I paid a visit to the movies today for the first time in a couple of weeks, and I knew exactly what I wanted to go see. I may have missed out last weekend, but I was bound and determined to check it out this time. Today, I went to go see Captain America: The First Avenger. The Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios production – rated PG-13 – stars Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, and Stanley Tucci. The movie is meant to to serve as the final tentpole in next year’s superhero blockbuster The Avengers. It’s known by many comic book fans, but not so much by everyone else outside of the imagery itself. Will this be the strong tentpole like Iron Man and Thor, our would it be a bit wobbly like Iron Man 2? Only one way to tell for sure.
The movie begins in present-day, where a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are summoned because someone found what looks to be an airship buried in the Arctic. Upon further investigation, they find a red, white, and blue artifact iced over in the wreckage. The movie then shifts to Tønsberg, Norway in 1942, where Nazi officer Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is searching for a tesseract which will provide the ultimate power for the ultimate weapon. Meanwhile, in a time where people are being drafted for service, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is trying to enlist in the Army for the fifth time. Unfortunately, he is rejected just like the other times due to his health and physical issues. Meeting up with his old friend James "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan), they attend the Stark Expo being presented by Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and Rogers again attempts to re-enlist. This time, he is greeted by a German defector named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Erskine sees something in the frail, sickly Rogers and allows him to join. During boot camp, he meets Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) of the Strategic Scientific Reserve; where Col. Phillips is nonplussed at the miniature recruit, Carter sees something that Dr. Erskine saw as well. Rogers is selected to be the recipient of the scientific Super Soldier Serum. The procedure is a success, but it comes at a high cost, and the movie takes off from there.
So, what worked in this film? Well, for starters, the idea to place the bulk of the film during World War II was nothing short of a stroke of genius. Certain movies work well in the element it’s supposed to be in, and Captain America is definitely this movie. In fact, I think it’s one of the few Marvel movies that won’t work well in a modern-day setting. The character of Captain America is so keenly based in the ’40s, that it would feel awkward to tell his origin story in any other time. Chris Evans does a fantastic job of playing Steve Rogers as a man of character and great conviction, and it really shows in his portrayal of the frail Rogers. Now, there have been multiple stories on how Evans played the frail Rogers, but it was great how he did it. The rest of the cast performed admirably, and I really love how they actually treated Carter with respect instead of treating her like "some dame." I really loved Hugo Weaving in this; his character sounded muted and calm, but his actions certainly spoke louder than words.
What didn’t work? Well, not much, and the little bit that didn’t seems a bit petty. For starters, where I loved frail Steve Rogers, I only liked healthy Steve Rogers. I understand why he played him like he did, but the frail Steve was more convincing to me. Another thing was the score. Don’t get me wrong, the score was great; my problem was that it was a bit overstated at times. In the grand scheme of things, both are minor gripes. Another problem I have doesn’t come from the movie itself, but to some people who complain about how they handled the multiracial Howling Commandos. Just a quick bit about the Howling Commandos, they’re an elite Army battalion comprising of a Brit, an Irishman, a Frenchman, a Black man, and a Japanese man. Most people aren’t complaining, but there are some people who are saying that the inclusion of Derek Luke is an insult to the brave black soldiers of WWII. To them, I say, shut up. It’s a work of fiction; get over it, and get over yourselves.
The movie was directed by Joe Johnston, and he does a spectacular job of directing the stuff during the 40s. In fact, some of the best stuff takes place in the 40s. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise; one of Joe Johnston’s best films is the grossly underrated The Rocketeer. It’s kind of difficult to say how he directs the modern day stuff, because it comprises the totality of about 20 minutes of screen time, but it’s rather immaterial in the grand scheme of things. The point is, he makes it work. Alan Silvestri did the score for the movie, and I’ve already discussed how I feel about it.
All in all, I really did love this movie. Everything worked well, and the movie was certainly a sum of its parts. It looked beautiful, it sounded beautiful, and it was a good time. So, with that in mind, I’m gonna consider this movie to be 4.5 times More Epic Than Love Jones. The only reason it didn’t get a full 5 was due to the fact that I got bored with the score. Other than that, it was definitely worth the price of admission, and it’s definitely serves as a wonderful setup for The Avengers next year.
Bravo Zulu, Captain!