Captain America: The First (and best?) Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger opened this weekend, and once again Marvel Studios has added weight to the phrase “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. It’s amazing to see how far comic book movies have come in a few short years, from the time period where nobody thought you could just put a superhero up on the screen in a recognizable costume with a plot true to the source material.
Helmed by director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer), Captain America does far more than just get the costume right. It serves as a great World War II fantasy film in its own right, along with being arguably the most fleshed-out Marvel Universe in a movie to date. You’ve practically got Marvel’s full-on WWII roster here, from HYDRA and Red Skull to Howard Stark and the early makings of S.H.I.E.L.D., even Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos are present and accounted for. It is apparent that Marvel Studios are making the best of the character film rights they still retain to make you believe that, like in the comics, anybody could show up at any time.
Chris Evans, previously the only good part of the Fantastic Four films, is immensely likable as Steve Rogers from the very beginning. In an era where America seems permanently at war and our largest related concern as civilians is the price of gas, it’s easy to forget how deeply World War II affected the entire country. This movie does a great job of recreating that, and the motivations of an unfit-for-service Steve Rogers never seem anything but noble. Even knowing the iconic super soldier he is to become, we feel for him every time he gets back in that recruitment line. And his transformation is without a doubt one of the most impressive in all of comic book film history. I was scrutinizing every frame trying to figure out how it was achieved, and only just now read that it was a digital effect. Evans was in “Captain America shape” for the filming, and they digitally erased parts of his frame in all the pre-transformation shots. It’s pretty impressive.
On the other end you’ve got Hugo Weaving’s absolutely menacing and believable performance as Johann Schmidt, AKA The Red Skull. Playing off Hitler’s real-life fascination with Norse and Teutonic mythology as a way of turning the tides of war, Red Skull seeks the Cosmic Cube-an artifact once held by Odin and capable of destroying all life on the planet. Now, a lot of actors playing a lot of villains say they’re going to destroy all life on the planet. I don’t know though, when it’s Hugo Weaving I just tend to believe it more. Maybe that’s just me? His makeup and character design are equal to his performance as well, ripped straight from the comics. If this movie had been made ten years ago I firmly believe he’d have been given a big metal helmet vaguely shaped like a skull. But this, man. I had seen pictures prior to watching the movie and I was still kind of blown away to see it in action.
In addition to the two stars, Captain America is rounded out with a great supporting cast. You get one of the best and funniest Tommy Lee Jones performances of all time, as well as Dominic Cooper playing such a charming Howard Stark that I’d watch an entire fake biopic covering the early days of Stark Industries.
Simply put, if you are at all a Marvel comics fan, or even just a connoisseur of fine action films, you have no reason not to see Captain America. It’s got some great action scenes, believable and likable characters, even a love interest that is not at all shoehorned in *cough*The Dark Knight*cough*. And with the heavy inclusion of Stark Industries and references to the Thor mythos, it does a great job of tying everything together for the upcoming Avengers team-up film. Speaking of which, stay through the credits. ALL of the credits. Trust me.
Oh, and if like me you are going into this thing eager for a Hitler-punch scene, rest easy. I’m not gonna tell you the context since it’s pretty unexpected, but you shouldn’t be disappointed.