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MOVIE REVIEW: Captain America: The First Avenger

Posted on July 29, 2011

Director: Joe Johnston

Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci

Release Date: July 22, 2011

Based on the comic "Captain America" by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby

In the most recent years, comic books movies have dominated the box office. And it's not just that, many of those films have been highly praised by top critics. We have Nolan's Batman flicks, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the most recent X-Men movie, all of which have been adored by countless moviegoers from all over the world. On the contrary, we also have those comic book adaptations that lay rest deep in our memories, where we wished they never happened. You know which films I'm talking about: Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, etc. So, where would I place Captain America: The First Avenger? I'd probably put it somewhere in the middle.

This prequel to Marvel's upcoming Avengers movie is a flat-out, fun adventure film. From the beginning to end, director Joe Johnston delivers a fast-paced, lighthearted movie about inner goodness, self respect and determination. If anything, Captain America is practically a kids film set in an adult world. The movie takes place during World War II, which is considered to be one of the most devastating eras in human history,  but with careful direction and a lively script by Christpher Markus and Stephen McFeely, this latest installment to the Marvel movie-verse was just enjoyable as Thor or Iron Man.

The film follows a fairly simple good versus evil story. Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans), who is perhaps the most kind-hearted, selfless, compassionate human being on the face of the earth, is determined to help his fellow countrymen by trying to enlist in the army. But due to his scrawny, 90 pound frame, he wasn't able to join the ranks. Fortunately for him, his steadfast attitude and good faith gained him the attention of a scientist who was to create a super soldier, a man who attributed the peak limits of natural human potential. After Rogers followed up with the super soldier experiment, we was transformed into a nearly perfect specimen, who we now know as Captain America.

Then on the other side of the spectrum, we Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), who encounters a similar procedure, but ends up burning his skin in the process (for which then he goes by the name, the Red Skull). Skull had the potential to be the greatest Marvel movie villain to date. He had the cosmic cube, and he was bent on world domination. I mean c'mon, it's damn Red-fucken-Skull. The problem in this film was that Skull was a very one-dimensional character. He lacked substance and complexity that made his comic book counterpart, as well as other villains, great.

Take Loki or Magneto for example, two individuals who plan to destroy and deliver pain and suffering to those who oppose them. Kind of sounds like Skull, doesn't it? But the difference between those two and Skull was that they had a clear motive for doing what they did. They had a tragic past, and to atone for their unfortunate upbringing, they plotted revenge on those who have done them wrong. Besides Skull being evil, there wasn't much else. Weaving was great, but his character could have used more work. I needed some build up.

I can actually say the same for Steve Rogers, who was just as one-dimensional as the Red Skull. Yes, he was fighting evil and taking out an opposing army, but he's a soldier. It's his job. He did what he did because he wanted to do it and he didn't have to carry a burden like Peter Parker or Tony Stark. Those two had to atone for the wrongs they've dealt, and that gave these superhumans some humanity; it gave them character. Steve Rogers, well, he was a pure saint. In the comic, he's a much deeper character than what is portrayed on film, and I would have liked it if they gave him a more personal reason to fight the war.

Of course, Cap's character wasn't completely flat. He made out to be a fairly interesting character within the first act of the film, which I would give most of the credit to Chris Evans' charming performance. He was able to give the scrawny little Rogers a very likable spunk. It was also refreshing to see Evans play a character who was sincere and modest, instead of his usual badboy/playboy archetypal roles.

But as much as I enjoyed the first act, the special effects they used on Evans to make him look smaller kind of irked me. Most of the time, his skinny transformation looked very organic and believable. But the times that it looks bad, it looked REALLY bad.

As for the rest of the cast, they did a pretty good job. Tommy Lee, who plays Colonel Chester Phillips, was somewhat of a comic relief, while Hayley Atwell, who plays Peggy Carter, took on the role of the love interest. And while I thought the relationship between her and Cap could have been a bit tighter, I thought it was tolerable (they had a lot more chemistry than Thor and Jane Foster, that's for sure). The final scene tried to be this emotional finale, but I thought it was a bit sappy.

But I would say my biggest peeve of all would be the sudden transition of being this amazing soldier in war. I understand that after the experiment, Steve Rogers became this glowing definition of the perfect human being. But what about his combat training? Learning how to fire a gun? How did he learn to throw his shield like that? I was hoping for some kind of training montage, where we would see Steve Rogers learn how to control his newfound abilities. We saw Spider-Man do it, we saw Iron Man do it, and all it did was strengthen the character further. Having a sequence like that would have definitely added some much needed appeal to Cap.

I know, I know, I've been comparing this film to every other comic book movie out there, but it had to be said. But regardless of all these negative points I made about the film, it was still, for the most part, very enjoyable. There was a lot of action, there was a lot of humor, and Chris Evans was a great Steve Rogers/Captain America. You'll like him a lot more in the beginning of the movie though, and while the film kind of goes all over the place during the second half (at an extremely fast pace, may I add), it was still a pretty cool, kick-ass summer blockbuster.

7.4 out of 10
Review by: Richard Fagel

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