Mavel does it again with another fun, escapist comic book adaptation akin to the Iron Man franchise. Captain America: The First Avenger, is a nice breath of fresh air in the comic-book-adaptation-world Hollywood is currently delving into.
Set in the early-mid 1940s, during World War II, adamant military wannabe Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is repeatedly rejected from military service due to his small stature and medical record, which includes asthma. Fortunately for Steve, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) finds inspiration in his unyielding determination to serve the United States, thus resulting in the “experiment,” that sees scrawny Steve turn into the physical specimen that becomes, Captain America.
Of course with any (and all, quite frankly) superhero films, a certain level of disbelief is to be expected – it’s not like superhuman abilities fall from the sky or grow on trees. Or do they? So should audiences be expecting fact-for-fact based situations and dialogue? Nope. Should they expect a love interest, in this case Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell)? Absolutely. What superhero doesn’t have one? The point is, Captain America is a fun, feel-good, make you proud to be an American, bad ass movie. Granted, it’s not exactly working in the film’s favor to have Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving)/Red Skull prancing around, sporting just that, a very skeletal, red skull – just as the name implied. Genius! Quite honestly, nothing dates a film faster than laser jet guns or discolored flesh – but for this instance it works and if it doesn’t necessarily work consistently, it’s forgivable because it’s easy to get wrapped up in the spot on cinematography, intense action sequences, emtion and acting.
At the beginning of Captain America actors Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell have a slightly off-putting screen couple presence (much like that of Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Artertron in last summer’s supposed to be blockbuster The Prince of Persia). Granted, Peggy Carter was the fixation of Captain America’s desire during World War II in the original comic book series, but does she have to be British? Furthermore, it’s a bit annoying seeing her involved so heavily in the action without needing to adhere to the dress code everyone else does – but perhaps that’s a bit nit-picky. No matter, the budding romance never actually take precedence over the actual story or mission, which for the genre, is a great thing (it’s again reminiscent of the Iron Man franchise because Tony Stark and Pepper Potts don’t really engage in an overly stated love affair, cough, Spiderman). Hayley Atwell has her shining moments in the film, but it’s likely due to good lighting – she’s not horrible, but she’s not great, her portrayal of Peggy Carter is one of those, “could take it or leave it,” which is quite opposite the really nice portrayal of Captain America by Chris Evans. Evans is really convincing as the short and skinny underdog turned heartthrob American defender in a role he handles very naturally with finesse. Based on the looks alone though, the role could have been cast to emerging leading man Channing Tatum, fortunately for Marvel, they chose to get the looks and the acting chops as a package deal (don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Tatum, but for this role he’d need to improve drastically and while he has improved, he couldn’t have handled this role as convincingly as Evans). Evans was the perfect fit for Captain America and as the first avenger, we can only hope he remains on board donning the red, white and blue.
With so much superhero saturation in the movies, it’s always exciting to see a movie that offers a story, characterization, romance, drama and action together without sacrificing one for the other. Honestly, the only downfalls happen to be the Red Skull character’s appearance (but as mentioned earlier, it’s forgivable because it stayed true to the comic), the lack of exposition about Steve Rogers’ past – prior to World War II and that Captain America’s object of desire be a British woman, but she can’t be all that bad because she is fighting for the United States. Forgiven.
It’s an exciting escape and one of my personal favorite and most anticipated superhero movies in quite some time (especially considering that last, unfortunate superhero offering known as The Green Lantern). That’s not to say there aren’t some issues here and there, but I’m willing to overlook and trade them in for the classic American sentimentality and aura presented with costuming, chorus lines and the over-the-top presence of Captain America, the man who makes Americans proud to be American. Captain America: The First Avenger runs approximately 125 minutes and is rated PG-13 (and don’t worry too much about seeing it in 3D, 2D will do just fine). Bravo.