“I’m just a kid from Brooklyn”
Sigh. Another superhero movie this summer? This will have been the fourth major superhero movie this summer and by this point most of us are tired of it. The only shot Captain America has this summer is doing something different than its other competition by giving us an experience we haven’t seen this summer. Luckily Captain America does just that. The movie is a period film set in the 1940s that also tries to feel like the serials that were popular at the time. The movie has a very old school feel to it which separates it from its competition, but can its retro style really make it one of the better films of the summer?
As I stated above; the movie is set in the 1940s and we begin the film by seeing a Nazi named Johann Schmidt(Hugo Weaving) as he is looking for a powerful object in Norway. He ends up finding the cosmic cube(last seen in the post credits scene of Thor) that is apparently a source of limitless power. From here we get to meet Steve Rogers(Chris Evans) who has just been rejected from the army yet another time. We see that he is a person filled with perseverance, courage, selflessness, and most of all a love for his country. Fortune smiles on Steve when a defect German scientist named Abraham Erskine(Stanley Tucci) hears him giving a speech about why he wants to join the army. Erskine sees that Steve has the qualities that his project needs to succeed so he allows Steve to join the army and go into basic training. Eventually Steve makes it into the project and and is transformed into the man we know as Captain America. Johann Schmidt eventually reveals himself as the Red Skull and breaks away from Hitler’s Nazi regime. The movie plays out very much like an old school adventure movie in the same vein of Raiders of the Lost Ark or more recently The Mummy. All of that being said one must go into the film understanding that its ok for the film to have a 2-dimensional villain, done before story, and slightly over the top feel to it. Its all the style that the film decided to follow. While the story is simple and even a little generic; its still good fun that definitely works in the film’s favor.
The First Avenger may not be the most character driven film to graze the big screen this summer, but it does do a pretty good job at developing Steve Rogers as the main character while still making the supporting cast memorable if a little bit underdeveloped. The film is about Steve Rogers and his character works rather well. Sure he may seem like a good ol’ boy at first but it is pretty interesting to see a guy who is used to being a weak and ill looking guy to a man that is ripped and statures over most other people. It is entertaining to see him interact with women because he is used to being ignored, but is hit on by several other women. It is the small quirky things like this that make Steve a fun and interesting character with some real depth. Other than Steve we get a really entertaining(if underdeveloped) supporting cast made up of Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Duggan. These characters all play important roles in bringing Steve to become Captain America and even though they aren’t excatly fleshed out; they are memorable which is what counts in a summer blockbuster of this nature.
Another thing that is really great about Captain America is how it ties into the marvel film universe(Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor). Captain America was the missing piece to the puzzle as it reveals quite a bit of backstory on the universe as a whole. There have been several references throughout these films to things like the super solider, the cosmic cube, or the arc energy reactor that all get some light shed on them here. Its not a huge deal to people who are just now checking out the Marvel film universe films, but for those of us who have been following all of them it is a really nice touch. I have to commend marvel on how the mythology seamlessly interweaves itself into the story of Captain America. We have seen how the incorporation of the extra Marvel things can hurt a movie(Iron Man 2), and Marvel does not repeat itself again.
When Joe Johnston was announced to direct I’ll admit that I was pretty nervous. He has had a pretty sketchy record making some great movies like October Sky and Hidalgo while making some otherwise terrible movies like Jurassic Park 3 and The Wolfman. It was nice to see that my worries did not come true and he did deliver a really fun, entertaining, great looking, and adventure driven 1940s period piece. The movie goes back to the basics of special effects as it uses more practical effects than almost any other movie I’ve seen this summer and it pulls off the special effects sequences masterfully. Sure some of the scenes were over the top, but it was all part of the fun. The cinematography is another interesting point of the film because of how it uses many of the same camera techniques as serials from the 1930s. It all plays into the style that the film is trying to establish. Like many things in the movie; I think the decision to follow the same style of the old serials benefits the 1940s setting and feel of the movie. I applaud Joe Johnston for being able to bring such an energetic spirit to the retro style the film used.
Overall I think Captain America: The First Avenger is a really good old fashioned adventure movie that will certainly entertain audiences and please fanboys. The retro style may turn some viewers off, but I believe that it truly adds to the 1940s setting and represents how people remember the 1940s. Captain America may not be the best super hero movie to come out this summer, but it is a unique and entertaining one that most viewers will at least enjoy. Sure the characters aren’t the most developed and the story isn’t the most original, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some fun to be had. Overall I’d say it was a solid entree to the Marvel Film Universe and the superhero genre in general. It still doesn’t quite match up to the first Iron Man, but as far as the Marvel films go it is second only to Iron Man.
The story for Captain America is simple enough. There is an underdog who gets a chance to be something other than just a puny kid from Brooklyn, and there is a bad guy that he will eventually have to stop who is trying to destroy the planet. Nothing new. Thats ok because the film does a great job at executing the simple story and they even manage to make the entire Marvel Film Universe feel more whole because of some of the backstory that is revealed to the universe.
The movie isn’t exactly the most character driven movie, but it does a great job with making the main character interesting and likable. Chris Evans was more than capable to play the good ol’ boy turned hero. There is a strong supporting cast that makes their characters memorable even if they don’t get a ton of screen time. In the end the movie is ultimately about Steve Rogers and to that character the film succeeds.
Joe Johnson does a terrific job at bringing a really cool retro style to the movie. He is able to make the 1940s look and feel just how most Americans remember it as well as spice it up with some modern touches. The cinematography reflects the style of the movie as it captures the look of old serials.
Overall Effectiveness of the Film: 8.5
The movie is able to bring Captain America to the big screen successfully by making his character quirky and likable as well as create an entertaining and semi-real 1940s style. The movie has several references to all of the past Marvel films which makes the entire universe feel more cohesive and whole now that the story of Captain America has been told. The movie never fails to be fun and entertaining with its slightly over the top action, cleverly written dialog, and memorable characters. The movie simply just works. Its a good old fashioned summer blockbuster which is something that theaters don’t see much anymore these days with all of the flashy and expensive CGI driven films that have become successful.
Overall Score: 8.5
P.S. Make sure and stay after the credits; this is definitely not one you’ll want to miss.