Captain America: The First Avenger Might Be The Best
They got it right. Anyone who saw Joe Johnston’s work in The Rocketeer knew he would deliver the goods here, and boy, does he. Captain America is an earnest old-school charmer of an action hero flick, giving us top-drawer effects, actions, and star quality. In short, it’s everything a summer comic book movie should be. It’s neither dark and brooding, nor is it ironically wisecracking and self-effacing. It simply believes that a man with a good heart who wants to be a hero can be the best leader of them all. Perhaps that’s a little too sincere for a cynical movie audience, but for me, this was easily the best superhero movie of 2011.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has the heart of a warrior. He stands up for what’s right, isn’t afraid to fight someone bigger than him, and has a kind disposition. He is hungry to go to World War II and fight some Nazis. Problem: he is a 98 pound weakling with asthma and almost no muscle strength whatsoever. However, Dr. Irskine (Stanley Tucci) finds a use for him. He has developed a super-soldier serum for turning regular soldiers into the ultimate fighting machines. With Dr. Irskine, weapons developer Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), military officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and grizzled colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) all with a part to play, Rogers is transformed from weakling to stud in a matter of minutes.
Unfortunately, there is one other person with super-soldier serum in their blood: Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). He heads up HYDRA, a group working for the Nazis whose primary goal is to harness mystical powers for weaponry to aid global domination. Schmidt locates a cube rumored to have been from the gods, and with the help of his chief scientist Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), they convert the energy into guns and bombs designed to destroy the world. So he’s a super soldier with super brains and super weapons… and the only one who can stop him is the former weakling with no military training. Using a tactical unit composed of his friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke), and more, Rogers goes about destroying HYDRA bases and looking for Schmidt as the propaganda symbol, Captain America.
Evans has made a career of playing the wisecracking smartass, and I had my doubts that he would pull this type of role off, but my doubts were alleviated after maybe five minutes. He commits to an earnest delivery, but he’s never boring– his straight honest delivery still has an energy to it. Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci at this point both qualify as national treasures, as they always are welcome presences in any film. Hugo Weaving and Toby Jones make for a terrific villainous duo, and while the final big showdown between Rogers and Schmidt isn’t a classic, they’re clearly worthy adversaries for one another. The other real standout is Hayley Atwell, previously unknown to me, who is the perfect balance of military toughness and sexy pin-up girl. There have been many scenes in movie history where an actress walks into a bar and everyone turns their head, and I always think, “In a real bar, people wouldn’t behave this way.” When Atwell walks into the bar in this film… you believe it.
The effects are some of the best of the summer, stylized but fully engrossing. The combat is great, and while one or two fight montages go a little too quickly for my liking, it’s still great fun. The music in the film is patriotic and bombastic, one of the best scores so far this year. The ending is pretty abrupt, as if the movie ended right where the Avengers film will start– it’s not like Back to the Future, where the music swells and we get an iconic final shot, it just ends. However, that’s nitpicky. This movie stands out from the rest of the pack because it’s not a reluctant hero– Rogers looks for the good fight and isn’t afraid of death. He’s the most conventionally likable hero in a superhero film since Christopher Reeve, and he’s a welcome addition to this summer’s otherwise disappointing pantheon of hero flicks. God bless the USA, and God bless those who made this film the way it deserved to be made.
~ by russellhainline on July 31, 2011.
Posted in Film Reviews
Tags: Adolf Hitler, Arnim Zola, Avenger, Avengers, Bruce Banner, Bucky, Captain America, Captain America: The First Avenger, Chris Evans, Derek Luke, Hawkeye, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, HYDRA, Joe Johnston, Loki, Marvel Comics, Marvel films, Neal McDonough, Nick Fury, Peggy Carter, Red Skull, S.H.I.E.L.D., Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, SHIELD, Stanley Tucci, Steve Rogers, superhero films, Thor, Toby Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, World War Two