Friday, July 29, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving 
(Rated PG-13)

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Reviewers Note: I saw this movie with a headache and a screaming baby in the audience. Without those distractions it may actually get the other half-star.

Having seen every comic book superhero movie this summer, I can say for certain this is the best. It really sets the standard for superhero movies that double as period pieces. There's no flying or x-ray vision here, its just good old-fashioned ass kicking.

The plot is completely revealed by the trailers. Any half-hearted comic book fan knows exactly what to expect from the plot, so its the execution that interests me.

Joe Johnston doesn't rush his story. He lets his characters develop gradually, befitting a true WWII epic. There's a certain point in the film when I thought the credits would roll and I'd have to see the sequel to satisfy all my questions. That point was actually about halfway through the film. No stone is left unturned, we see the daily routine of the captain from his recruitment until his epic showdown. This is not an empty character, every decision Captain America makes can be traced back to some event earlier in the film.

There's a lot of realistic WWII scenes in this film. Contradictorily, there is also a lot of subtle surrealism. Everything is bigger than it should be, perhaps its a nod to the transformation of Steve Rogers. The tanks look like authentic WWII tanks, but they are cartoonishly big. The same can be said for the weapons plants, the airplanes and the guns. After Cap'n destroys all but one enemy facility, the villain gathers his remaining troops. There is a wide-angle reveal that tells us his remaining troops apparently number in the millions. When a person gets shot by an enemy weapon he doesn't bleed, he simply disintegrates. Its almost like the tripod's attack from Spielberg's War of The Worlds. Everything is just a little bigger than it needs to be, which to me, truly captures the essence of comic books.

The three leading actors all do a commendable job. Chris Evans delivers one-liners in a true classic hollywood style. He takes something cheesy, and makes it sexy.

 We've came a long way baby.

Hugo Weaving is the best comic book villain depicted on screen this year as Red Skull. In movie terms, a hero is only as good as his villain. Weaving pulls off the role of insane rogue Nazi perfectly. He seems completely happy with his own madness.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a cookie cutter role as the stern, but fair, Col. Chester Phillips. He was the best choice for this role. A great delivery like Jones' always makes recycled dialogue sound better. 

Like every "pre-avenger" movie, there's a scene after the end credits. This one doesn't disappoint. Finally we get to see the whole Avengers gang together in the same frame. I'm a lot more hopeful for the upcoming Avengers movie after this terrific film.


  1. This movie captures the the spirit of not only Captain America, but the spirit of a people who were ready to make the sacrafices necessary for freedom. I can understand why cynical critics would recoil at Captain America as a symbol in this move. But this is a testament to the movie, which shows the true depth of the character in a very realistic way