logan j. fowler checks out the newest superhero flick hitting the big screen …
NOTE: Review contains HEAVY spoilers
So this is it — the last comic book film from Marvel Studios to hit theaters before The Avengers next summer. Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Hulk have all had their time in the spotlight, but one more superhero needs an introduction: Captain America.
Of course, this is an origin story, so some back story is needed. Set against the back drop of World War II, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a short and underweight guy with a heart. He desires to serve his country so badly, for as Steve words it, he “doesn’t like bullies.” He is turned away by all the recruiting stations because he just is not up to size or snuff, but when Steve goes into one more, his chance finally comes at the hand of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who is prepping an experiment for the right kind of soldier. Erskine believes Rogers will serve the science project well, and he enlists him in the army. There, Rogers meets the beautiful agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). The latter scoffs at the idea of Steve being the subject for the doctor’s “super soldier serum,” but the 90-pound man demonstrates guts in a training test, so he surpasses everyone’s expectations, proving that is the right choice.
Once Steve emerges from the experiment, he is taller, faster and stronger. He soon becomes a key asset in stopping the opposition known as Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a.k.a. The Red Skull. Schmidt has built several heavily armed bases all over the globe with his army known as HYDRA, and he plans to take over the world. Rogers, now known as Captain America, forms an army of his own and proceeds to annihilate Schmidt and his followers for good.
The first act of Captain America: The First Avenger is well paced. The origin part is a good lead into the second act, as we learn of Steve, his former colleagues, and his opponent. However, once the real Captain America (not the USO form of the hero, which is a hilarious bit) emerges (in his actual uniform, mind you), the second act feels kind rushed, as we are treated to a “Captain America kicking ass” montage, lots of explosions and slow motion shots, and a romance that really seems forced. The final battle between Red Skull and Cap is brief, and before you know it, we’re heading towards the finale.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Captain America. However, I felt like a lot of it was bogged down by the fact that we were rushing this character into his Avengers set up, as by the end of the film, he meets Nick Fury in a modern-day New York. And I never really felt like I had enough time with the character in his “super soldier” format in order to be comfortable with him getting frozen and thawed out by the credits — the movie just had this sense of being rushed to it that I couldn’t shake.
However, let’s move onto the good news. The action in Captain America is fantastic. As I thought with Thor tossing his hammer, when Captain America throws his shield around like a boomerang, it brought a grin to my face. The only problem here is, as I mentioned, a lot of Rogers doing this is in a quick format, just short clips pieced by music. You never ultimately get the sense of what this guy can really do, because you never really get to enjoy it. It’s over before you know it.
Whoops, I said good news, but I mentioned some bad. Sorry. Anyway, I really liked how the movie was a period piece, as really nothing has been done in Marvel Movie Universe like this before, so it gives the superhero story a nice new spin. Additionally, there are ties in the film to other major Marvel characters, as Howard Stark (played by Dominic Cooper) is the father of Tony Stark (Iron Man), so the continuity, as for a geek like me, was nifty.
(That also reminds me: Stay after the credits for a sneak peek at The Avengers if that kind of thing floats your boat.)
The one final piece here to look at was the performance by Chris Evans. A lot of fans scoffed when he was cast as a symbol of American patriotism, but he had a recommendation by Edgar Wright, so when I read of the casting, Wright’s support had weight, for me. It was reported that Evans himself didn’t even want the role, but when ultimately he accepted the first thing he did was go online was to see what people were saying. He wanted to please the fans, as he himself probably knew he might not have been the right person for the role. We all know that while he has played a superhero before (Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies), the character of Steve Rogers would need a little bit more drama in his arsenal, something that Evans hasn’t done a lot of.
Now, I’ve only seen Evans in a few films, but my favorite performances by him are in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Losers, two roles that prove that he can be funny. But could he be Captain America? The answer is yes. Evans gives Steve a sympathetic edge early on (and I must mention, the special effects of Evans’ head on a 90-pound frame is absolutely seamless, and the department must be applauded) and the actor has the build of an Olympian so it looks like the serum actually worked. Accompanying that, Evan plays a lot of angles, from romance, to drama, to humor, to action, and he pulls all them off very well. The best choice for Captain America? Maybe not, but definitely a choice that I am not upset with. I really dug Evans as the Cap, and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes up against the other actors in The Avengers.
Aside from Evans, all the other casting was well done. Weaving was clearly a stand out, as he has a knack for playing the villain. I would’ve liked more time with his character as well, but I think we’ll see more of him later too.
With all that said, I think that Captain America is the weaker of the two films put out this summer by Marvel Studios. The other, Thor, had a perfect pace and while Thor already had his powers in place, the origin story of Captain America was handled well, but like I felt that they were trying to wrap it all up quickly so that Captain America would find himself in the future by the end of the film.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its moments and it’s not bad. The cast is great, the special effects are solid, the action may be quick but it’s furious, the humor always hits, and it’s entertaining to its credit. Evans also proves his worth as the titular character. I know I’ve stated over and over again that the film moved way too fast, but sometimes when a period of time moves super quick, that’s not always a bad thing; at least you know you were enjoying your time.
On that note, I know I did.
Rating: 7.5 patriotic stars out of 10