Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay), Stephen McFeely (screenplay)
Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell


We open to wind swept snow and ice plains (current day), researchers have met up and are trying to talk over the howling noise. Something has been found in the frozen wasteland and they discuss how to salvage what seems to be a vessel of some description. The cut their way in and enter the derelict structure and before long, they find something. This is actually very reminiscent of when they first enter the derelict ship in Alien and see the command chair and this could be viewed as a good thing or a slight rip off. Mileage will vary depending upon your viewpoint.

We then cut back to March 1942 where evil Nazi Johann Schmidt (an underwhelming Weaving) is searching for a lost treasure of great power. From this point on the rest of the film follows Steve Rogers (Evans) and he goes from being a skinny and sickly boy to the world’s first true super soldier and all round American hero and great guy. Throw in a plot involving a sinister organisation, Rogers is recruited into the Strategic Scientific Reserve in order to become said hero and bring down the bad guys and generally be all round awesome. It’s just a pity that this film is not as awesome as Rogers is.

To say Marvel had a little bit of a rocky start to their cinematic universe I think would be a slight understatement. While fun films indeed and with a solid outing with Iron Man things definitely went backwards for a few years in the old quality department. The Incredible Hulk was rather a miss as was Thor so it was perhaps a good thing the second Iron man was sandwiched between those two. Upon The First Avenger coming out I can’t say I was holding my breath for a solid superhero film. I’m glad I didn’t. The fifth film to be released (but the first in the chronological timeline) ultimately like some of it’s predecessors fails to really meet the expectations that it was weighted down with.

So let’s get to the good first. The cast is mostly excellent here and all do their bits very well. While I’ve never been a huge fun of Evans personally, he does come across well as the American hero with his looks etc. Special mention must go to Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine along with Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Phillips, both have rather understated roles and they are always top drawer and a pleasure to watch. I must also mention Dominic Cooper who I slated to death in Mamma Mia!, the role of Howard Stark just suits him and you can tell he obviously enjoyed hamming up the playboy inventor and this really shows through.

The star of the show for me must go to Hayley Atwell though as Agent Peggy Carter. Plays her part wonderfully and is easily the most interesting character around. She also has all the best lines and delivers them with a smile and a glint in her eye. she looks fantastic in her forties (maybe early fifties too) bombshell attire and she really is a great character that is well written. I can’t imagine how truly drab it would have been without her scenes. For those interested and have not yet seen her spin-off series, do watch it, she is even better in that with an even better script to work with. As for Weaving, well he really doesn’t seem to be getting into it or enjoying himself really, perhaps compounded by him stating he has no interest in ever reviving his character.

Steve’s transformation from dweeb to sex God is nicely filmed and overall there is some nice photography and well designed action scenes. Lighting and audio are also good (people know I hate my bad audio) and overall the film itself looks rather good if not a little pale and wishy-washy in places. This could very well be by design though to better reflect the areas and sequences you are watching at the time. Dodgy stock footage of the era (supposedly showing a town street) is not done well though and is quite frankly not acceptable, if you’re going to do that, at least try and blend it in nicely guys. Likewise, there is some very bad CGI in places and given the budgets of these films it really should be better.

As to the bad, well the script is incredibly cheesy at times but I accept that this also may have been somewhat intentionally. The whole film has a campiness about it at times and reflects the time period the film is set in. Steve’s Captain America suit sucks major ass but is again is a direct reflection of the era. At least he gets a better one later from Stark. The dance troupe was nice but very, very American and reminiscent of when the government went begging for money through towns with a big show to gather more funds for the war effort. It seemed out of place in the film in my opinion but I can see why they put it in there.

The film also treads dangerously in James Bond comedy at times and at others downright slapstick. It can throw you out of the film (even this kind of film) with some of it’s more ridiculous moments. Hail HYDRA with a salute still makes me laugh to this day and I’m sure even the inexperienced Rogers knows you cannot creep and sneak through an enemy camp with a bloody great shield on your back covered in the Stars and Stripes. It’s just too comical and reminds you of the God-awful television movies from the late seventies. That aside, it is a fun film to watch if not a terribly good one for the genre or up to Marvel’s standards.

Overall this was a solid entry in Marvel’s cinematic universe if not to the standard and quality of the two Iron Man films which preceded it. Some dates and times have been changed from his comic origins but this has been done to tie in with Marvel’s new overarching story-lines. Definitely worth a watch if you are new to the MCU and worth a watch if you are just a general superhero and/or genre fan.

 

The Sage’s Rating:
Three Stars

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