TITLE: Captain America: The First Avenger
STARRING: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci
DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston
STUDIO: Marvel Studios, Paramount
RUN TIME: 125 minutes
RELEASE DATE: July 22nd
By Seth Miller
Staff Writer, Part-time Ninja
This summer has been dominated by comic book movies; Thor and X-Men: First Class were fun surprises, while Green Lantern was fun but not as good as I thought it would be. Captain America: The First Avenger was one of the films this summer that I didn’t have much hope for; maybe it was the director, maybe it was the cast, maybe I was worn out from the string of comic book movies, or maybe all I could think of was the 1990s Captain America film that traumatized me when I was a kid. Well, Captain America has finally arrived and it is definitely one of if not my favorite comic book movie.
In World War II, Steve Rogers (Evans) is deemed unfit to serve in the military because of his sickly body. His determination catches the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Tucci) a scientist who is creating a Super-Soldier serum that can take a person and transform their body to peak human condition. Rogers is transformed into the super-soldier called Captain America and takes to fight to the evil Hydra led by the Red Skull (Weaving).
Like I said earlier, I was a bit worried about this film but from the opening minutes all my worries just stopped. Director Joe Johnston, who had also directed The Rocketeer, another favorite film of mine, brings to life the 1940s setting and created a great adventure film that just happens to have a superhero in it. Even though the film is all about the Marvel Comics character and ties into the upcoming Avengers film, it never forgets to craft a great story with interesting characters instead of throwing as many easter eggs as they can into the film to tie into the next movie. Even though it’s not its primary goal, the film seems to cover all the major parts of the Captain America mythology beautifully and the little tidbits we get of the larger Marvel Universe are great and never feel forced into the film. The action scenes are fantastic and spaced out enough to make room for good character development.
Some critics have not enjoyed the 1940s setting and tone much, but it is an integral part of the experience. Captain America is different from the recent trend of cinema superheroes that seems to follow a path of being a reluctant hero who takes a whole movie to come to terms with his new role, he is a true hero who knows what the right thing to do is and just does it. The era its set in is essential to the character and to evoke the pulp hero movie feel that the creators were going for, but it’s also interesting to see how the setting affects the audience. When a prisoner is brought in for interrogation, the scene is shot to include a dripping water spout, a hospital bed, and drop of blood; these shots evoke the idea of rendition and torture that have become well-known in this post 9-11 world and mixing those ideas with the settings and beliefs of the 1940s is very well done.
The acting and writing in this movie is part of what sells the entire thing. Evans may not have been the most obvious choice for Steve Rogers, but his performance is very good and has earnestness to it that makes Captain America seem like a believable person. Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is another great character; she is just as much Steve’s equal who inspires him and not just a standard love interest or damsel in distress. All the characters in the film are well acted and could have come off as one-dimensional or boring, but the actors and the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely managed to make these characters accessible to modern audiences while still maintaining heroic ideals of the era.
If there are any flaws to the movie, it’s that I wished the film spent more time with Captain America and the Howling Commandos. It was an interesting part of the story that could have shown Captain America adapting to the realities of war and would have been fun to watch. And while the 3D conversion is good, it doesn’t make the effects that much better, apart from the few shots of the shield flying towards the screen. However, these are very small complaints about a film that is a joy to watch and great way to get people excited for the Avengers film while standing on its own as a great movie.