Movie Review Monday: Captain America

Mike Finkelstein wanted to become the greatest superhero in the world.  Hell, he wanted to be a symbol of everything that is good.  So one day, he dressed himself up in an American flag and ran around downtown Manhattan.  People looked at him funny…Here is his review of “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

PLOT: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a skinny kid from Brooklyn whose only dream is to fight for his country in WWII.  When he is picked to be the subject in an experimental procedure to create a new breed of super soldiers, he gets that chance.  But when the procedure can’t be repeated, Rogers (now known as Captain America by his peers) takes it upon himself to go after the Naxis, and more specifically, Hydra—a Nazi cult commanded by Johann Schmidt, aka the Red Skull.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: our first superhero.  He is the man that got it done before Howard Stark, Bruce Banner and Nick Fury were even a glisten in their respective father’s eye.  And somehow, even with such a heavy reputation to uphold and four superhero movies coming before him, the Captain has given us yet another damn good origin tale to add to our list.

The events of CAPTAIN AMERICA take place, appropriately, during WWII.  If the Captain’s patriotism were introduced today, I sadly think it would have come across just cheesy and awkward (What does that say about the country?), but luckily, in this 1940s environment that Joe Johnston magnificently envelops us in, a bit of cheese works.  It’s a time where young boys were being shipped off to fight a man trying to take over the world, and Steve Rogers fits in perfectly as the skinny kid from Brooklyn who just wants to do his part.

What makes Rogers’ road to glory so much fun is he doesn’t automatically become a superhero.  First, he’s a sideshow…a joke.  He’s that dumb traveling act that’s supposed to motivate young men to enlist, complete with commercials, screaming little kids asking for autographs, and comic books (the actual issue #1 of “Captain America” makes a cameo).  We don’t see him as invincible.  We see him as one of us, just trying to prove himself.

And then, Rogers really becomes Captain America, and the action kicks in.  From the first assault to save Bucky and the rest of the 107 to the end, it doesn’t stop.  We suddenly are those screaming little kids, rooting our hero on.  And all the while, Rogers is never taken too seriously.  Yes, he’s called the Captain by his comrades (the Howling Commandos are all here), but the soldiers are still having fun, Bucky is still his best friend, and everyone around him still has the same goal: kill those Nazis.

Chris Evans is no stranger to comic books (FANTASTIC FOUR, PUSH), and here, he fit very easily into the skin of our country-loving Captain.  Granted, I would have liked to get a bit more emotion out of him at points, but playing it down the middle of the road never hurt anybody.  The heart and goodness we see in Skinny Steve (what the crew called the version of Evans void of any muscle definition) is there throughout, and that’s what matters.

As for the supporting cast, Hayley Atwell brought a lot of spunk and soul to Rogers’ love interest, Peggy Carter.  She is absolutely gorgeous yet simple—a don’t take nothing from nobody kind of gal—and all we wanted was for them to share one dance.  Hopefully, they’ll be given that chance in a future sequel. Stanley Tucci is mesmerizing as always, disappearing into Dr. Erskine’s German father figure. I wanted him to be my dad by the end of it!  If only he were able to stick around a little more…

I think the two that stood out the most, though, had to be Tommy Lee Jones and Dominic Cooper.  Colonel Chester Phillips could have easily been a one-note character, but Jones brought a surprisingly lighthearted touch to the role, and even gave the audience a few good laughs with his sarcasm.  As for Cooper, I just saw THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, and between these two movies, I saw three completely different people.  He’s amazing and will easily be the next big thing…mark my words.

Switching over to the Nazis, when you’re casting a villain, whether it be Agent Smith, Megatron, or in this case, Johann Schmidt and the Red Skull, you cannot go wrong with Hugo Weaving.  The man oozes sinister, and he played up the Red Skull beautifully.   I do, however, wish we really felt as if the Red Skull was any sort of dangerous.  It was fairly easy to mess up his plans, and even though he had this power worthy of the Gods in his hands, the extent of that power never seemed to be fully realized or explained.

The rest of my few bones to pick: At times, the green screen was over the top, especially with some ridiculously far jumps by the Captain looking just strange.  And I know they probably had to get rid of him since Rogers had to get to the future for THE AVENGERS, but Bucky was disposed of pretty damn quickly.  For such an important character in the comics, he was more of an afterthought here.  Also, I found it hysterical that this guy with no major superpowers to stop bullets couldn’t be hit by one damn shot of enemy fire, despite basically being a walking stars-and-stripes bulls eye.   But rest assured, all of these were little bumps in the road on an otherwise great time at the movies.

I can officially say that Marvel has produced four excellent superhero origin movies (THOR, IRON MAN, INCREDIBLE HULK and CAPTAIN AMERICA), and somehow, just like Pixar, has kept each one fresh and fun.  Joe Johnston has created and painted yet another stunning period piece, just like OCTOBER SKY and THE ROCKETEER, except this time, he’s also made a great stand-alone superhero movie, and a worthy addition to the Marvel Universe.  Not too bad of a treatment for a skinny kid from Brooklyn.

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) PERIOD FEEL: Johnston really got the WWII adventure feel down.  Everything from the costumes to the color schemes to the innocence and patriotism of the script.

2) DOMINIC COOPER: Cooper is going to be the next big thing.  The guy does an unbelievable job in THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, and here, he plays yet another complete different part with the iconic Howard Stark.  He’s funny, amusing, and a leader you trust all in one.  I look forward to many good roles coming from this man.

3) STANLEY TUCCI: Tucci is someone you could always count on for a great supporting character.  He delivers in spades here as Dr. Abraham Erskine—the German father figure to our hero.

4) CHEESE CAPTAIN AMERICA: I love how they were able to poke a bit of fun at the corniness and patriotism of Captain America.  He wasn’t immediately this perfect hero, but a sideshow…perfect explanation for the costume.  Also, keep an eye out for the original Captain America comic cover!

5) CHRIS EVANS: My critique of Evans is twofold.  First, the good…he had the look and the innocence of Steve Rogers.  He was patriotic and fit the role pretty damn well.  I’ll take him as Captain America.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) CGI OVERFLOW: The actions scenes were filled with CGI.  Granted, it wasn’t horrible, but you could definitely tell something wasn’t right and there was a lot of green screen involved.

2) CLEAR TARGET, YET NO ONE COULD HIT HIM?: When you’re walking in the depths of the Nazi underground with a bright blue and red American Flag shield, do you really think no one is going to see you?  And speaking of which, not one person could hit him with a bullet?  Ever?  Woah, they suck at shooting…

3) WHAT DOES THE CUBE REALLY DO?: Yes, I know it was an all powerful source from the Gods, and it was shown after the end credits of THOR, but I didn’t completely get what the Cube could do that was so amazing.  Yes, the guns, and it destroyed humans when they touched it, but I wish there was a bit more clarification on where it came from/the extent of it’s power.

4) CHRIS EVANS: With the pros above, I realized at the end that the man really didn’t extend himself too far in any scenes.  His emotions were basic, and he stayed pretty much down the middle of the road…no anger, no fear, no sadness (just a very sad face at one point).  Evans can definitely do more than what he did here, and I just wish I saw it.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Jon Favreau was originally chosen to direct, but chose to direct IRON MAN instead. Joe Johnston, known for his period pieces, including THE ROCKETEER and OCTOBER SKY was finally chosen.

2) Chris Evans declined the role three times.  After a meeting with the director and producers, and much therapy to help him with insecurities of living up to the character, he finally accepted.

 

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