Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)


Director:  Joe Johnston
Cast:  Chris EvansHugo WeavingSamuel L. Jackson, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci
Plot:  After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America's ideals.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  124min
Rating:  PG for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action

It is with irony to note that Captain America: The First Avenger features the origin story of the final major superhero character that will return in the very highly anticipated Marvel blockbuster The Avengers (2012) next year.  

Directed by Joe Johnston, a visual effects guru who won an Oscar for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and is most well-known for directing Jurassic Park III (2001), Captain America is a Hollywood blockbuster in the traditional mould – loud, action-packed, predictable, and two hours worth of, in this case, above average entertainment.

Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid from Brooklyn who despite being bullied, never backs off from a fight.  He desperately wants to serve his country in WWII but is deemed medically unfit for military service.  Dejected and disappointed, Steve however gets the chance to serve as a volunteer for a secret military experiment.  The result is a beefed up body with bulging muscles, and incredible strength and dexterity.  

Steve becomes Captain America, initially as a marketing gimmick to sell war bonds, but later as fate would have it, a shining symbol of American power and pride, and a defender of America’s ideals.  Evan’s performance is weak and he has an almost negligible screen presence.  This is perhaps the biggest flaw of the entire film.  I am very curious to see how Joss Whedon, who will be writing and directing The Avengers, tackle this problem.

The cast gives mostly sub-standard performances with only Tommy Lee Jones giving a memorable supporting turn as a high-ranking colonel.  Moreover, much of the humor in this film comes from Jones cracking sarcastic one-liners.  So as you can see, Jones is still reliable, and in Captain America, he is more important than you would think, considering Evans is truly disappointing.

The visual effects are not particularly outstanding, but they are serviceable to the story, never overwhelming the main conflict between Captain America and Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), the film’s primary villain.  The film is set in the late 1930s, hence the retro-looking art direction, though I have a problem with the all-too-futuristic design of some of the film’s props (e.g. Red Skull’s airplane).

The action sequences are old-school shoot-and-blow-‘em-ups but they are quite well-executed.  The film is generally enjoyable if you leave your expectations at home, but those who expect more from Marvel will not be rewarded.

Captain America is a few notches lower in quality (story and character-wise) than Thor (2011), which I feel is indisputably this summer’s best blockbuster.  However, at the very least, it gets us psyched up for next year’s epic screen culmination of Marvel superheroes.

GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)

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