Sunday, July 24, 2011

Movies: Captain America - The First Avenger

Courageous, clever, and compassionate, Steve Rogers is everything the U.S. Army is looking for in the dark days of WWII...except that he's an asthmatic, 98-pound shrimp. By sheer luck, however, Rogers crosses paths with Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist who has developed a serum that turns men into super-soldiers. When the Nazi deep science division known as Hydra threatens the safety of the world, Rogers is pressed into battle - as Captain America:

"Captain America: The First Avenger" is actually the first time Cap has truly made it to the big screen in the U.S. In some ways, that's not surprising - Captain America has always been a little two-dimensional, especially for a Marvel superhero. Steve Rogers knows where he came from, knows what he's supposed to do, and usually doesn't have any doubt about who's good and who's bad.

The movie is no different - while Chris Evans gives Cap earnestness and likeability (through some gentle, non-cynical wisecracks and several scenes worth of aw-shucks dialogue), we never learn much about Steve except that he wants to help America win the war; you don't see where he lives or what he does for a day job. Director Joe Johnston (who helmed "The Rocketeer," another WWII-era superhero flick) deliberately paints Steve Rogers with a broad brush ("I'm just a kid from Brooklyn"), and helps keep Captain America as the Everyman symbol he was intended to be.

Sometimes this approach backfires. In many scenes, the admittedly big-name character actors dominate, and make Captain America the least interesting persona in his own movie. Tommy Lee Jones chews scenery as a gruff colonel, Hugo Weaving slips into Agent Smith-world-destroying mode for his turn as Red Skull, and Stanley Tucci injects Dr. Erskine with fatherly faith.

There are also parts of the movie that feel forced. Hayley Atwell plays a gorgeous British intelligence officer, and I heard multiple groans when she strode across a battlefield firing a Tommygun, hair perfectly coiffed and ruby red lipstick perfectly applied. Similarly, Rogers' band of "Dirty Dozen" commandoes is conspicuously multiethnic, and the Holocaust is never mentioned. All in all, though, this is a crowd-pleasing square-jawed superhero movie, and easily the best adaptation of Captain America ever made.

Rating: 7/10


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