“When Capitan America Throws his Mighty Shield…”

Posted: July 22, 2011 in Comics, Movies

'Nuff Said

Coming only a couple of months behind it’s sister film, Thor, Capitan America: The First Avenger is our bridge film to finally leads us to 2012’s highly anticipated release of The Avengers, but unlike Thor, which very much FEELS like a bridge movie and not something very complete, Capitan America finds itself with a full story, full cast, and full universe in which everything works wonderfully, only providing that “bridge moment” at the very last few moments of the film.

You see, as much as I loved Thor (and I did, as goofy as it was, it managed to accomplish being a wonderfully fun film amidst all its silly predictability) I had stated in the past that it didn’t feel like full on feature.  The villain, while captivating, wasn’t doing much in terms of a plan that was going to threaten more than just Asgard.  It was only meant to introduce us to Thor, his world, and how he finds his way into the Avengers film.  Cap never falls into this little trap, providing us with a film that I have to say is possibly one of the most fun, entertaining, and “comic bookish” super hero film I have seen all year!

Steve Rodgers returning after a successful rescue mission behind enemy lines

The film follows the origins of the Capitan almost flawlessly (giving it some leeway since the original comic was made back in the 40’s, so a little update to the comic book science was a welcome addition), showing us a very scrawny Steve Rodgers (played astoundingly by Chris Evans) who, despite his frail form and laundry list of illnesses, tries multiple times in multiple cities to try and be enlisted into the army so he could help protect his country.  After showing us that, even in a no win situation, he would never back down from a fight, we come to understand the love this man has for not only his country, but for everyone out there who had ever been confronted by a bully or picked on because they where thought of as weak.  Even though his best friend, James “Bucky” Barnes (another fun performance by Sebastian Stan), tries to persuade him otherwise, he goes in to try again, this time at the Worlds Fair (where we see a young Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper, showing off just the kind of attitude we see in his son, Tony, in the later Iron Man films, portrayed here as a famous, Howard Hughes type playboy inventor).  His impassioned words to Bucky catch the attention of Bavarian scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (played with a lot of heart by a personal favorite of mine, Stanley Tucci) who proceeds to accept Steve to take part of his great experiment, Project: Rebirth.  After being put though basic training by Col. Chester Phillips (a usual gruff performance by Tommy Lee Jones) and introduced to British SSR officer Peggy Carter (a strong performance by Hayley Atwell), the trio find Steve’s conviction and willingness to protect others perfect for the project itself, though Col. Phillips still has his reservations.  After a heartfelt chat with Dr. Erskine the night before the great experiment, and some revelations of the films villain, Johann Schmidt (the sadistic and despotic Red Skull, played with menace by the brilliant Hugo Weaving), we find that the real reason he was chosen was because, at heart, Steve Rodgers is a good man, and his basic nature would help him carry though and survive the ordeal.  The next day, we see Peggy take Steve to the site of Project: Rebirth where an amazing transformation takes place, watching the once frail and sickly Steve turn into a pinnacle of human perfection….however, unknown to the others there that witness the event, a HYDRA spy was sent in to capture the drug and murder Dr. Erskine for assisting the Americans with this project.  While the spy does manage to unfortunately kill the good doctor, Steve uses his new found power to capture him and cause him to loose the last sample of the drug, meaning that now it will be forever lost.  However, it proves to be too little, to late as the agent bites down on a cyanide pill and kills himself.  With this amazing beginning, we are introduced to our main cast and the story of Americas greatest hero…but it doesn’t end there.

Chris Evans IS Capitan America

I think what really attracted me to this film was the sense of adventure I felt almost the entire way though.  Watching Cap grow from a scrawny kid from Brooklyn into a man who wears the United States flag as a costume was an amazing sight to behold!  I have to admit, when I heard that actor Chris Evans was going to play the Capitan, I was worried.  The only films I had seen him in showcased him as an arrogant, asshole archetype…but I am happy to report that I was proven wrong.  Chris showcases all the power, justice, goodwill, and leadership that makes up the Captain, not once flowing into his usual cocky persona (though sometimes, he gets a little cocky, but they really make it work in the story).  Like Superman and Thor before him, I can’t imagine anyone else picking up Steve Rodgers and making it there own.

Hayley Atwell pulls off a strong performance as SSR agent Peggy Carter

It’s a good thing, then, that it wasn’t just Chris who pulled off this fantastical World War II adventure.  Everyone involved did a great job!  Hugo  pulled off just enough cheesiness and menace as the imposing Red Skull, and his partner in crime Dr. Arnim Zola (played hilariously by veteran actor Toby Jones) was equally amusing to watch.  Tommy Lee Jones pulls off his usual tough guy attitude that works in a war time period piece, and Hayley Atwell makes me believe in what could have been a real, honest relationship between her Peggy and Chris’ Steve.  I have to say that I’m glad they didn’t focus on any sort of love story as it would of made the film slow down, but the parts where they do have Peggy and Steve showing a fondness together are blissfully short and carry some weight, which is important.  Bucky and the rest of the Invaders (or Howling Commandos depending on who you ask…..seeing as in the film they are set as the Invaders, but in reality, they are the Commandos, no question) are a blast to watch in the few scenes we catch them in, and watching them back up the Capitan was a brilliant piece of comic book cinema history for me, personally.  Everyone did a great job in a film I was terribly worried about.

Now, once again, not to say the movie itself was perfect.  The story, while captivating as comic book piece, really is too fantastical for the more realistic setting they gave it.  I can already see some people complaining that it won’t work as a WWII period piece, but then I have to remind you all that the original Capitan America comics where ALWAYS that fantastical!  I was actually happy to see them focus on HYDRA and not the Nazi’s themselves.  THAT’S what makes this film work as a fun, comic book adventure!  I can’t say enough of how many times I was at the edge of my seat, feeling something familiar.  It’s not going to win any awards, it’s not a dramatic entry into fine cinema, but what it IS works well for the style they use.  This was a pulp adventure all the way, and I couldn’t be happier to see it come to life they way it did.  I’m not a huge fan of director Joe Johnston, but goddamn it, he pulled it off.

Would I recommend this film to everyone?  Absolutely.  It’s pulpy fun, it’s an action adventure, it showcases patriotic heroes unapologetically, and shows us a classic case of good vs. evil.  I say go and see this film as soon as you can, get some popcorn, sit down, and prepare to have the time of your life!

(and, as a side note, just between me and you, Capitan America is now the reason I want to see The Avengers next year.)

"Avengers Assemble!"

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