Wednesday, 3 August 2011

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) - 3 1/2 STARS

"Heroes Are Made In America"


The summer blockbusters are starting to come quick and it would seem that although the box-office has been dominated by a certain boy wizard, the sub-genre that has taken centre-stage lately is the superhero film which so far, has delivered mixed results. THOR was deemed good but not spectacular while THE GREEN LANTERN was ridiculed but thankfully the ship is steadied with the latest comic-book flick, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER which brings back to the big screen, one of the most popular superheroes in a surprisingly fun if slightly flawed flick that keeps its audience entertained with plenty of action, humour and thrills.


As the world is confronted by the second World War, miniscule soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) becomes determined to fight in the war but is declined the chance because of his size and heath. However he gains his opportunity through the help of German scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who has been working on creating a genetic breed of super soldiers to help win the war. With the support of authoritative Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and plucky female agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Rogers undergoes the genetic procedure and finds his body has become more muscular and has made him taller, enabling him to put that power to good use and help America win the War by creating an iconic hero under the name of Captain America. Things though are complicated with the Nazi's having their own genetic super-being in the shape of vicious Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) whose alternative ego Red Skull sees himself as a god and tries to use his power to destroy the world (as you do). With the Germans occupying Europe and Schmidt seeking world destruction, it is up to Rogers and the American army to try and stop them though destiny takes its place for a surprise ending which ties everything up for the eagerly awaited superhero epic next year; THE AVENGERS (2012).


Director Joe Johnston who made the underrated adventure flick JUMANJI in 1995, makes his biggest film so far with an energetic superhero flick that fascinates us with plenty of action and cracking dialogue. As for the cast, Chris Evans gives a much better performance than the other superhero he portrayed, the Human Torch, in the disappointing FANTASTIC FOUR (2005). Steve Rogers is a highly likable character from the beginning and never does anything to make us dislike him. Evans has no problem with keeping the character feeling fresh. Hayley Atwell is a delight as the no-nonsense British agent who falls for Rogers, her look and acting style would no doubt have suited the 40's in Hollywood. She is destined for great things. Lee Jones gives his versatile experience well and seems to benefit from playing characters with command e.g. The Fugitive, Small Soldiers; while also getting snappy dialogue. Stanley Tucci also does a solid job with his own supporting work in film and gives his German scientist a sense of warmth when it comes to his scenes with Rogers. There are plenty of exhilarating sequences to savour including Rogers's pursuit of a German spy through the streets of New York, a musical show montage showing Captain America's national appeal to his country and the major confrontations with Red Skull. There are certainly hints to other classical type action films particularly the Indiana Jones franchise (the motorbike chase scene for example?). Johnston also does well to create the world of Captain America with the beautiful period setting of Brooklyn (filmed in my home city of Liverpool surprisingly) as well as the clinical 1940s costumes. The ending itself has its critics with a big name making a cameo in the final scene but it proves a terrific set-up for that certain superhero film that has been awaited since IRON MAN and a post-credits scene will excite audiences with high expectations.


Though this superhero film excels compared to GL or Thor, it still has its minuses when it comes to typical plot situations. The story itself is flawed and doesn't quite capture the intensity of say THE DARK KNIGHT particularly when it comes to your typical world domination plot. The action scenes quicken when Captain America takes control as he 'easily' overcomes the bad guys and really any sense of danger isn't shown in this film. Hugo Weaving whilst convincing as the German super-villain is nowhere near as dastardly as his Agent Smith from the Matrix trilogy but is still useful. The cliches are also obvious whether it be the hero/villain showdown or a scene involving Rogers accidentally kissing another woman in front of Peggy, it's done too much in many films especially when there is chemistry between the two leads. Also this film is supposed to be set in WWII yet a lot of futuristic weaponry is seen throughout, something which only confuses people with the setting.
VERDICT: It's not quite Spiderman 2 or Dark Knight but as a superhero film, it delivers well despite its flaws with Evans making Rogers a believable hero, supported well by its splendid cast and constructed admirably. The next year or so will be fascinating when Batman, Superman and The Avengers swoop by onto the big screen!

1 Comments:

At 4 August 2011 at 16:45 , Blogger Gary said...

A fair review Craig, I'm glad you enjoyed the movie! In regards to certain aspects such as the futuristic weaponry, I believe that the film is simply following the comics, in which Hydra are a top-secret and highly advanced scientific military division of the nazis. Even the earlier captain america comics and superhero comics in general incorporated many elements of science fiction. So I do believe that with these kinds of superhero films in general it is a huge advantage to have read and/or to have an understanding of the comics. For example- notice how Bucky fell into the mountains and his fate was never really revealed (he is assumed dead)having read the comics I'm intrigued with what they'll do with that. Plus there's the whole thing with the cosmic cube. Well perhaps we'll find out in the avengers film, or at the very least avengers 2 which you know they WILL make. So yeah check out the comics, they're awesome! =)

 

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