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Posted May 7, 2013 by Becky Hall in Comics
 
 

Comic Book Movie Review: Captain America

© Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

Director: Joe Johnston

Release year: 2011

Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci

Captain America: the First Avenger, was (somewhat ironically) the last of the Avengers to be introduced in the Phase One of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Johnston’s retro approach to the Captain’s origin story was well received by the audiences, simultaneously satisfying Marvel fans while being engaging and open enough in its plot and portrayal of the WWII superhero to draw in audiences new to the franchise. Just in time for the release of Marvel’s blockbuster Avengers Assemble in Spring 2012.

“Look, just give me a chance..” ©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

I know I go on about the pitch perfect casting for most of the Marvel films, but let’s face it – they do have a track record for casting actors and actresses who seem to be almost born for their parts. Chris Evans embodies the idea of Captain America – broad and strong, patriotic, straight-laced, determined and an authoritative but unassuming leader. In the beginning, he did look like a seriously unlikely superhero. Thanks to some serious skill from the visual effects team, Evans lost about foot both in height and in breadth and it looked very convincing for the most part. The fact that his head looked too big for his spindly little body is possibly me being nitpicky, but mostly I was happy to suspend belief and wince along with the rest of the audience when those stick arms of his tried to complete a series of press-ups. When Dr Erskine’s (Stanley Tucci) experiment proves to be a success and a slightly dazed Rogers stumbles out of the er… of the erm… Supersoldier Maker™, it’s fairly obvious that this is Evans’ natural form. However, he does manage to make it look a little like he isn’t quite used to this shiny (literally) new body of his. While in pursuit of a Hydra operative he manages to total a bridal shop window after misjudging his strength and speed. “Sorry!” he yells as he breaks the unbroken window on the way back out. Bless his cotton socks.

©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

But as memorable as Chris Evans and his intimidating abs are, Hayley Atwell is the star of this piece, without a doubt. I’m not gonna lie, I have a serious crush on Hayley Atwell. Her portrayal of British agent, Peggy Carter, is intelligent and independent, a strong, feisty and badass leading lady who is more than capable of holding her own against any man, including her Supersoldier love interest. I mean, come on, within 30 seconds of her first appearance on-screen a mouthy US soldier is already flat on his back having been laid out by her blinding right hook. That is one hell of an entrance! Captain America may not technically pass the Bechdel Test, but with Peggy Carter as the heroine, I don’t think it needs to. It’s fantastic to see that Marvel are keeping up with the times these days and writing female characters who are each uniquely brilliant rather than just a set of women who are merely defined by their relationships with their respective superheroes (see Mary Jane Watson from Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy). Peggy Carter is at the top of my favourite Marvel women list, just beating Natasha Romanoff.

“He’s still skinny.”
©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

Aside from Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell, there are a host of supporting actors who and their own special sparkle to the movie. Tommy Lee Jones’s acerbic and sarcastic Colonel Phillips provides the grounding that the movie sometimes requires when it is getting a little too soppy or fanciful. His dry wit is a different kind of comic relief, matching the serious yet often effervescent tone of the movie. His civilian colleague, Dr Erskine on the other hand is a good deal more amicable, discerning and confident about his choice of guinea pig for the Supersoldier Project. I strongly maintain that the profile of any movie is raised just by having Stanley Tucci in it and Captain America is no exception. Erskine is a brilliant and amiable German scientist, the mastermind behind the Supersoldier Project and this sadly means that his goose was cooked from the moment he appeared on the screen. Of course Rogers can ever be the only supersoldier formed using Erskine’s serum, otherwise the Hulk would never have come into existence and Captain America wouldn’t be such a superhero. James “Bucky” Barnes – played by Sebastian Stan, is Steve Rogers’ best buddy and right hand man. Barnes is a dedicated soldier and a loyal friend, happy to follow the “little guy who couldn’t run away from a fight” into the most dangerous battlefields of the war. Much more than just a pretty face and another source of comic relief, Bucky is the reason Rogers can find his full potential as a soldier, inspires him to take the leap from acting in propaganda media to leading a team to take on the Allies’ most dangerous enemy. If Erskine’s genius made Rogers a Supersoldier, it’s Barnes’ loyalty and faith that make him into Captain America.

“You’ve been asleep Cap. For almost seventy years.” ©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

Like Thor, Captain America isn’t entirely set in the modern world and, also like Thor, Johnston chose to firmly establish Captain America’s existence in the present day before going back to WWII to explain how the superhero came into being. It’s interesting that audiences don’t seem to connect with these movies unless they’re tied into the present day in some way, it’s not like we haven’t been to the cinema to watch films based in different times and on different worlds before, but somehow it does seem to feel more comfortable, knowing that eventually everything will come back to the present day. Maybe it’s because we know that superheroes like Bruce Banner and Tony Stark only exist in the present day, and therefore to create the Avengers team that we all know is coming, the likes of Steve Rogers and Thor have to come to modern Earth at some point during their films. Honestly? This is just exposition, it could be for any number of reasons and I’m sure someone will one day study the phenomenon, but for now this is how it is. It’ll be interesting to see how the Guardians of the Galaxy fares with this when it comes around.

“I’m sorry Herr Schmidt! We fought ’til the last man!” “Evidently not!” ©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

Oh look, I haven’t talked that much about Johan Schmidt, the Big Bad of the movie. Evil scientist (not dissimilar from Ivan Vanko from Iron Man 2), hell-bent on world domination (like every other villain ever) – pretty much the only thing that makes him even vaguely memorable is his big… well, er… red skull. Imaginative name there Schmidt; seriously, you couldn’t come up with something a little better?

Overall, lovely retro look without being too dated in its design and dialogue. As usual, the casting is superb. As usual, the villain is a tad disappointing. I am rather looking forward to the build up for the Captain America: The Winter Soldier – due for release in 2014. With the return of Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell as well as the introduction of some new cast members including Emily Van Camp (Revenge), Robert Redford (Butch and the Sundance Kid) and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) – it looks like it’s going to be rather a large amount of fun.

 

Superhero rating: 7.5/10

 

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