Quote of the Day

"We're only here briefly, and while I'm here I want to allow myself joy. So fuck it."
- Amy, Her.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

RE:View: Captain America: The First Avenger

As the final Marvel piece before next year's The Avengers, a lot was riding on the Cap to bring home the bacon and deliver on a solid origin story of America's mightiest hero, while keeping in mind that behind the Super Soldier physique lies a simple kid from Brooklyn with a big heart. Not only does it succeed in this, but it leaps ahead in terms of character driven narratives vs certain other comic book movies to date.

   So it's 1942 and Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) is this puny, 90lb kid from Brooklyn NY, who just can't seem to get accepted into the army - after desperately trying 5 times - despite his golden spirit. But when a government scientist, Abraham Erksine (Stanley Tucci) offers him a chance to be more than just a soldier via a new serum, Steve leaps into action and becomes America's first Super Soldier, bringing bulk, brains and bravery like no over to face Hitler and his Nazi hoards. But the evil Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) - or Red Skull - and his Nazi research team, HYDRA, are using an unseen technology capable of great destruction, and could tip the tide of the war in Germany's favour, unless the Cap and The Howling Commandos can stop him.

Steve: Before the serum
     Director Joe Johnston has firmly set the film into an origin story structure, exploring Steve's change from weakling to warrior with the bulk of the first hour, and keeping the audience fully in the know that this is Steve's story not Captain America's, similar to how the first Iron Man worked. And this part, almost completely devoid of explosions and gun fire, is one of the strongest, building a good connection with Steve before costumes are even mentioned and having him scripted as a likeable and relatable (especially for a skinny guy like me) character with a real pluckiness about him.

     That's not to say the action's not good, as the "Star-Spangled" saviour punches, shoots, kicks and butts Nazis and HYDRA aside with his impenetrable Vibranium shield. There's no shame in the corniness of it all, with colourful and stylish vehicles and gadgets being thrown in to give a future-retro feel to the WW2 backdrop, as the Cap zooms through the hectic fires on motorbikes, jumps out of Stark engineered planes and infiltrates mountain top trains. The effects are strong too, even without shrapnel, as the digitally placed face of Evans on the small actor at the beginning of the film neatly proves. 3D adds nothing though, something a lot of films are falling into now days.

Some music to get you in the mood

But the great thing for me was that it never got too caught up in all this, and still spent time to let the characters talk - for more than just 3 minutes in between and the gun-play and fist-fights. The ever developing romantic angle between Steve and army officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) could therefore strive as an integral part of the main plot, rather than seem like a cheap device to gain emotional momentum. The idea of Steve now leading best bud, Bucky (Sebastian Stan), as opposed to how it used to be pre-serum, adds a slight chemistry change between those two and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) - Iron Man's Dad -  being in the middle of all this thankfully stays relevant to the plot and not just for a novelty tie-in situation. Plus the banter between Steve and Stark gives us an indication of how Iron Man and the Cap might behave toward each other in The Avengers.

Mr Anderson?
 If anything is weak here, it's perhaps Red Skull's characterisation, with Johnston leaving his badness mostly down to the fact that "He's a Nazi, therefore he deserves to die", or at least it feels this way. Sure he wants to rule the world or whatever but at the end of the day I'd of liked to have seen a little more on him and his character. Hugo Weaving does a splendid job with it though and although there were no signature lines, his evilness still shone through.  

 Through the fantastic pacing comes the fantastic acting of Chris Evans, carrying the previously untapped character of Steve Rodgers into a realistic light that we can all relate to, while still delivering on the action sequences and the light humour strewn throughout the movie. Tommy Lee Jones adds his expertise in as the cynical Colenel Phillips, shouting profusely whenever he can and Hayley Atwell is doing it for all the girls out there, with her headstrong and sassy interpretation of the British Peggy Carter. Perhaps Dominic Cooper should have picked up his American accent a bit more before taking on the role of Howard Stark, but the rest of his delivery is fine.

The costume: Just keepin' it real.
    It's corny and unashamedly so, but is kept down to Earth by the Cap's realistic outfit; something that would seem fitting had there been a super soldier running around back then (thank god they kept the ears firmly inside the helmet). The action is choreographed well according to what I had in mind for Captain America's strength and combat prowess, and his all-American likeness factor that made him a hit in the comics definitely has a presence here, magnified by Evans performance.

 In the end, Captain America comes off as the perfect super hero flick: plenty of visually impressive action, just the right amount of origin story through character development and a balanced fixation on preposterous style and  down-to-Earth realness. The plot, though a little daft, is fun and exciting, keeping audiences entertained throughout, without dragging them down with some too serious themes.  Having a historical background in there too is just icing on the cake, for a film I would recommend to everyone and anyone. Well, maybe not to Nazis...

4.5/5 Stars - Best Superhero Flick of 2011

And whatever you do, don't leave the cinema before the credits are through. Trust me, The Avengers teaser right at the end is totally worth it. Roll on May 4th 2011! 


Don't forget to vote on the "Who Is Your Favourite of The (Soon To-Be) Avengers?" poll including the Cap himself.

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