CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
By Gary Murray
Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell and Tommy Lee Jones
Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Directed by Joe Johnston
Running time 2 hrs 5 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
Even though I have no recollection of reading a Captain America comic book, I knew of the character. He is another Marvel creation that has always been on the back-bench to Spiderman and the Hulk. With all the movie successes of these and other Marvel characters (Iron Man I & II and Thor), it was only a matter of time before we would see yet another of the Avengers hit the big screen. This one rivals the best of not only Marvel comics, but of DC as well.
The story starts in Medius Rea, with a team of researchers finding something big under the ice in the coldest reaches of the planet. They cut open the deserted machine and find the shield of Captain America.
Then we go back seventy years and WWII. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a young man with lion heart and a 4F body. Over and over, he attempts to join in the war against Hitler and over and over he is turned down. His dream is to serve his country and stop bullies. Then a scientist (Stanley Tucci) intervenes.
On the other side of the plot, Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is trying to find a secret hidden by ancient peoples. Though he is a Nazi, he also has his own plans that run afoul of Hitler’s He heads an organization with ideas for world dominations. He is aided by his own scientist (Toby Jones).
When Rogers is turned into Captain America (in a coffin-like device that looked like ‘The Acid Queen’ chamber from Tommy), a tragedy happens. The powers that be have no idea what to do with this scientist-made man. Some want to use him as a lab rat and others want him for the propaganda effort. The latter win and our super hero becomes a super seller of War Bonds. He accepts his fate but yearns to get into battle.
Eventually Rogers gets his chance to fight. To tell more of the plot would spoil it for those going out on opening night. Let’s just say that the bad guys get to see the American fighting spirit more than once. And Stark Industries has a helping hand in the making of this super hero.
Red Skull should go down as one of the best bad guys in cinema. Not just evil, he is also vindictive and cruel. This is a scene chewing role and Hugo Weaving does it with a gleeful relish. It is almost worth the admission price to watch him emote all over the screen. This is a mastery of make-up and performance that few in Hollywood equal.
The minor roles are filled with such great characters performers such as Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones. Each finds a moment to shine in the giant summer blockbuster. Hayley Atwell takes on the ‘girlfriend’ role and turns it into a strong, subtle acting turn. She is a find who deserves more roles.
While the 3D effects were better than most of the 2011 entries, it still seems to be a bit of ‘so what?’ Even though they are getting better with each outing, the entire exercise is more of a way to upgrade the ticket price than a storytelling mechanism. If the producers do not get their act together, this version of 3D will eventually fade out like the last two major attempts.
During the spooling out of Captain America, I kept feeling like I was watching an update of Raiders of the Lost Arc. There are so many similar elements to both works but with some very different heroes and outcomes. I would bet that director Joe Johnston studied the Spielberg film before he crafted this tale.
Captain America is the best comic book movie of the year. Yes, it is silly and over the top, yet there is a solid emotional core. A good good-guy and a better bad-guy, amazing special effects and loads of explosions, what more can one ask for in a summertime check-your-brain-at-the-door action flick? This is another massive action-adventure that will fill the coffers of Hollywood. Onward to The Avengers mega-movie!
One last thing—there was no need for the fans to wait around for an ending credits tag. At the press screening there was nothing, much to the chagrin of the audience waiting until the last image flickered. However, according to my Comic-Con source, there was a tag for The Avengers film at the San Diego Captain America showing. So, one may or may not get a little Easter Egg at the end of the flick.