before the process can be repeated on others, Erskine is assassinated by a Nazi spy, which leaves Steve as America's only Super Soldier.
After Steve makes headlines by stopping a German sub in American waters, the government decides that the best use of their perfect specimen is as a public relations symbol. They dress him in a red-white & blue costume, dub him Captain America and put him on display in war bond rallies, where he gets to punch a phony Hitler. (The concept is similar to Flags of Our Fathers, where the Iwo Jima soldiers go on a war bonds tour, reenacting the famous raising of the flag.) Steve is mocked by the real soldiers who think he's basically a dancing monkey in tights.
Meanwhile, an elite faction of Nazi soldiers known as Hydra is hunting down ancient artifacts of Scandinavian and Germanic origin. Hydra is led by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) better known as the Red Skull. Early versions of the super-soldier experiments have turned him into a blood-red Skelator look alike. The Red Skull actually thinks Hitler isn't ambitious enough in his plans of world conquest, and the Skull has a faster way to do it. He and his scientist ally Armin Zola (Toby Jones) are using the artifacts to collect energy from the multi-dimensional tesseract known as Ygdrassil the World Tree (Which was an important plot point in the Thor film from earlier this summer, which connects the two franchises) to create his mystic Cube of power (which we saw in the post-credit sequences of Thor) which will allow him to conquer the Earth.
Cap goes into action, acting against orders, when his old buddy James "Bucky" Barnes (Sabastian Stan) is captured by the Nazis. Cap's daring rescue not only brings back Bucky but also a group of eclectic, multi-national commandos , including "Dum dum" Duggan (Neal McDonough), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke) and a others. Cap becomes a national hero, and the government decides to reassign him to the front lines and send him after the Red Skull and Hydra. Cap gets a nifty new weapon in the form of his impenetrable shield, created by Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark of Iron Man fame. (Another connection to recent Marvel Comic films). Bucky and the commandos back-up the star-spangled hero during his crusade against the Hydra and Red Skull.
Haley Attwell plays Peggy Carter, a pretty WAC assigned to help Erskine in his project. She starts off feeling sympathetic about skinny little Steve, but her compassion turns to something more when Steve grows muscles and gains a few inches in height. Steve is immediately attracted to her and they have an innocent flirtation throughout the film. Tommy Lee Jones is the bombastic Colonel Chester Phillips, who is the military supervisor of the project. At first Phillips doesn't think much of this costumed amateur but soon comes to begrudgingly respect his heroic super agent.
Chris Evans does a good job as Captain America, combining an earnest 'gosh-golly' quality, along with Steve's steely determination to make a difference. Evans previously played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films, but this time he is less comical and creates a somewhat deeper character. He makes a good action hero. Tommy Lee Jones provides the humor as the sarcastic, temperamental colonel Phillips, and gets most of the good lines. Hugo Weaving does his usual good job as the evil Red Skull, although the character doesn't have much depth, except for being pure evil.
The film captures the WW2 era feel of films like The Rocketeer and Sky Captain, with a touch of Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in. The story is book-ended by some modern-day sequences that help set up next year's highly anticipated Avengers film, and Samuel Jackson makes another appearance as Nick Fury (Who appeared in the Iron Man films, as well as Thor.) The screening I attending had terrible 3-D effects. Maybe others theaters have better 3-D, but I'm planning to see it again in 2-D, to compare the experience.
Captain America: The First Avenger is an excellent comic book adaptation, and Evan's interpretation of Captain America is very likable. It will be fun seeing him interact with Robert Downy (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk) in The Avengers. There's a good possibility that Captain America will be the most successful comic book adaptation of the year and possibly one of the overall most profitable movies of 2011.
*SPECIAL NOTE: Fans who are anticipating the upcoming Avengers film are advised to stay until after the closing credits roll, because there is a sneak-preview of The Avengers film, which had fans geeking-out with fanboy/fangirl glee.
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