Join Date: Sep 2005
Re: The Official Captain America: The First Avenger Review Thread! - Part 1
I'm loving the discussion Cap has inspired on the whole hero vs. anti-hero thing. I saw the movie for the second time today and enjoyed it even more than the first; having gotten past the surprises from my first viewing, I was able to really soak in everything: the acting, the cinematography, the action, the music. This is certainly in the top tier of superhero films for me. As soon as I came out of the screening, I ended up buying the movie soundtrack, a Captain America graphic novel and a copy of the Ultimate Avengers DVD.
Really, the only complaint I would have about this movie is that it was too short. Everything else, as far as I was concerned, was pretty much perfect, and I don't think I could have asked for a better Captain America movie. Maybe this sounds like hyperbole, but if a movie makes me feel this strongly about it it must be doing something right.
Chris Evans IS Captain America. Although I was skeptical when he was first cast - mainly because he had already played the Human Torch, I admit - throughout the production I gradually warmed up to him. I would say it was after watching Sunshine that I became convinced he had a fair shot of playing a good Cap. The interviews with him further reinforced in my mind that this guy really got the character of Steve Rogers, and when we started seeing production stills, trailer footage, I was amazed by his appearance and the fact that he seemed to nail Steve's heart and gumption. But actually seeing him in the movie...wow. Kudos to the special effects team - the effects used for skinny Steve were absolutely seamless, and you could easily accept that this was a real guy, both before and after Project: Rebirth.
I definitely don't buy the argument that by being a good man, Steve Rogers is a boring character. On the contrary...as many people have pointed out, the fact that he was able to retain a strong moral center despite having so many obstacles thrown at him was really inspiring. I think that's why Superman is my favourite superhero - I like the idea of a hero you can look up to. But in that sense, Rogers is even more heroic, because he spent most of his life being beat up, bullied, with no parents, etc. He never let that stuff get him down. Some people might think that's bland. Personally...it makes me want to be a better person. I think that really says it all: when a movie character makes you want to improve yourself, THAT is a hero, and it really explains why Cap is the leader of the Avengers, and why I think Chris will be able to convey that sense even alongside heavyweight stars like Robert Downey Jr. Tony Stark is incredibly cool and charismatic, but I never felt the desire to emulate his example. Steve Rogers, thanks to the script and Evans' performance, seems to make it cool to be a do-gooder, and that's something we need more of in such a cynical and jaded modern world.
I can't say enough about the supporting cast. Stanley Tucci is the heart and soul of this movie. As Erskine, the adjective "warm" seems to describe his character better than any. That speech of his - about not being "a perfect soldier, but a good man" really got to me. He was also funny a lot of the time, and you really feel his death as a great loss.
Hugo Weaving - incredible. I've heard some people say he's almost too good for the role, given that Red Skull is kind of a two-dimensional character (i.e. he's evil and power-mad, and that's pretty much it). Honestly, I don't have a problem with that. Part of the charm of this movie was its old school feel, harkening back to a simpler time when good and evil seemed much more clearly defined. Weaving was a delight to watch every time he was on screen. To be fair, both Red Skull and HYDRA were quite cheesy at times - I couldn't help laughing whenever his minions did the "Hail HYDRA!" salute - but that was fine, because it made it seem even more like a mega-budgeted 1940s serial. While I was clamouring before the release for Cap to kick some Nazi ass, it didn't really matter in the end that he mostly fought HYDRA. I really can't imagine any Germans being offended by this movie. Inglourious Basterds it ain't.
Sebastian Stan was a pleasant surprise as Bucky Barnes. I wouldn't have expected to say this about a character named "Bucky Barnes" known for being Captain America's sidekick, but Bucky was totally BADASS. I loved this new Band of Brothers version of the character, and he hinted at a darker complexity lurking beneath the surface with possible jealousy toward Steve over Peggy and maybe even the Super Soldier Serum. I'd love to see him return as the Winter Soldier, and Joe Johnston's expressed interest in that plotline makes me even more hopeful. Bucky wasn't onscreen enough, so he definitely deserves more screentime.
Tommy Lee Jones, as everyone has already pointed out, stole every scene he was in. Far from being a glorified cameo where he was phoning it in (in the sense of Marlon Brando as Jor-El), Jones got the best lines, was there until the end and had the audience laughing consistently. It'll be a shame not to see Gen. Phillips in any future Cap adventures.
On that note, Hayley Atwell may have been my favourite female character in any of these Marvel movies, and potentially any superhero movie to date. Let me start by being blunt and slightly uncouth: the woman has an amazing rack, and I had to pick my jaw off the floor after that scene with the red dress. But physical charms alone do not a character make - just ask Megan Fox. No, Atwell created a character we actually cared about and I fully bought her relationship with Steve. There was something very sweetly old-fashioned about their mutual attraction. The way it was presented - she was clearly impressed by Steve even prior to the transformation, with his bravery in the grenade incident and his courage in the face of bullies, emphasized at the end when she looks at a photo of him skinny rather than buffed-out - really tugged at the heartstrings, and gives the ending a tragic element that feels like anything but a tacked-on plot formula.
Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark - charming. You can really see the elements of Tony Stark in there, while he nevertheless gives off a distinct, young Howard Hughes vibe of his own.
The music was excellent - it's nice to have a superhero movie with a recognizable theme again, and that "Star Spangled Man" sequence is awesome. I loved how they incorporated all the different costumes for Cap - the classic Kirby outfit, the Ultimate costume, and the special movie costume. I really just came out of this movie feeling great and looking forward to The Avengers even more than before. For anyone who had doubts about Joe Johnston's capability to deliver a great Cap film - well, if I ever had any, I certainly don't anymore.
There's one last thing I want to say, and it pertains to the contrast between this movie and the last superhero film I watched, Green Lantern. The difference couldn't be starker - the director of this film really got the character, understood his appeal, and included pretty much everything a fan might want to see. But the most intriguing contrast comes down to the very appeal of superheroes.
Remember those bits in Green Lantern where Hector Hammond vents at Hal, basically, for being a tall, good-looking pilot who gets all the girls? At times it felt like that movie could have been written by a bunch of vengeful jocks. The villain is an embittered nerd angry that he can't get the girl, while the hero is an outgoing player who looks like a male model. It was awfully jarring to see that in a movie whose core fanbase is, to generalize a bit, quite nerdy.
Now compare that to Cap, where we see a physically weak character who gets beat up a lot, doesn't get any of the girls, but is brave and has a good heart - and THEN he gets this gift that turns him into a chiseled Super Soldier, yet retains his strong moral center. That, to me, is the very appeal of superheroes at their most basic level. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but one of the reasons I love superheroes so much is that wish fulfillment aspect. On the outside, you may be nerdy, socially inept Clark Kent - but underneath you're SUPERMAN. Peter Parker is a science geek who reveals his inner hero. Bruce Banner lets out his repressed inner rage to become a primal force of nature. I could go on, but isn't this one of the biggest draws of the superhero genre - the idea that these are seemingly ordinary people, who may not be the most impressive physical specimens, who take a lot of ****, but beneath their unimpressive exteriors there's a hero just waiting to shine?
I love that theme. It's the kind of thing that Ronnie James Dio sang about in "The Last in Line", and it's probably the reason superheroes appeal so much to me. Captain America got that - Green Lantern didn't. Cap made me feel the way I did when I saw the first Spider-Man movie back in 2002, and it was a delight to be inspired in that way. If the movie has any flaws...clearly, they didn't matter much to me. I can't wait to see it again.
"Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich — that is the democracy of capitalist society."—Lenin
"We know the freedom that argues against communism is the freedom to enslave and the freedom to exploit."—Blanqui