Saturday, July 23, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Review


Marvel Studios has defiantly made a name for itself in the movie business. Starting out of the gate with the immensely entertaining Iron Man, Marvel has garnered not only commercial success, but also wide acclaim from both film goers and critics. As of right now, not a single Marvel produced adventure has failed to disappoint the box office, the fans, or the critics. Marvel has proven to be one of the top contenders in the film business right now, and on a personal note, Marvel has entertained and satisfied me 100% of the time. Captain America could indeed be the movie that shatters Marvel’s record. Everyone has a different idea of how Captain America should be. Is he is own character, or is simply a conduit for American idealism? If it is the latter, what is America’s idealism today as opposed to yesterday? No one person can agree on what good old Cap represents, which is why Captain America: The First Avenger is such a gamble.

Captain America takes place (mostly) during World War II and focuses on a sickly, scrawny young man named Steven Rogers. Rogers is a genuinely good man who only wants to do his part in the war against the Nazis. Short, skinny, meek and asthmatic, Rogers is constantly declared unfit for duty. Rogers is a determined man and refuses to give up. Trying and trying in different cities, Rogers can never seem to catch a break. That is until Dr. Abraham Erskine discovers the young man and recruits him for a cutting edge experiment, creating a Super Soldier. Rogers is not strong, but his courage, determination, compassion and fortitude make him the ideal man to become Captain America.

Captain America is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in a long time. It’s not like Marvel’s other movies. Captain America is, in a way, more of a homage to the classic adventure movies of the past like Indiana Jones and the Rocketeer than it is a super hero movie. It’s refreshing to see a new take on the idea of what a super hero movie should be, but also refreshing to see a movie that captures certain nostalgia and sense of wonder that those movies once incorporated. Captain American is a classic film. Old school adventure at its finest. The cinematography, the production design, the music, all of it incorporates traditional, tried and true methods that not only invoke the aforementioned nostalgia, but also sets Captain America apart from its peers. All of this elements combine together to give Captain America a timeless feel, even in its 1940s timeline. No other Marvel movie can make such a claim.

Captain America also boasts an absolutely scintillating cast. Chris Evans brings sincerity to the role of Steve Rogers. The filmmakers wisely chose to make Steve Rogers a character rather than make him a representation of current American or global opinions. They do not make any type of high minded statement, which is good, because nobody wants to hear about it anyways. Though some may complain that Cap is a “Mary Sue,” I do not see that as a bad thing. I personally find Cap to be an absolutely inspiring character. He is an honest, genuinely good man who has a seemingly unbreakable will. His nemesis, The Red Skull played by Hugo Weaving, is not dissimilar. He is also determined with an unbreakable will. The Red Skull is a fascinating character. He is not quite as complex as he could have been, but he is also not as villainous as he may seem. He is the epitome of The Magnificent Bastard. He is cold, calculating, and driven to his own pursuits. He is also not afraid to step right in the middle of the battlefield and kick ass. Hugo Weaving not only delivers an absolutely brilliant performance, he also skillfully handles the German accent. If I didn’t know any better, I would think he actually was German. It’s that good. Rounding out the cast is Tommy Lee Jones providing some big laughs as the no nonsense Colonel of the US Military and head of the special division that turn Rogers into Captain America. The dollish Haley Atwell portrays Steve’s love interest, and she is most captivating. She is incredibly talented and is not hyper sexualized either. Then there is of course the secondary cast like Sebastian Stan as Bucky, Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, and Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan. Many of these characters play fairly small roles, but they play their parts brilliantly.

Of course, what is a Marvel movie without action? Captain America is indeed action packed, and in my opinion, it has some of the best action in Marvel’s resume. The Incredible Hulk still remains the top dog in the action extravaganza category, but Captain America is a close second. The action is exciting and choreographed well. I was disappointed in both Iron Man movies and Thor for never really hitting the action heights they should have, but Captain America reaches that point. The climatic fight between Cap and Red Skull is the ultimate testament for the film’s high level of exciting action and its great imagination.

Captain America may have loads of action, but not at the expense of emotion. The story has a lot of emotional ups and downs. From comedy to tragedy, Captain America does not let one emotion go untouched. The humor is genuinely funny. At times, the audience was laughing so hard that nobody heard some of the follow up jokes. The ending itself is tragic enough to get you a choked up. Not too much though, which is too bad, because the scene really did demand more than what was provided. Considering most movies today would not even attempt to give us what we got, it’s still a win.

As much fun there is too had with Captain America, it has some flaws. The pace and flow of the movie is choppy after the halfway point. Sometimes it felt like we were entering action scenes in the middle rather than right at the beginning. The editing is occasionally a little wacky, and some moments of the film a little rushed. I give the movie props for not being as reliant on CG as most movies have become lately, but there are occasions where practical effects could have been used instead of CG, and usually the CG is kind of bad. It was great seeing actual built sets in a movie again, but less CG is always best in terms of immersion.

Captain America is my favorite movie of the summer. It is a well written and well-crafted film that has very few missteps. It close the pre-Avengers Marvel movies out with a bang, and offers the most fun film going experience I have had the pleasure of enjoying in a very long time. They do not make movies like Captain America often, which is why it is so fantastic. It’s a movie that dares to buck the new Hollywood traditions and rely on more than just fast cuts, CGI, and a Hans Zimmer-esque score. Captain America: The First Avenger is about as classic and vintage as movies get. It is an ode to the great adventure movies of yesteryear that some movies buffs crave to see again. Captain America may be the last we see of movies like this, but at least they went out with a bang.

I give Captain America a 9.5 out 10.

PROS

A return to classic filmmaking

Homage to old school adventure films

Timeless atmosphere

WWII setting sets it apart from other super hero flicks

Great take on Captain America as a character

Fantastic Cast

Great cinematography and production design

Astronomically entertaining; most fun of the Marvel movies

Many effects were done practically, which is rare these days

Red Skull is a great villain (if a bit simple)

Laugh out loud humor without being silly

USO Montage was very entertaining

Haley Atwell. Nuff said.

Did I mention how much fun it was?

CONS

Pace and flow are little messed up

One too many montages

Less than flawless editing

CGI used unnecessarily at times

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