Sunday 7 August 2011

Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Year: 2011
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci

Synopsis is here:

Captain America brought a warming sensation to me after I watched it. Here is a movie that is just as earnest as Tree of Life, but this is no art-house feature. No, this is a comic book movie in which you'd think some audiences  are probably getting slightly tired of seeing. There's the origin story here, the fresh faced hero there and everything else that comes pre packaged with these marvel flicks.

The interesting prospect here is that this not only a film that feels more well rounded than some of it's brothers and sisters (although it clearly has an eye on the upcoming avengers movie next year), but the films innocence in it's portrayal of it's character and the telling of his plight is so fresh at a time where we're now seeing all our heroes being "dark" "gritty" and more importantly, cynical. I won't be surprised if the biggest defenders of the Transformers movies sneer at the old fashioned aw shucks nature of the Capts exploits, but there's something joyfully upstanding seeing this heroes pluck over the wise ass antics of Sam Witwicky or even The Dark Knights angst.

The reason the film work for me is that the storytelling, set pieces and cast were as straight forward as the Captain himself. It's a shame that the spectacle aren't as big or memorable as one would have hoped, but that's not really the point. Here we're given a righteous and mature hero who is willing to pull us through his adventure. His guts are what makes the character raise above so many of the reluctant protagonists that have plodded through their tales, generally being told what to do and how to do it. The fact that Captain America places his life in his own hands as much as he does is invigorating. It helps that Chris Evans' honest and hopeful portrayal of the character is one that Henry Cavill and the DC camp may do well with pinching. Evans sells truth, justice and the american way well. He also sells some decent chemistry with the spunky Hayley Atwell whose role of love interest is part of her but doesn't define her (compare her character to poor Blake Lively's in Green Lantern) . Although she and the some of the supporting cast (a criminally wasted Neal McDonough) don't get enough time to truly show themselves off.

It is a shame that despite all the good that the Capt does, with the wonderful sepia toned 1940's setting and Joe Johnston's pulpy execution of it all, that the Captain's villain isn't as villainous as he is virtuous. Due to the Captain's commitments to The Avengers movie we get an evil doer whose more of a figurehead than a fully formed character.The Red Skull has the right look and actor (A delectably scene chewing Weaving) behind him but hardly any anything else. We sense Captain Americas heart and by the films last words I was right behind him However will it comes to the evil he has to face I was severely underwhelmed. I understand that this is the beginnings of a regime that should be more evil than the Nazis, but why don't we see it? They have the power but there's very little demonstration. But then I say this about a film that has two montages of Captain America  in action to substitute more intricate set pieces. Why? Because Capt's big film will be The Avengers. With such a cloud looming over the film we see a Captain America film that shoots from the hip but is also streamlined due to other commitments.

It seems that much of what Matt Singer (IFC) says is right. Marvel seem far to bothered about what's next to truly invest on the singular efforts. This is not to say that Captain America isn't good. It's bold, brash, old serial way of film making is refreshing and fun and I can't say I didn't leave with a smile on my face (I even didn't mind it in 3D and that says a lot)  The problem is Marvels constant Brand pushing short changes a film which is entertaining on its own right.  Unfortunately the movie is held back from truly being the best it can be. Captain America himself, really would expect more.