With the exception of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (starting next week, can’t wait!), Marvel’s mega blockbuster Captain America: The First Avenger was, up to this point, my most anticipated movie of the year. To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about the superhero other than the fact that he’s going to be in next year’s most anticipated movie, The Avengers, along with Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, and a bunch of other superheroes led by an eye-patched Samuel L Jackson. Maybe it’s the name and/or the costume, but Captain America never aroused much interest in me — until now.
In short, I loved Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s the second best pre-Avengers tie-in film after the first Iron Man (in other words, better than Iron Man 2, Thor and The Incredible Hulk, even though Ed Norton is out and Mark Ruffalo is in as Bruce Banner). Marvellous action, incredible special effects, solid performances and a cracker of an origin story which includes Nazis, big guns, advanced technology and the occult — what’s there not to like?
This is an origins film that tells of how a scrawny, weak little man with a big heart by the name of Steve Rogers became Captain America as part of a secret military experiment during World War II. I won’t spoil much more than that except to say that the film has ties to Stark Industries from Iron Man and a powerful energy source that appears to originate from the world of Thor.
I was surprised how well the story was executed by director Joe Johnston (Rocketeer, Jumanji, The Wolfman). It would have been easy to make this film too patriotically and cringeworthyly American, but somehow Johnston kept the focus on the story and characters and even had a little fun with the unavoidable Americanism of the character.
Speaking of character, a lot of ‘hardcore’ Marvel fans blew their sacks when they heard Chris Evans had been cast as the titular superhero. ‘He can’t be Captain America,’ they cried, ‘because he’s already Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four!’ Be that as it may, nobody wants to see another Fantastic Four movie, and Chris Evans makes a wonderful Captain America — big and buffed, blonde hair, blue eyes, and oozing All-American charm. He might not be an actor with the greatest range or depth of emotions (like say a Robert Downey Jr), but he’s good enough here because he is physically perfect and Steve Rogers is a highly likeable character. The special effects used to create the pre-suped up Steve Rogers were practically flawless.
Hugo Weaving plays the villain Red Skull, Hitler’s crazy head of weaponry, and I’m afraid to say he was a little bit of a weak link. It’s not entirely Weaving’s fault because anyone that can play Agent Smith (from The Matrix), Elrond (from The Lord of the Rings) and V (from V for Vendetta) must be one of the greatest supporting actors of our time, but here he’s not given enough juice to make Red Skull a worthy adversary for Captain America.
The rest of the supporting cast was strong. Haley Atwell was solid as Peggy Carter, pretty much the only female character in the film, as was Sebastian Stan (I know him from Gossip Girl), who was adequate as the sidekick. Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones had relatively minor but important roles, though the real stand out had to be Tommy Lee Jones, who was fantastic as Colonel Chester Phillips, which would have been a bit of a nothing role had Jones not worked his magic.
For me, strangely, the film was at its best when Rogers was not the fully-costumed Captain America. Following him in his journey from sickly little dude to superpowered superhero was so enjoyable that when he finally became Captain America I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Not to say that it wasn’t still exciting — it’s just that there have been so many quality superhero movies in recent years that it becomes really difficult for one to rise above the others when it comes to action sequences.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger from start to finish — and that includes the little sneak peak we got at the upcoming Avengers movie following the credits (a long long wait, but certainly worth it).
4 out of 5!