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Captain America – The First Avenger (A Movie Review)

Captain America - The First Avenger

Captain America – The First Avenger


Starring Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci, Richard Armitage, JJ Field, Kenneth Choi, Bruno Ricci, Natalie Dormer, Amanda Righetti and Samuel L. Jackson.

Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

Directed by Joe Johnston.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  125 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

This summer has been decreed “the season of the superheroes” in multiplexes.  Due to the past popularity of such masked marvels as Spider-Man, Batman, The X-Men and Iron Man, Hollywood is in search of any vigilante who has ever donned tights to fight crime.

Problem is, the major names in comic history have already been done – Superman, Batman, The Hulk, Spider-Man.  Even much of the b-team (The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Wolverine, Daredevil) have been used up.

How many of these guys are left?

The main names of this summer’s superhero blockbusters have all been lesser lights: Thor, The X-Men (yet again), The Greens (Green Hornet and Green Lantern) and this anachronistic character.

Captain America is the best film of the four.  Still, you have to wonder if his film is really necessary.

Captain America the movie takes place during World War II and the movie is old-fashioned, square and earnest.  And yet, in its sepia-toned own way it is rather comforting and enjoyable.

Probably the best move they made was not going out of their way to sexy the character up.  Captain America is a square, old-school guy who feels at right home in the world of Brillcream commercials, USO dances, military bonds and gorgeous dames with gams that don’t quit.

Smartly, they hired Joe Johnston, a long-time b-level director who had nailed this old-fashioned vibe years ago with his extremely similar 90s film The Rocketeer (also based on a graphic novel about a square guy who becomes a superhero by using a technical innovation during WWII).

Chris Evans, who has some Marvel comics experience from playing the Human Torch in two Fantastic Four films, makes an impressively square hero as a 90-pound weakling who becomes America’s greatest new fighting hope through a mixture of science, patriotism, training and good ol’ American hard work.

If those laser guns the bad guys use seem a little futuristic for this 1940s setting, it is in keeping with the lightly anachronistic thrills.

The biggest complaint about this otherwise solid-if-not-overwhelmingly-good series boot is that the entire concept behind the character is eventually basically dumped in a tacked on coda which prepares the man in red, white and blue for the upcoming Marvel All-Stars film The Avengers.

This ending is, I think, supposed to be bittersweet, but instead it feels like the character is being manipulated to make him something that he is not.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: July 29, 2011.

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