In this movie review, we take a look at the new flick from Marvel Studios – Captain America. How does this version stack up to the original? Only one way to find out…
Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the beautiful Marvel Studios Racetrack! Today is the day that we’ve all been waiting for, the Avengers Grand Derby. I’m Dashing D-Man and I want to welcome you all to a very exciting and fascinating race. On the track today, we have some old timers like Captain America (Winghead) and the Hulk (Jade Jaws), newcomers like Iron Man (Shellhead) and the dark horse upstart, Thor (Goldilocks.) So I hope that you have your popcorn and soda cuz the race is about to start! And no more bets please, NO MORE BETS! Let’s start the race, whaddya say??
Aaaannd they’re off!!
“It’s Shellhead out with a strong lead, Shockingly Jade Jaws is slow out of the gate. Ohhh!! Shellhead stumbles on the second lap. And look at this, Goldilocks is coming up strong. While Winghead, is holding firm. This could be anyone’s race folks!!”
And in my mind that’s how the film race for the Avengers movie has been going so far. Over the span of the past three years, Marvel has done their best to provide audiences and fans with a well balanced meal, with its diverse roster of superheroes ranging from self-absorbed billionaires to nerds with anger management issues and spoiled demi-gods. And this July, Marvel rounded out the menu with Captain America, the resolute patriot with the heart of a lion. His name is Steve Rogers and he wants you!
As much as I’d love to say that I was dying to see this movie, I had more than my fair share of reservations about it, none of which were overwhelmingly strident but they were concerns nevertheless. I think Joe Johnston is a good director and seeing how he had already directed the very under-rated Rocketeer, it would only make sense that helming another wholesome All-American period piece should be a walk in the park. And how could anybody go wrong with a handsome, clean-cut patriotic hero? Don’t get me wrong, Captain America: The First Avenger isn’t a bad film, it’s just not remarkable and ultimately it just ties up the final loose ends of the Avengers tie-ins.
My main issue with the film was with the casting of the lead, Chris Evans (Push). I’m just going to walk over and punch that 800 pound gorilla sitting in the corner. I bought Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Just like I bought Edward Norton as Bruce Banner and Chris Hemsworth as Thor. I just couldn’t buy Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. Obviously this isn’t Chris Evans’ first time to the superhero table, having already acted in two Fantastic Four films, The Losers and the superhero themed Push. And no, I don’t think that Chris Evans is a bad actor, by any stretch of the imagination - quite the opposite in fact. I just couldn’t see him as Captain America. I also don’t have a problem with actors or actresses portraying multiple characters in comic book movies. Ben Foster (X-Men: Last Stand) has done it. So have Rebecca Romijn (X2), James Marsden (Superman Returns), Halle Berry (Catwoman) and Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds I think holds the current record with 3 comic book films; Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and of course most recently Hal Jordan in this summer’s Green Lantern.
And just for the record, I loved Evans as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four films and he was honesty just about the best part of a franchise that was anything but fantastic. He was cocky, charismatic and he embodied that character perfectly. As the star-spangled Avenger, Evans just seemed like a loose fit, seemingly cast more for how he would fit in the updated costume than how he would fit into the role. Not to dump the burden of responsibility solely on Evans’ broad shoulders; casting missteps were not the only problem areas for Captain America.
This is one of my oldest and deepest beliefs when it comes to superheroes and -particularly nowadays – superhero movies. Your hero is only as good as his (or her) villain. Meaning that I couldn’t care less how cool the hero’s weapons, cars, gadgets or jewelry is. If there’s nothing really compelling for the hero to do with all their accoutrements, then I feel like I’m going be in for a pretty tepid ride. I’m sure you all remember the existential romp that was the Hulk back in 2003, and the riveting ride of watching a hell-bent Nic Cage duke it out with the ‘Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Ever Seen’ guy from American Beauty in Ghost Rider. And it seems like just yesterday I was yucking it up to Brandon Routh trying to talk his way out of five years of back child support payments and not…punch…a damn thing in Superman Returns. You see what I mean?
And just like in Superman Returns, Captain America seems very concerned with making everything look right. Cap’s transformation, outfit, shield even the Red Skull all look pretty dang slick. Right down to the Benjamin Button, pre-HGH Steve Rogers who wants into this man’s Army as badly as Klinger wanted out of Korea in M.A.S.H. But the only thing that I kept saying/thinking about the entire time that Steve Rogers is pre-Cap, was how much he looked like a bobblehead doll with a Chris Evans head.
Perhaps, the ultimate underlying reason for my ambivalence of the film was his (Steve Rogers) motivation. Following an idealistic boyscout who just feels the need to risk his life for king and country for no apparent reason other than a deep-seeded sense of patriotism and civic duty. He simply does not have any of the inciting tragedy (Iron Man), persecution (Hulk), or redemptive (Thor) incentives that drive his fellow Avengers.
My final bone of contention with Captain America: The First Avenger is (as shallow as it sounds), is the title - or more specifically, its tagline, which in my opinion, was indicative of the whole approach to the film; branding a product instead of telling a story. I hate saying it as much as I hated saying the title to Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.
(Possible Spoiler Alert) This may be a spoiler, but I really don’t care. I didn’t have a problem with the story being told in flashback, but the way that the filmmakers chose to introduce it drained every once of intrigue from the plot for me. Giving it a very Revenge of the Sith-forgone conclusion level of tension, which is to say none. And as a result of that, as a viewer I never feel that Capt. America is ever truly in danger. I just got to sit patiently and wait for the marketing train to pull into the station, when in fact there was a particular reveal at the end of the film that could have worked superbly if it had been used as the opening scene.
Now that the crossover comic book train has come to an end, I have to say that I am proud of Marvel for pulling off something that to date has never been done by any other movie studio. So now that the gangs all here, let’s see how well they can play together next summer.