Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell. Directed by Joe Johnston. 125 minutes. PG
After I saw X-Men: First Class, I raved about it to my comic-fan friends. While they too liked it, they were even more stoked about Captain America: The First Avenger, and gave me the impression that Marvel films were exponentially getting better. But while I have to say that The Amazing Spider-Man does look, well, amazing, I can’t say I expected that of Captain America. And expectedly, that’s not what I got.
The film follows (obviously) the making of Captain America, and his efforts to defeat his first villain. Set during World War II (like the real-life setting the original comic was born into in 1941), Captain America is a patriotic symbol who sets out to prove that he’s more than a poster boy. Like most comic films, it’s the story of good versus evil. Well, in this case, very good versus very evil (you’ll get what I mean when you see it).
In short, it’s pretty cheesy. Although it’s clear that film-makers tried to go for an edgier take on the original image, Captain America is too much of a goody two-shoes to be a badass. But I know that’s supposed to be the point. Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not American. But imagining Captain Canada is an even cheesier thought.
Hugo Weaving plays evil well as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, which seems expected but when you look at his resume all you’ve really got to support it is The Matrix. Otherwise he’s an elf or a wise penguin. Or a freedom fighter seeking justifiable revenge. Anyway, here’s hoping Weaving gets cast in more evil roles in the future.
But the best performance in the film hands-down is Stanley Tucci as the funny, believable Dr. Abraham Erskine, or Captain America’s Dr. Frankenstein. Tucci has got to be on of the best supporting actors ever. He always seems to give his all and steal the scene. This case was no different. Too bad he wasn’t given more screen time.
The problem with Captain America, as is the case for me with a lot of superhero films, is it’s story is forgettable. I’ve seen the whole X-Men series, Iron Man, Thor, the Spider-Man series and Hulk (plus non-Marvel ones too). The only one I can recall is First Class (which I’ve seen recently–twice–though I’ve got a strong feeling it’s more than that). It’s always the good guy against the bad guy, with the good guy at his last strand just making it through and saving the day. I know, I know, what else do you expect from a superhero film. But First Class was an example of something beyond that, the good versus evil conflict within the good versus evil conflict. For the most part, there’s nothing wrong with the characters in these films. There’s nothing wrong with the premise. What’s wrong is that the plot isn’t meaty enough. Admittedly, Captain America gives it a shot with a historical background, but ask me in a few months and I won’t be able to tell you anything more than that. I’m not asking filmmakers to re-write the original stories (though that’s basically what you do when you adapt a book); I’m just asking them to consider narratives for movie-goers who like interesting, dare-I-say more complex stories. /rant
Anyway, despite that, Captain America didn’t suck, thanks to a combination of cast and setting. But just sayin’. B