Set in the early years of the Marvel Universe, Captain America: The First Avenger tells of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans); a scrawny, sickly and just-plain-good “kid from Brooklyn”, who despite his lack of fitness is given an opportunity — albeit an unorthodox one — to fight for his country in WWII.
In comic book terminology, Cap’ would be considered a “Countdown to The Avengers” issue, being the last stop before the all-in superhero brawl; but does the film stand on its own two feet?
What the film does set out for is a mash-up; in the Marvel films preceding it, we have had heroes and villains based in technology, science and mythology. This is the first time a film has attempted to combine all three aspects; and it comes across a little clunky.
How do you offset an all-American, do-gooder, super-Adonis? Try the devil (or similar). Hugo Weaving is fun to watch as “The Red Skull”, but he does come across a little by-the-book; he is a particularly nasty fellow, who is portrayed as the exact opposite to nice-guy Rogers. Literally. From the cliché of being an evil, power-hungry Nazi, Weaving’s character eventually transforms into an evil, devilishly-looking power-hungry super-Nazi; this is not character development and if anything is slightly ludicrous.
The same could be said for Rogers whose only real development is physical, remaining the same “good man” that he was before going under the vita rays; this was intentional by the film-makers in an attempt to support their even-a-little-guy-can-do-big-things approach, but it cannot help but feel like a cop-out. To its credit, there is not a “bad” performance in this film; it only lacks direction.
Obviously the film is about Cap, a man who so selflessly throws himself in harm’s way (even prior to his transformation); but at times it walks the line of ensemble, with the inclusion of some great — albeit underdeveloped — ‘minor’ characters. You can tell that characters like Arnim Zola, Dum Dum Dugan, et al are all part of a much larger and untapped universe; I just hope that they don’t go unused in future instalments. (Note: Rumour has it that Dum Dum will appear in a Nick Fury film.)
Those characters who do get more screen time do a good job; special mentions for Tommy Lee Jones as a grumpy US Army general and Hayley Atwell as the mandatory but hardly-clichéd love interest. Others include Stanley Tucci as the architect of the super-soldier serum, Sebastian Stan as James “Bucky” Barnes and Dominic Cooper as Iron Man’s dad — the latter struggling a little in Robert Downey Jr.‘s shadow.
The film’s biggest criticism — especially in international markets — is that it is too “American”; something that a quick reminder of the film’s title should remedy. However, some countries have gone so far as to shorten the film’s title to just The First Avenger; a move I can understand due to an overt-patriotism used through-out. The “America: Fuck Yeah!” attitude shouldn’t alienates viewers, it’ll just make it a little harder to swallow; plus, literally marching into an enemy base with an American flag strapped to your back is just stupid.
But in the end its faults are frivolous. This film looks amazing; I sincerely hope that the special effects team are at least nominated at next year’s Academy Awards. How they managed to take a very buff Chris Evans and make him so little in the first act is just mind boggling.
Prior to its release director Joe Johnston compared his film’s tone to Raiders of the Lost Ark, a sentiment that I agree with; it’s fun, action-packed, has Nazis for villains and features a supernatural twist. (Wait. What if Indy were a super-soldier? George Lucas take note: can it be any worse than Crystal Skull?)
All-in-all, CA:TFA is a winning enterprise which succeeds in entertain its audience; and like Thor, is also surpisingly funny. Just don’t take it too seriously.