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August 16, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Captain America: The First Avenger


Lately, Marvel has been a bit slap-dash with the comics. Thor was a giant, beefcake-obsessed letdown, while The Incredible Hulk, Edward-Norton style, had good intentions but no zing in the scriptwriting. Captain America: The First Avenger takes us back to the good old days of superheroes, before a new-age Hispanic/African-American Spiderman even existed. Those were the days when you could always count on the skinny white guy to think that staying in a losing fight was the bravest and smartest option to take.

Marvel seems to have a generic list of credentials rolled out for each movie they create, and this is no exception. The standard beefcake role is filled by Chris Evans, while tortured love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) hangs around in a conspicuously all-male background. The role of over-the-top bad guy belongs to Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving in a Darth Maul look-a-like contest), and there are an abundance of scenes where CGI does a better job creating atmosphere than the people it’s green-screening.

As far as plot goes, Captain America covers all the birth-of-the-superhero storyline elements we’ve seen in all the other Marvel movies. Beginning in 1942 at the height of World War II, tiny white man Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is denied acceptance into the U.S. Army for the fifth time. He’s a good guy though, who tells annoying jerks in cinemas to shut up, and then gets pummelled for his troubles. When kooky scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (the ever-pleasant Stanley Tucci) hand-picks Rogers for a special military experiment, Rogers suddenly becomes Mr. Beefcake and we have our superhero sans his rather pansy costume. The costume itself evolves in a suitably pansy way, but it certainly makes for an interesting backstory that doesn’t advance the plot in any way. While Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) was initially a sceptic of the skinny-white-guy experiment, he is gradually coerced into utilising his muscled messiah like any sensible military commander would; send a prized research project into high-danger areas and watch him ram his way out again.

These tiny threads of a plot string together as Johann Schmidt slowly morphs into super-bad guy the Red Skull. His transformation is all due to a similar strength-boosting experiment gone horribly wrong. We don’t need to feel sorry for him though, because Schmidt is a Nazi working in a top-secret operation called Hydra. Simply attributing his heightened thirst for destruction to abuse of medical research is an easy way to skip hours of, you know, character construction. This does, however, leave the audience with a rather empty picture of evil; Weaving has a dandy old time stomping about, with his plausible German accent and his Agent Smith snarl, but the audience is left with a cold desire to see Schmidt simply removed from the picture rather than shot, exploded or pummelled out of it.

Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell also do a credible job with a slow-burning romance. The scriptwriters made a wise choice to keep the lustiness on the back burner, although there is one moment in this film where you do fear Atwell’s breasts may just shoot through the screen and knock you out. In that respect, so much of this film seems hyper-real; Evans’ massive torso, Weaving’s super-evil character, Atwell’s knock-em’-dead figure. In this aspect, the CGI goes against the norm: Captain America doesn’t overindulge in special effects like Green Lantern seems to be doing. I should also note that Captain America cleverly saves certain elements of the superhero-movie genre for maximum impact, featuring only one major superhero moment of flying through the air in slow-motion while something explodes in the background. For long-time Marvel fans, several sections of the film allude to the way it will eventually tie-in with the Marvel comic, including a regular appearance by Howard Stark (the father of Iron Man’s Tony Stark) played by a cocky Dominic Cooper, and allusions to the weird vortex of space-travel covered in Thor.

If you’re looking for a revolutionary superhero story, you won’t find it here. Captain America: The First Avenger is solid fun, but it’s not a mind-bending experience, especially since it has a specific goal in mind. With a likely slew of Marvel movies to follow this one, Captain America feels like a 124-minute running start to The Avengers movie (or movies). It’s no wonder really, given the ‘First Avenger’ title almost pokes you in the eye with its obvious tie-in.

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. CMrok93 / Aug 17 2011 8:17 AM

    In the era of the tortured superhero in movies, it’s refreshing to come across one with enthusiasm and a pure spirit. Good Review! Check out my site whenever you can!

    • Siobhan Argent / Aug 17 2011 9:32 AM

      Enthusiasm is certainly the right word!

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