Captain America – Review

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) 

Directed by Joe Johnston. With Chris Evans, Hayley AtwellTommy Lee JonesHugo WeavingStanley TucciToby Jones

My son, like many children of his age (he’ll be 10 in September) is a superhero fanatic; no surprise there. Up until very recently, we’ve somehow managed to keep him away from most of the films (with the sole exception of “Spiderman”) as I believed some of them are a little bit too strong for very young kids. But the time has now come to succumb to his will. Recently we started watching Iron man and when tonight’s choice for our weekly “movie night with family” fell on him, he chose this film.

I had seen it once when it was first release in a time when superhero movies were still a relatively new thing, though even then people were beginning to talk about the market being slightly saturated with the comic book genre (little did we know…).

The film-makers were obviously well aware of the cynicism towards anything which seemed to over-emphasise that All-American gun-ho/patriotic spirit, especially in a post-9/11, post-Bush post-economic-crisis era where a certain anti-American feeling was starting to spread across the pond. A misstep too far in bringing this latest superhero to the screen might have not only jeopardize their international box office takings, but also (and more important) their long-awaited “Avengers” (due to be released a year later, as the post-credit sequence reminded everyone) of which “Captain America” was the last missing link.

And so what they cleverly decided to do, was to to stay true to the origins of the hero and keep the story rooted in 1940s, at the height of World War II. By making this a period film, they were able to get away with a lot more than if they had set the story in our modern world right from the start: the old-fashion moral decency of the characters feels more appropriate when set in the 40s and so does the Patriotism which is clearly innate with this type of superhero, who’s essentially wearing an American flag.

Once again the film-makers in trying to have their cake and eat it, even poke fun at that jingoistic sensibility fun as they have Captain America performing in front of live audiences around country to rally soldiers and boost morale, looking more like a clown than actually a real superhero.

In fact it’s surprisingly how well “Captain America” works especially in the first half.

The period feel is perfectly recreated through the sepia tones of the cinematography, the muted colours of the costumes. It’s reminiscent of another superhero film from 1991,”the Rocketeer”, which interestingly was made by the same director, Joe Johnston.

But it’s not just the look, overall the type of film-making used here, also seems to arc back to the way good action films used to be made, before a certain Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay decided that it was all going to be about one-liners, big explosion, idiotic plot-lines, fast editing (possibly to disguise the fact that they were all pretty bad) and sexual sensibility (those Transformers film, just to mention the worst offenders).

It’s a film as much about humanity and characters than it is about big set-pieces and visual effects, because in the end, action and explosions work a lot better when we really care about the people involved.

Yes, of course, it’s all preposterous and plainly silly, but so is a radioactive spider, a man who flies in tights, a Viking looking guy with a giant hammer, and the idea that a tiny mask that only covers your eyes can make you un-recognisable to your friends. We are talking about Superheroes after all!! But as long as you can suspend your disbelief, cast aside any cynicism, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

To help it all there’s a splendid array of supporting actors too,  from Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Tommy Lee-Jones and even an-over-the-top Hugo Weaver who’s clearly having a lot of fun in this film, putting on a fabulous (and close-to-parody) German accent!.

And of course Chris Evans in the titular role, who embodies not just the physicality of a superhero but also enough charisma, warmth and even dignity to make him extremely likeable and make us actually care for him.

The fact that in the first 40 minutes we get to know him as a frail and skinny young men makes him even more sympathetic.

The special effects to achieve that transformation are truly astonishing, even 11 years later. The CGI in a later train sequence were less satisfying, but certainly not distracting.

Ironically for an action film, the actual action scenes were generally rather modest, though all competently made.

The film does run slightly out of steam in the last part and it becomes a little bit more generic and less interesting, but as far as popcorn movies go, this is was lot better than one might have expected expect (especially considering the blandness of the original character from the comics) and more enjoyable than most of the stuff that Hollywood tends to regurgitate during the summer season… and in my humble opinion, better than some of the over the top and much-too-messy latest output from Marvel.

7.0/10

OTHER REVIEWS: 

thor

Green Lantern 

Tron: Legacy

The Avengers

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3 Responses to Captain America – Review

  1. Markus says:

    I agree! I enjoyed Thor but I loved this one even more!

  2. Russell says:

    Great review, spot on!

    I loved Captain America! I thought that this was one of my favourite films this year, right next to Thor, and this delivered on every level.

    The film makers definitely stayed true to the origin and made sure that they took their time to make sure that it covered all the bases.

    Captain America is a symbol for his country, meant to inspire people to achieve the best that they can, and at the same time, living as an ideal.

    Chris Evans was awesome as Cap, I think we can all forget about Johnny Storm now!

    I have a full review at http://www.cnmnetwork.com.au, if you’re interested.

    Cheers, and thanks for posting!

  3. Pingback: The Avengers – Review « MovieGeekBlog

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