Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Senor Americano

As the first test case regarding my newfound enjoyment of Marvel Comic super hero movies post-Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger posed a difficult conundrum for me… sure I’ve come to accept the fact that Marvel has been pumping out some wonderfully fun and exciting movies in it’s run towards The Avengers, but how would a movie based in the 1940’s not only make it’s way to the 21st century but manage to not come across as cheesy and down right silly?  How can a movie about a World War II super hero battling Nazis not flounder in its own earnestness in this age of cynicism and deep rooted irony?  I don’t know how the hell they did it… but Captain America: The First Avenger avoided all of its inherent pitfalls and pulled off yet another rollicking and fun filled two hour adventure that left me eager for more and helped to ratchet up anticipation for the aforementioned Avengers film.

Like many other comic book franchises, I knew close to nothing about Captain America.  My understanding was that he punched Hitler, fought Nazis and had a shield.  I didn’t think he had any “powers” per se… simply that his patriotism and heroics were enough to see him through battle.  Perhaps that is the case when it comes to the comics… but I can only speak with regards to the film.  As the movie opens, we are in the current day (only obvious based on the technology being used) in what appears to be the Arctic.  A team has found something in the ice and is in the midst of investigating it when they discover a shield inside… the familiar red, white and blue shield of the Capitan.

Flash back to 1942 and we are introduced to a scrawny, short little fellow by the name of Steve Rogers… Chris Evans’ face CGIed onto the body of what appears to be an anorexic adolescent.  It’s an odd effect, yet after a while, I completely buy into it.  Steve wants nothing more than to join all of the other young men heading off to war and has applied at five different recruiting offices, only to be rejected as 4F at each one.

Meanwhile… we are given a glimpse of our enemy and the enemy’s MacGuffin .  The enemy is known as Johann Schmidt… aka, The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving… is it that far of a stretch going from Agent Smith to Herr Schmidt?), who discovers a glass/ice cube of power in Norway that came from Asgard itself, harking back to Thor and the various wonders in Odin’s temple (the first of many tie ins with The Avengers).  With this “power of the gods”, Schmidt makes various plans to dominate the world… and in a clever little twist, Schmidt heads the Nazi division known as Hydra… the science/magic side of the Fuhrer’s domain… but Hitler grows weary of Schmidt’s plans and is thus cast off by The Red Skull for being a faithless bureaucratic pussy… therefore, Hydra, as headed by The Red Skull, is more evil and chock full of bad assitude than those wussy Nazis.  They even change their salute to “Heil Hydra” with a flourish of double fisted thrusts in the air.  Sooooo bad.

Back in the U. S. of A., Steve Rogers has been selected by a nice German doctor (Stanley Tucci) to participate in a “super soldier” program designed to turn the weak into the strong… but specifically to amplify the inherent qualities of a person.  Rogers is good… amplified, he is super good… and tall… and buff… and suddenly attractive to all members of the opposite sex.  The American MacGuffin in this case is a serum, designed by the good doctor in conjunction with Howard Stark Industries (yep… Tony’s grandfather in yet another tie in for The Avengers).

After taking the serum, the action kicks in.  Immediately, Rogers attempts to thwart the bad guys who have infiltrated the lab and stolen a vial of the serum in a wonderful chase scene culminating in an underwater single man submarine fight and the birth of Captain America.

From this point, the plot thickens as the military brass (Tommy Lee Jones playing Tommy Lee Jones) decide the best place for their Captain America is not on the battle field, where Steve truly wants to be, but on the USO tour selling war bonds.  For a while the little song and dance number selling bonds works… but after performing in front of war hardened men in Italy and being booed off stage… the Captain decides to stop being their trained monkey and decides to win the war… and from there… a hero is born.

A fantastic story arc… incredible pacing… an honest and non-ironic performance from Chris Evans… great supporting cast… Hugo Weaving chewing more scenery and glowering as the baddie… Captain America delivers on all fronts.  Plus, clever and intelligent twists throughout.  I went in somewhat skeptical… I walked out a believer.

One last point… make sure you stick around until the end of the credits.  There is essentially a trailer for The Avengers that ties everything together and seems to be the first step to awesome action.

Nice tights buddy,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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