The most endearing, hard working, honest and true superhero of probably all the superheroes, Captain America, finally gets his due in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. Because you know when Captain America throws his mighty shield, all those who chose to oppose his shield must yield. You did know that, right? So we settle down in our far too small megaplex seat… far too small… to see if Chris Evans can ably follow in the footsteps set forth before him by Reb Brown and Matt Salinger. If he can’t, then we are in a heckuva lot of trouble.
In a nifty bit of CGI trickery, we are introduced to the small, frail and sickly Steve Rogers as played by Chris Evans who I think we all know is the antithesis of all of those things. All Steve wants to do is serve his country in World War II, just like his best mate Bucky (Sebastian Stan), but he is small, frail and sickly and ‘4F’ should probably be his middle name.
Then one fateful day during another attempt at the recruitment office, Steve catches the attention of German scientist Abraham Eskrine (Stanley Tucci) who has selected Steve to take part of a special program. The man in charge of this program, Colonel Chester Phillips, played with the kind of bitter comic timing that only Tommy Lee Jones could provide, doesn’t know why Dr. Eskrine picked this tiny asthmatic to be in his program, much less be the doc’s prime choice to be the number one guinea pig for this program, but the doc has his valid reasons. Steve has also made the acquaintance of pretty British agent Lt. Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) who is increasingly impressed with Steve, his heart, his honesty and his passion for justice. Though I don’t think she was willing to actually date him until he grew eight inches and gained ninety pounds of solid muscle which will happen… right about… NOW!
The reason we need this super soldier, codenamed Captain America (tragically Steve will be the only one), is because of Eskrine’s first failed experiment on nutty Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), the director of the Nazi Scientific Program HYDRA
and a man we will come to know affectionately as The Red Skull. You see, The Red Skull has gone and harnessed the power of the Cosmic Cube and without getting all into the Cosmic Cube and what it’s capable of, this isn’t good. Skully is so out of control that even the Nazi’s want him stopped, not that this is going to happen because the loon has started his own double fisted, goose-stepping operation set on world domination, and he has the stuff to make this happen.
That is if Captain America and the Howling Commandos don’t step in to make some less than subtle adjustments to the Red Skull’s plan. Actually they were known as Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos back in the day, but that kind of wouldn’t work here. Regardless, Cap and his crew will do what they can, and then some to stop The Red Skull’s nefarious plan… though not all of our heroes will make it. Like Captain America. The movie kind of opens with him frozen in the North Pole so that’s totally not a spoiler.
So as this movie ends my friend Desmond asks me, after I unfold myself out of that ridiculously small and uncomfortable movie seat, what I thought about this movie. I replied with ‘It was damn good’, to which the young man behind me, who I don’t know but yet he felt comfortable enough to chime on somebody else’s conversation, came in with ‘Damn good? It was FREAKING AWESOME!!!’ He scared me a little bit. Plus I had been sitting stationary for about two and a half hours after drinking a sixty ounce diet Pepsi and had some business to take care of, otherwise I would’ve loved to have engaged that nutjob in conversation. But ‘Captain America’ was a damn good movie. Probably the best Superhero movie of the 2011 summer of the Superhero, though I did enjoy ‘X-Men: First Class’ and awful lot as well.
‘Captain America’ is a bit of a throwback, and this is meant as no insult, but he is truly a simpler, less complex superhero. No brooding, depressed Dark Knights, the overt racism of the X-men is absent, there are no intergalactic space police to deal with, conflicted gods with Daddy complexes are missing, as are arrogant, self absorbed billionaires with drinking problems though his dad is around lending assistance. Though all those other superhero films worked just fine in the way they were presented, here we have Captain America trying his best to do what’s right and Director Joe Johnston and his team did a marvelous job in capturing the feel of this perceived simpler time. There were a lot of issues that this movie could’ve gotten into if it so chose… heck, they even minimized the Nazi involvement in this WWII era movie since the Red Skull went all rogue and stuff, but apparently this was not the venue for that.
Another thing that worked well for ‘Captain America’ was the emphasis placed on character, though the action was still plentiful and decently presented. Chris Evans brought a lot of humble humility to the character of Steve Rogers and Captain America, we already mentioned Tommy Lee Jones and his curmudgeonly dry humor and Hayley Atwell found a way to be far more than a distressed damsel with an impressive figure and a cute accent. Even Hugo Weaving found a way to bring a special type of megalomaniacal lunacy to the character of the Red Skull, with other fine actors such as Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark and Derek Luke filling in the lines. Every once in a while though, Dominic would let that accent of his slip through.
Similar to the ‘X-Men’ movie I found a lot of the action to be rote and repetitious, paling when sided along the human and character aspects of the film, but this could also be attributed to the fact that I’m getting old and explosions just don’t do it for me anymore. But beyond that I couldn’t find much to criticize this movie as far as a piece of entertainment.
Can we finally put 1990’s Captain America in the rear view mirror? Oh good heavens no. This movie isn’t nearly as good as that movie was bad, but as far as high quality superhero entertainment goes, ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ is a winner. And the ‘Avengers’ can almost only disappoint.
Oh, and film critics at their screeners got totally played and didn’t get the bonus post credit ‘Avengers’ teaser.