Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action/Adventure, Comic Book
Opens locally Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Run Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones
Directed by Joe Johnston (Jumanji, The Wolfman, Jurassic Park 3)
Evil villain threatens to take over the world with super-weapon. Wholesome hero tries (and succeeds) in stopping him from doing so. The End. If you feel like you haven't seen this plot before, by all means, go see "Captain America." But if you are like me and tire from re-hashed "same-old, same-old" crap, then you may want to think twice...yes, my fellow Americans, Captain America is not even quite mindless summer fun, and is by far the weakest addition of the films that are leading into 2012's cross-over blockbuster-to-be, "The Avengers."
Marvel Comics has done a lot of things right over the past decade, in re-defining and shaping the comic book movie genre, while faithfully adapting their beloved universe to the big-screen. Next year's "The Avengers" is perhaps one of the most ambitious gambles in film history, and if you are unaware, the Marvel super-team will feature characters from all of the recent Marvel movies, from Iron Man, to Thor, to Captain America, plus a bunch more that I won't even get into here. The end result is equal part thrilling and scary...thrilling that all of these actors and characters will share the screen together, and scary how massive of a flop this could potentially turn into if said characters are not well liked or received.
With "Captain America: The First Avenger," Marvel uses the same tried-and-true formula that worked with Spider-man and Iron Man. It's an origin story that basically exists to let us know how this particular hero came to be, and leaves enough time on screen for them to use all of their new-found powers to kick some bad-guy butt. Spider-man was bit by a radioactive spider, and in the case of Captain America, weak and frail Steve Rogers is pumped with secret government serum and turned into our country's first and only super-soldier. The backdrop is World War II, and aside from Hitler, the villainous Nazi Johann Schmidt (Weaving) is planning world domination. He shares a commonality with Captain America, and because all baddies need a nickname, he is called Red Skull.
As a tremendously huge comic-book fan in the 80s and 90s, I can tell you that "Captain America" was always one of the lamest superheroes to me...not withstanding his clearly respectable courage and the fact that he represents the USA. Thor was also a lame comic character, at least in my era, but his movie was an enjoyable, if not perfect, tongue-in-cheek adventure. With "Captain America," the Marvel formula for success seems to be wearing quite thin. The comedic one-liners, the self-referential jokes, the scene where our character always puts on his costume but not until he makes us aware that he too thinks it looks rediculous.
But unlike Spider-man, where we saw Peter Parker learn and grow into his new powers, Steve Rogers as Captain America goes from a wimpy kid with a big heart, to a super-hero who instantly knows how to shoot, fight, pilot a plane, do magnificent stunts, and master his abilities. Even in the realm of a comic book universe, this comes across more as a cartoon.
Tommy Lee Jones is a war Colonel and was quite hilarious, given most of the film's best lines. Hayley Atwell was a throw-away love interest with absolutely no believable chemistry with our hero. Chris Evans added nothing to a comic book personality in serious need of an edge. Comic book fans may be happy to see that the Howling Commandos appear in the film, but they were fleshed out about as much as they were in the books...not a good thing. Sebastian Shaw, who plays Captain America's sidekick pal Bucky, was a welcome addition to the film, if only because avid comic book fans know why he is an important character in Marvel history (don't know? SPOILER: In a universe where characters die and reappear quite often, Bucky was famous for that he was one of few characters who died, and actually stayed dead. Let's hope they played this one true.)
Adding insult to injury, be forewarned: There is NO scene following the end credits of the film, as there has been with every other Avengers tie-in movie [UPDATED: There apparently IS a scene at the end of the credits although my screening did not have it included and I was given some misinformation. What is the end scene? Feel free to share a comment with what happens, as I will not be sitting through this one again to find out.]
The entire experience of "Captain America: The First Avenger" seemed like a rerun...a film I've seen made before, and better. I wasn't even left thinking that I'd anticipate seeing the characters again. For all of the hype that The Avengers is creating, it will need to do better than this. Worse yet, Marvel films need to find a new cord to strike, and can't expect us to care about characters given this kind of lazy, routine treatment.
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