THE FIRST AVENGER (CAPTAIN AMERICA FILM REVIEW)

I have to say, I really love midnight film showings.  Almost invariably, you’ll view the film in a theatre packed with the titular character’s greatest fans.  The amassment of viewers will undoubtedly cheer at every punched jaw, gasp when our protagonist is about to be executed, and cheer some more when they escape their doomed fate.  Somehow, however, I did not experience this last night.  Rather, I viewed Captain America: The First Avenger in a near empty theatre, no more than twenty-five people in attendance. 

Regardless, those who were present enjoyed the film.

THE GOOD

Where should a film revolving around World War II do it’s best?  In the war scenes.  Allow me the assuage your fears for another superhero film by saying that the cinematographers did an excellent job with the large-scale fight scenes.  Watching Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) invade enemy bases, punch out Hydra guards, and release four hundred prisoners from rows of jail cells was immensely satisfying.  The further Michael Bay-esque explosions in the background appropriately added to the atmosphere.

But beyond the action (in an action film), what did I like?  Well, I was appreciative of the film’s casting director whom I believe did an excellent job in this film.  All of the characters seemed appropriate for their roles from Chris Evans to Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter) to Hugo Weaving (Johann Schmidt/Red Skull).  My favorite cast member however, was Tommy Lee Jones.  I’m regularly enamored with his characters so this is nothing new and, like he does in virtually every film, he added comedic relief to this film with his gruff sarcasm. 

Though not out of place for a comic book hero, I was not expecting much from the dialogue in this film.  Unlike the stereotypical monologues found in the pulp pages, the dialogue in this film seemed balanced and logical, while still coming from virtually one-dimensional characters.  What I found the best was Evans final dialogue with Atwell just before he crashes the plane.  It wasn’t overly dramatic or a depressing goodbye, it was the emotionally fulfilling avoidance of saying goodbye that alluded to the underlying romance in the film while not allowing the traditional action film to be dragged down by it. 

Finally, like all of the Avenger hero films thus far, Captain America has a scene that shows after the credits.  Unlike the previous films that only alluded to the next hero in the series, this scene is essentially a full trailer for the Avengers film.  While I’ll, in turn, write a review on that trailer soon, all I have to say here is that the trailer is excellent and certainly worth waiting through the credits for.

THE BAD

While I greatly enjoyed this film (I suppose I’m a bit of a superhero geek at heart), it wasn’t perfect.  In fact, it made a fair number of mistakes with the first being that it suffers from some truly dreadful montage scenes. 

The first of these is when Steve Rogers is only Captain America on stage, selling war bonds to upper class Americans back at home.  It’s about five minutes of dancing girls, Evans selling bonds, and watching him poorly stage-punch a vaudevillian Hitler.  While it’s not particularly upsetting, it grows old as soon as Captain America learns his lines (in the beginning, he’s reading them off of his shield).

The other, considerably more dreadful montage takes place after Captain America becomes a battlefield hero.  Just after releasing the four hundred prisoners and returning to base, we have a two-to-three minute montage of Captain America kicking butt with his team, blowing up elephant-sized tanks, and having Red Skull show up after the slaughter and shaking his fist ruefully.  Scenes like these are what scare people about superhero films.  Moreso than completely one-dimensional characters, it’s the cheesy lines and illogical behavior of the villains.  Watching Red Skull shake his fist at the thought of Captain America makes the film’s villain seem almost comical which is completely destructive for the horrifying mystical Nazi. 

Beyond the montage scenes, I found the pacing of the film to be lacking.  My brother kept saying that the film could have been broken into three films and, while completely wrong (though they may have been three comic books), I understand what he was trying to get at.  The film has three major points of action: the initial invasion and prison break, a train-heist of sorts, and the final battle.  The issue is that, from the point when Steve Rogers is irradiated into Captain America, there’s little to no downtime.  It’s action, Action, ACTION!  It seems as if each of these action scenes is broken by a few minutes of dialogue about whatever just happened and a one-liner. 

Finally, I felt the defeat of Red Skull lacked the fulfillment of being beaten by Captain America.  Instead, Red Skull essentially destroys himself in a manner strangely reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  He’s destroyed by holding a Cosmic Cube (Marvel universe construct thingie) and transported into space or something.  The scene just looked as if it was channeling other films with the Indiana Jones death and alluding awfully heavily to Thor and Norse mythos. 

THE UGLY

There’s little else to say negative about this film aside from the external references it kept making.  After some reflection, I can accept the Thor references as they’ll be teaming up together in The Avengers

However, I cannot accept the Raiders of the Lost Ark death and a few others.  The first of these is a short series of Evel Knievel stunts that Captain America takes on a motorbike.  While I’ve nothing against the motorbike, feeling that it’s thoroughly American and a fitting means of transportation for a human superhero, this film messed it up. 

Then, after watching the Captain jump of ramps as things explode behind him, we’re forced to watch a chase scene with our protagonist and team of leather-garbed Hydra agents riding their choppers through a forest and fighting with laser weapons.  It screamed Mad Max and left me puzzled over why the film needed this thirty second scene.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Though my negative thoughts are often greater in number than the positive things I’ll say about a film, that’s simply the routine here.  Altogether, I greatly enjoyed watching this film.  It’s refreshing to have such a stereotypically “good” superhero take to the silver screen after every other studio has aimed for the antihero in the last decade.  While I would quickly lose favor with this if it became the standard, it was fun to watch and I greatly recommend this film to anybody who enjoys superhero or action films.  Also, with minimal graphic violence (save for one Hydra agent being instantly chopped up by a plane propeller towards the end of the film) it’s an excellent one for children.

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