Captain America: The First Avenger Review

With The Avengers currently in theaters, I decided to do something I had yet to manage, sitting down and watching Captain America: The First Avenger. I'd heard good things about it, but was it as good as I'd heard?

The plot of the film follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, also known for his role as The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies) attempting to enlist in the army to fight in World War II. However, he is turned down because of multiple health issues and being, essentially, a shrimp. Going to New Jersey for a technology expo with his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Shan, no relation to Bastila Shan), he again heads to a recruitment center to try again, and is spotted by Dr. Arnim Zola (Stanley Tucci, also known for his role as Frank Nitti in Road to Perdition), who sees him as the perfect test subject for his super-soldier serum. Long story short, Captain America is born. However, there is a group of former Nazis called Hydra, led by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, also known as "V", "Agent Smith", "Elrond", and "Megatron"), opposing him. Schmidt plans to use technology powered by something known as the Tesseract to, presumably, take over the world. And he must be stopped by the power of the red, white, and blue.


Yes, I'm ripping of Nostalgia Critic. But I'm admitting it, so it's all right.

The plot of the film is serviceable. There are some good action scenes, and the idea of the Nazis, or worse, being opposed by someone on the Allied side that is the epitome of what a "pure Aryan" is supposed to be is quite interesting. The only issue I have is that the film has a lot of slow moments. I understand that they need to show the origins of Captain America in order to introduce him to the non-comic book crowd, but it just takes so long for the main plot to kick in. I mean, Captain Rogers doesn't even find out about Hydra for about 20-25 minutes into the film, and doesn't even attack them until about 40 minutes in. By comic book movie standards, that's a long time for build-up.

The cast, however, is awesome. Chris Evans is a great fit for Cap. It is clear he was dedicated to the role, just by looking at his physique (allow me to say: DAAAYUM!), and he also does a great job of portraying the character. It's somewhat amusing seeing this ridiculously fit man stumbling over his words while talking to women, but Chris Evans makes it seem natural. After all, he has buffed up physically, but he has not had much experience with women. And watching him on the USO stage for the first time was hilarious. However, he also showed his character's serious side quite a bit. For instance, when a teammate dies (if you've read or know anything about the comics, you know who), he tries to get drunk...and fails due to his superfast metabolism. Moments like that show that Chris Evans has a good future as an action star, if he wants it. Besides Cap, the other main hero of the picture is his love interest, intelligence agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, who acted in the 2009 miniseries of The Prisoner). She is portrayed fairly well. I did have some issues with how quickly she seemed to fall for Steve, as well as how, for an intelligence agent, she only had a few moments to show it, but she was pretty good-looking, and she was developed enough to show her as a character rather than a stereotype.

There is also the matter of Captain America's team, one of which is Bucky Barnes. He is portrayed quite well. You really get a sense of the friendship between Cap and Bucky, and the two actors have great chemistry. As well, Bucky is shown as being a completely loyal friend to both the shrimp Steve Rogers, and the manly man Steve Rogers, without any signs of jealously whatsoever, which was quite refreshing to see. As for the rest of the team, they were portrayed well, but didn't really get too much character development. There were two moments I really enjoyed, however. The first is when they are first rescued, "Dum Dum" Dugan (Neal McDonough, also known as "the worst M. Bison in movie history") looks at Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi of Sons of Anarchy) and disparagingly says "We're rescuing people from every country, now?" only to get the response of Jim holding up his dog tags and saying "I'm from Fresno, ace," with no accent whatsoever. The second is after they form a team, there is a quick scene with Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci, a French actor) blowing up a tank by diving under it and planting a bomb on the bottom of it as it drives by. His reaction when the bomb goes off is a grin of child-like proportions.

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America, Fuck Yeah!

As for the other actors on the side of good, two standouts are Col. Philips (Tommy Lee Jones, also known as "the first live-action Two-Face") and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, also known as "Sky" in the film version of Mamma Mia!). The first one is Tommy Lee Jones being Tommy Lee Jones, and doing it awesomely. He is quite deadpan, and seeing his growing respect for Captain America through his actions and words is quite interesting. Also, he gets one of the best lines in the movie, in response to the Hydra slogan "Cut off one head, two more grow!" His response? A shot to the head, followed by "Let's go find two more!" The second one is quite entertaining to watch. Dominic seems to portray Howard Stark as being, well, a forties version of Tony Stark, but it is eventually revealed to be all just an act, with Howard Stark being an utter professional. His finest moment is when Peggy decides to test Steve Roger's vibranium shield by shooting at it, due to her being angry at him. After she walks away, both Stark and Rogers just stare at her, with identical "Don't ever piss her off" looks on their faces.

On the villainous side, probably the biggest surprise of the movie for me was Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt. I was expecting him to basically redo Agent Smith, but he went beyond that. He put on a fake accent, doing so quite believably, and portrayed his character as being, quite simply, egotistical, sure that he is the best humanity has to offer. However, the interesting part is that he is, to put it simply, one of the most intelligent villains in comic book movies. The first example is when he first finds the MacGuffin of the film, he immediately asks where the real one is, as the one he just found was not hidden well enough to be real. The second, and best moment, was when he first saw Captain America. His reaction? Set the base to self-destruct. His head scientist, Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones, also known as "Dobby's voice") incredulously asks him what he's doing. His response? Pointing to the security cameras showing Cap and saying "We're outmatched." More movies need villains this aware of their weaknesses. What surprised me the most, however, was the amount of emotion he put in the role. The main difference between Agent Smith and Johann Schmidt isn't simply the accent. It's the fact that he played Agent Smith as being almost completely emotionless. In this movie, his character is smug as all hell, confident that no one can stop him. And when Captain America shows up, he shows more emotions. Anger and frustration that Captain America is destroying his factories and he isn't able to stop him, anger at Rogers for fighting against him instead of with him, and villainous glee when he thinks he's won.

The other villain of the movie is Dr. Zola. He is portrayed pretty well, as the doctor who believes in the Nazi ideals. However, he does soon start to feel discomfort at just how far Schmidt is planning to go, and eventually reveals his plans after he gets captured. Portraying a person who is both allied with his superior, while being opposed to some of those superior's ideas but being unable to do anything about it, is a tough line to balance on. If you go too far to one side, and you lose the audience's sympathy. Too far on the other, and you risk the audience telling you to grow some balls. Toby Jones walks that line dead straight down the center.

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Girls are turned on. Guys are either jealous, or thinking "Stupid Sexy Evans!"

Overall, this movie is pretty good. The acting is great, the script is pretty well-done, and the music is pretty good (love "The Star-Spangled Man". Sounds like a real patriotic song). But the pacing of the film lets it down a bit, with too much talking and not enough fighting. Elvis Presley said it best: "A little less conversation, a little more action." This film tries to follow the formula that Batman Begins did, but it just didn't have enough action to balance things out. However, I am still looking forward to the sequel, and that's all you can ask for in a comic book movie. Unless it's Watchmen. Why the fuck is that getting a prequel?

And yes, Johann Schmidt is Red Skull. But he is only called that once in the movie, and it gets the speaker killed.

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No Alan Moore. no Dave Gibbons. No chance in hell.

Well i was going to write a review of Captain America but it looks like I won't have to. You basically said everything I thought about the movie and i do feel that the Red Skull in this movie is VERY underated. Good review.

I forgot to mention the special effects, though. In a word, holy crap.

 

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