My Ten Cents On: Captain America: The First Avenger

The penultimate Avengers flick has finally hit the big screen. We’ve been waiting a long time for this series to reach its incredibly awesome climax, and with this movie, its cemented in our heads that we’re just a step away from what promises to be the biggest attempt Marvel has ever made on the big screen, (whether it will work or not, we shall see).

The movie is set in World War II, and follows the story of Steve Rogers, a young, small, weak guy with a lot of heart. He wants to serve his country, but time and time again is rejected because of his physical stature, until he’s chosen for a top-secret government program which basically uses the combination of steroids and flashy electrical lights to turn him into the world’s first super-soldier, and he goes off to Europe and fights in the war. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. So without anything else coming off of the top of my head, lets take a look at Captain America: The First Avenger.

+ Supporting Cast

I have to give major props to the supporting cast of this flick. Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes all provided good performances, as well as Toby Jones. And you know exactly the awesomeness you can get from the likes of Stanely Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones. All in all, these guys were the great frames surrounding the focal points of the movie, namely Cap and the Red Skull.

Like a Boss... in mid-level management

Dominic Cooper was awesome. He was smooth, witty, and had just the right touch of geekiness that made him more believable as a scientific billionaire playboy. Granted he didn’t have as much presence as Robert Downey Jr., (probably because he has a bit of a high voice) but for a supporting role, he did pretty well. Hayley Atwell looked stunning as Peggy Carter and is now my primary argument for why we should bring back the 40’s fashion style. And I don’t even need to reiterate the appeal of the veteran actors Tucci and Jones. They were just awesome in doing what they do best. But I think the reason why they worked so well as characters was because they were able to work with such amazing…

+ Costume and Makeup

Lady in Red is playing in my head, I think this is what Chris De Burgh meant when he wrote that song.

I already told you about how amazing Hayley Atwell looks, and wow, does she look… wow. Anyway, it wasn’t just her, everyone looked like they came out of the 40’s, and the first act of the movie very much felt authentic. (minus the scenes in Howard Stark’s World of Tomorrow, but that was totally fine in there for me) Kudos to the costume, hair and makeup people, you guys rocked it.

+ The Introduction of Captain America

The movie was great at building him up. For one thing, they did a great job with the CG, making a tiny, lanky Chris Evans. It was a little odd, but it looked really well done, very clean. The movie also showed a great ability for story-telling by depicting the struggles he went through in order to become the soldier that he wanted to be. If only they stuck with that throughout the rest of the film, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first time he goes into action, the movie was shot in such a way that he was a soldier in a World War II flick, and it kicked ass. It felt like if one of the Inglorious Basterds was carrying a shield.  A friend of mine told me that he would have wanted Captain America to look like Saving Private Ryan, following a guy with a shield, and I caught glimpses of that initially. It looked great, so I have to give mad props to that. That was pretty cool.

Too bad the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the movie…

Cap would have been more awesome if throughout the movie he was like this...

– The filming after

When he became the real Captain America, the movie suddenly did a 180 with its theme. There were a lot more slow-mo shots, a lot more CGI and they basically fast forward through the rest of the war scenes. I was completely thrown off by this. The first few minutes I’m watching what is a pretty decent modern take on WWII (If the war had super human soldiers and disintegration guns), but later became a CG-fest more typical of a Marvel film, and they transition pretty quickly. It gets to the point that the end feels like a completely different movie, and if you’ve been following my posts, you know that’s a pet peeve of mine.

... rather than this.

– Captain America

Okay, first thing’s first, let me make it clear that I generally don’t like Captain America, even as a comic book character. He’s not much more than a glorified over-patriotic steroid junkie. Not to mention, I find it pretty weird and hard to swallow that the first instinct of a guy with an invincible shield, when fighting guys with machine guns, is to THROW THE SHIELD AWAY. Jeez. I mean really, am I the only one who finds that a pretty distinct flaw in the whole thing?

"Baby, you're pretty, and my pecs can dance, I say we make a great team."

That being said, the fact that this movie is a high-budget blockbuster made that weird little hick even more apparent. It could work for older incarnations, but in this new era of filmmaking so dedicated to “realism”, it just looked kinda stupid. Also When it came to the point that he started throwing his shield around (which came out of nowhere by the way, he just started to throw it in one scene), they became a lot less creative.

He became a shield thrower as compared to a decent athlete and martial artist and stalwart commander. He’s called Captain America and we never even see him captain anyone. Sure, he says he’ll lead the squad, and he’s always in front of them when they’re running, so they establish that he is a leader, but they don’t give his leadership role that much attention in the story. The movie never shows him really giving orders, or put him in a situation where his tactical skill is put to the test. No, he just starts throwing his shield around.

Chris Evans is Chris Evans, nothing new for me, and apart from his physical appeal doesn’t do anything I haven’t seen before.

– The Red Skull

This was the clincher for me, the piece of cinematic fecal matter that I least enjoyed about the movie, if you’ve read my post on the 10 Traits of Highly Effective Villains, you’ll know that, many times, a villain makes or breaks a movie for me. Sadly, the Red Skull broke it for me. I’ll just relate him to my little rubric of traits:

1. Shows that at some point in the movie, he’s more powerful than the Hero? No.

2. Given what advantages he has, uses them to his best ability? No.

3. Cool and memorable defeat? No.

4. Deep character with deep seeded motivations? Rule the world is as bland as they come, so no.

5. Ironic relationship with the Hero? Well, I guess I’ll say yes to this one, only barely. (I won’t spoil this one. :P)

6. Is he calm and composed most of the time? Not really. He’s a bit psycho and even before the climax hits he’s already lost all control.

7. Distinctive and memorable look? I guess you’ll remember a red skull attached to a body, but I don’t recall a single line or image from the movie. Do a Google search for The Red Skull, and try and pick out the one from the movie, I don’t think it’ll be easy for you, so no. (which is why I didn’t put a picture of him. :P)

8. Ruthless Conviction to his goals? Yeah, he had that.

9. Mysterious aspect of his character? Nope, he’s pretty much fleshed out and one-dimensional throughout the whole film.

10. Can you relate with this type of character/or have experiences that seem familiar with this guy? We’ve seen the cookie-cutter, I’ll take over the world villain so often that its lost all strength and evilness to it. So no.

2/10… tsk tsk. that’s not a good score. Sorry Hugo, I loved you in V for Vendetta and as Elrond in LOTR, but no, this wasn’t great. Its not totally your fault (though partly), but a lot of it had to do with the…

– Writing

The characters were not used to their best abilities, that’s for sure. I mean, I know I gave props to the side cast a while ago, but I believe that the way someone acts, and the way his character is used in the scope of the narrative are pretty separate.

I know a couple of my friends were touched by the relationship between Steve and Peggy, and admittedly, Hayley Atwell’s performance made it feel genuinely heartfelt, but the lead up to the whole thing was pretty lack-luster. The romance wasn’t well developed, and the situation leading up to it begs the question, why is there only one girl in the field, and why is she leading the troops to battle with a tiny pistol and in high heels? They didn’t give the movie a good enough excuse to have that scene given the narrative.

Or lets look at Steve and his best friend Bucky, why wasn’t their friendship given more prominence in the film? They were best friends since they were kids, the least I was hoping for was something like Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett had in Pearl Harbor, or like any relationship developed during Band of Brothers. I don’t know, in every WWII movie I’ve seen, its always brought about a sense of suffering and eventual camaraderie from its characters, and this movie squandered a golden opportunity.

My Cent’s Worth: 5/10

Its okay, you’ll get a few kicks out of it, but I hardly think it’ll go down as one of the best movies movies of all time. I doubt it’s even one of the best Marvel movies in this pre-Avengers line-up. A lot more style than substance is what killed this movie’s awesome first act. So yeah, hopefully the 2012 film does a lot better.

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Posted on August 19, 2011, in Film Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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