Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day Seventy-one - Captain America: The First Avenger, or "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!""

Coupled with Thor in 2011, Captain America was one of several intro films to Joss Whedon's massive teamup movie, The Avengers. Part of Marvel Studios' 2.0 plan, after the huge success of Iron Man, The First Avenger gets Cap's origin story out of the way so it wasn't necessary to reestablish the character much in The Avengers... and it does this with a surprising amount of style and panache.

The first act of the movie we see Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as the ninety pound weakling that he was born as doing his best to join the war effort during WW2, going even so far as to commit fraud on his documents. In doing so, he catches the interest of the thoughtful scientist Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who thinks he's perfect for the classified super soldier program.

After a successful transmogrification into a complete badass, the second act deals with Cap's first adventure, where he goes from propaganda poster boy to actual soldier, against the Nazi research group, and general Marvel villainous organization, Hydra, Led by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) whom we met in the prologue.

Then the third act rolls around where it's all about taking Hydra down, which culminates in a huge action set piece, first at a secret base in the alps, then in the sky in a giant flying wing loaded with super-bombs created with MacGuffin "Tesseract" energy.

As far as superhero movies go, this was actually pretty believable... even with the MacGuffins. Maybe it's because the film is half retro science fiction and half period war movie, but there's something about the way Joe Johnston and his crew managed to combine convincing sets, costumes, and mood with sketchy space opera gimmicks like ray guns and super-serum.

Every time Hugo Weaving pointed his supercharged Luger, I couldn't help but chuckle with glee. The same could be said concerning Howard Stark's innovations.

On top of the gadgets and dressings, the film also had a lot of heart.

Whether it was Erskine's quiet confidence and wisdom or Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) gruff adorableness... or Peggy Carter's (Haley Atwell) reserved smolder, every character in this film is earnest. Even the villains, Schmidt and Armin Zola (Toby Jones) have more drive than your typical casting call comic book villains.

I think, my favorite part of the movie was meeting and recruiting the Howling Commandos. A small ensemble of familiar faces like Neal McDonough and Kenneth Choi, I really hope the Commandos come back somehow for Captain America 2 or maybe in a spinoff with Nick Fury showing how he lost his eye. Although a very minor part of the story, they have some of the best moments and lines. Plus, Neal McDonough in a bowler hat is pretty awesome.

There are a few weaknesses to the film here and there... not enough time spent with The Red Skull and Hydra, no real glass ceiling for Agent Carter to be complaining about to Rogers, and the somewhat pleasing, somewhat silly battle montages between the second and third acts which, oddly enough, have some of my favorite Howling Commando moments. Still, there's very little to complain about.

All in all, Captain America is a really good summer blockbuster that holds up upon repeated viewings. I only hope that Haley Atwell can reprise her role, sliding into the shoes of her character Peggy Carter's granddaughter in the modern era.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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