Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Kid From Brooklyn: A Review of Captain America: The First Avenger

Director: Joe Johnston

Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci

Few comic book heroes are as recognizable as Captain America. He is the Superman of the Marvel Universe and the embodiment of the ‘average Joe turned superhero’ idea. Even as a proud Canadian with a deep understanding of the historic love/dislike neuroses Canada has with the United States, WGTB could only ever look upon Captain America as the great hero he is. Indeed, the idea of Captain America and the ‘flag draped defender’ is so universal that we need only look at his followers: Captain Britain, Captain Canuck, Guardian/Vindicator, Liberty Belle, etc. to see the mass appeal.

(From Marvel's The Avengers Vol. 1 #25, 1966)

Which probably explains why the latest instalment of Marvel Studio’s continuum, Captain America: The First Avenger has been so widely anticipated. Not only does it put one of comic book's true stars on the silver screen, it also commences the great tie-together that started with The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and will culminate with the Avengers in 2012. The movie, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving is a well adapted take on the comic and is a fun, World War II focused comic fantasy story. Think Indiana Jones meets Saving Private Ryan meets X-Men and you got the idea.

(From Marvel's The Avengers Vol. 1 #25, 1966)

The plot is both action-packed and true to the original Joe Simon/Jack Kirby classic. Steve Rogers, a scrawny Brooklyn kid wants to join the war effort but doesn’t have the physical capacity to do so. After yet another try, he has a serendipitous encounter with the German-born inventor and US government official, Dr. Abraham Erskine, which allows him to join a top secret program headed up by crusty Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). Phillips is unimpressed with Rogers, but Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Dr. Erskine eventually secede in getting him to be the first ‘Super-Soldier’. Of course, Scrawny Steve becomes that super-man, but not before the program is destroyed by an agent of ‘Hydra’, Hitler’s special research division, led by Johann Schmidt a.k.a. Red Skull, who like his leader, has an affinity for the occult and mysterious. Schmidt has been busy building Hydra into an extra-national terrorist organization and has used a mysterious Norse tesseract to power Hydra’s high-tech weapons.

It’s a good movie – energetic and exciting and it does the great job at giving us a World War II story in a comic book package. The CGI graphics are reasonably good (and not too distracting) and the futuristic-looking period props are really cool. Chris Evan’s makes a good showing as Captain America -- which was a worry after the uninspired Fantastic Four pictures -- and scattered one-liners (especially by Tommy Lee Jones) got the crowd laughing throughout. Briton Hayley Atwell is slightly distracting with her English accent and US Army uniform (this was even jested about in the film) but she gives a strong performance and is successful where both Natalie Portman (Thor) and Blake Lively (Green Lantern) were not: at providing an equal and strong female lead to match her superhero opposite. Stanley Tucci was both witty and smart and a very good reminder that not all Germans stood with Hitler in the dark days of the 1930s and 1940s. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull makeup and costuming were good, but WGTB is getting tired of seeing him in the same villain/mean-spirited roles and some creative casting would have been better.

(From Marvel's Captain Amerca Vol.1 #409, 1992)

That said, Captain America: The First Avenger is the best of the comic book movies we have seen this summer and will probably be the highest grossing. It’s a fun action flick for comic fans and non-fans alike, and while it so obviously sets up next year’s Avengers, it does so in energetic fashion. WGTB would like to strenuously remind you to stay in your seats until the end credits finish and is already looking forward to reviewing the Avengers film next year when we get to see...

(From Marvel's The Avengers Vol. 1 #45, 1967)

4/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. Good review Mark. I just returned from seeing it and I wasn't all that impressed. I found some parts to be entertaining but others kinda of slow and a little "over the top" All in all I would give it a 2/5 rating.