Captain America: The First Avenger

In a series of films that have contained a one percenter wearing a snug suit of techno-armour, a raging, green id monster and a hammer throwing Norse God with Fabio hair, it seems that the most delicate touch the then-still fledgling Marvel Cinematic Universe has needed to apply was that for their star spangled Avenger.

It’s World War II and Hitler is persisting in his mission to be history’s most notorious arsehole and tiny, sickly Steve Rogers is desperate to do his part for the war effort. However, he may have a huge, fighting spirit and heart to spare but he also has asthma and a cornucopia of other ailments that decisively keep him well away from the front line, a matter that’s made even worse by the fact that his best friend, Bucky, is shipping out to serve.

Of course, what with this being a Marvel movie, it doesn’t take long for Steve to stumble on a top secret project to create a “super soldier” out of a mystery compound (say no to drugs, kids) and sure enough, stick-limbed little Steve Rogers is picked based on his decency and general good-ness alone to undergo an experiment that leaves him buffer than the floor of a ballroom.

However, incidents occur that not only means he’s the only one of his kind but that he’s sidelined much to the dismay of Peggy  Carter, a British agent who is drawn to Steve’s natural, god given superpower of nice. Meanwhile, Johan Schmidt (a.k.a The Red Skull for reasons that become instantly apparent) desires to move Hydra, the Nazi super science division, out of Hitler’s shadow and indulge in some good old world domination and begins to makes his move against the rest of the planet. Can Steve, now newly minted as Captain America (it’s WW2 dammit, there’s no time to be subtle!), finally be boosted into battle to start doing the job he was literally made for and make the difference he’s always yearned to before the Red Skull starts dramatically starts reducing the amount of capital cities there are in the world?
The problem that causes the necessity for such treading on eggshells is exactly how, in this day and age of untrustworthy governments and 9/11 do you make worldwide audiences embrace a guy who drapes himself in old glory and flings a metal red, white and blue frisbee at any wrong doers who dare look cross-eyed at the good ol’ U S of A? Actually, it turns out that the answer was pretty simple… all you have to do is go full Indiana Jones.
Yes, it seems that OTHER cinematic WWII based heroic Nazi puncher held the key to cracking the Captain America conundrum and that’s to go full out action/adventure and have him deck as many jack-booted fascists as he humanly can in two hours worth of film. Hiring Joe Johnston (the dependable hack behind The Rocketeer, Jumanji and *ahem* Jurassic Park 3) proves to be vital in nailing the tone as before embarking on his Spielberg-lite directorial career he actually worked on the original Raiders Of The Lost Ark in a special effects capacity which pays off in spades here and in fact, may have given him arguably his best film to date.

Another problem Captain America has to defeat is how on earth do you make a fun, kickabout World War 2 movie in a time where Saving Private Ryan exists and not be hideously and jaw-droppingly insensitive? After all, why is Cap and his team of rugged Howling commandos chasing solely after the Nazi branch of super scientists when their are death camps to be liberated or beaches to be stormed?
Once again Marvel combats many issues at once by hurling buckets of charm and goodwill at it and hoping for the best. Opting for melodramatic, “Zee Jermanz” style accents over subtitles may be somewhat awkward in this day and age but the superior casting of Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell papers over so many cracks it  immediately ceases to matter.
As Captain America, Evans nails it as accurately as if his character had just thrown a bloody great shield at it, making a very straight laced, very stand-up, VERY nice guy interesting and endearing in a genre usually crammed with wisecracking ass-hats with glaring daddy issues but it’s Atwell who truely impresses as the take-no-shit Agent Carter; feminine, smart and supremely capable she may be one of the greatest female roles in comic book history.
The villains, however, fare slightly less well. It’s not that Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull or Toby Stevens as his scientific lickspittle Armin Zola are bad, far from it (Weaving in full make up looks spectacular and incredibly comic accurate) but the script doesn’t fully utilise them as legitimate threats with their plans being way too easily thwarted before they’ve had a chance to do any real damage besides shoot a lot of their own men in frustration.
Another major hurdle the film fails to scale is it’s own plot. Spread out over a period of months the film almost takes a biopic style view of the run time, making huge leaps in time by utilising montages to fill in the gaps and leaving the film feeling a little episodic and disjointed.

However, in addition to it’s stiring casting, the film manages to pull some impressive  aces out of the hat to halt the exact kind of fatal nose dive that left Cap on ice for decades, the first being having the balls to include a truly stupendous, honest-to-god musical interlude which details an incredible meta-sequence which charts the good Captain’s time as a propaganda symbol. Plus Cap’s costume is one of the best comic to movie transitions I’ve ever seen, not 100% comic accurate but keeping all the correct details while being totally practical.
Not amazing, but good enough with plenty of room to build on, Captain America succeeds in realizing a difficult character and is well worth a salute.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s