Monday, August 1, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America:  The First Avenger (2011) 
  Director: Joe Johnston
  Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay), Stephen McFeely (screenplay),
  Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell


Finally, the Star Spangled Avenger Comes to the Big Screen
Avengers Assemble!

Summary:
After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America's ideals.
Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941, before America officially entered the war.  In fact, issue #1 of the classic book has Cap punching out Adolf Hitler.  In fact, there is a scene or two that give a nod to the classic cover.

Cap was aided in his mission by his teen sidekick Bucky.  Together, these two first Avengers fought the Axis powers throughout Europe and Asia, until their disappearance toward the end of the war at the hands of Baron Zemo, a Nazi scientist.  Of course, Cap's greatest enemy was Johann Schmidt, aka the Red Skull.  In fact, Cap's existence in part is owed to the Red Skull.  Captain America was created to be the exact opposite symbol as the Skull, who represented evil, the occult, and Nazi-ism.
Cap is freed from suspended animation in the modern era, where he is a man without time, but still a man with a mission.  He joins the Mighty Avengers and remains today the greatest and first Avenger, the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America!
The film opens in today's time in an arctic tundra where an amazing discovery has taken place.  A huge relic has been found in the ice that has not been noticed before.  Could one of WWII's most shocking mysteries be solved?  With the appearance of a certain round disc, the adventure begins.
In the film, Steve Rogers is a kid from Brooklyn circa 1942 who doesn't know when to quit.  Despite being rejected for military service a host of times, he keeps trying to volunteer for the military to fight in WWII.  He is the classic 90 lb. weakling, and is ruled to be 4F, or unfit for military duty.  Nonetheless, Rogers wants to serve to fight the "bullies" of Europe, the Nazis.  His able bodied friend, James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, was able to enlist and has received his orders to deploy with the same unit that Steve's father served and died in in WWI.  Bucky doesn't understand why Steve is so upset, as he thinks Steve lucky to not be going to fight. 
Meanwhile, in Europe, a sadistic Nazi scientist named Schmidt is looking for the Tesseracht (or also known as the Cosmic Cube), a relic from the Norse deities (tie-in to Thor, anyone?) that promises absolute power.  In Scandinavia, Schmidt finds what he is looking for to take Hydra, the scientific and research arm of the Nazis, beyond even Hitler's grasp and into the grips of world domination.  Schmidt is assisted in his efforts by Arnim Zola, weapons designer and a scientific genius in his own right.  Schmidt has been disfigured and enhanced by a serum by refugee scientist Abraham Erksine, who fled to America with the serum and now is trying to raise an army of Super Soldiers.  Schmidt was transformed by the serum into the epitome of evil, Der Rote Schaddel, the Red Skull!  Weaving does a fantastic job and makes the character jump off the screen. 
Rogers is granted his service by Dr. Erksine, who overhears Steve arguing with Bucky at a recruitment station.  Despite protestations from Colonel Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, Rogers is chosen as the guinea pig for the Super Soldier Project.  He is reborn as the epitome of human goodness and perfection, Captain America.  Tragically, he is to be the only Super Soldier created.  Rogers vows to go after the Nazis and bring freedom to the world, aided by Phillips, Agent Peggy Carter, and industrialist/war supporter Howard Stark (yes, that Howard Stark, Tony's father).
At first, Rogers is not used in actual combat, deemed to valuable as a research project and public relations tool.  However, Cap soon proves his mettle and gains a team of Howlin' Commandos to work with him to bring down the forces of Hydra.  Meanwhile, the maniacal Schmidt has created weapons that will ride on the wings of the Valkyrie that will not only bring down the Allies, but possibly the world.  Will Captain America and his mighty shield be able to nullify the Nazi?  Will the Star Spangled Sentinel be able to have the victory?  Or will he be frozen forever in time, a man out of place, doomed in defeat?

The Good: 
I have been waiting for this movie for over 30 years, since I first bought Captain America #300 way back when.  I have loved Cap since I was able to read.  He is my all-time favorite comic book hero.  I followed this movie from each step, from script to release, and I must say that along each step, I felt better about the film.  This is perhaps the best comic book film ever made by Marvel, and at least a rival to the first Iron Man and Spider-Man movies.  Despite my worries that they would Quesada Cap, ignoring his lineage for a grittier and senseless revisioning, Johnston stayed true to Simon and Kirby's vision for the character.  He does not sully it too much with some of the idiotic modern revisionism. 
I had some initial trepidation about Chris Evans as Cap/Steve, but he quickly put those to rest.  From his portrayal of the brutalized Steve Rogers to his donning of the costume, Chris Evans is the essence of Steve Rogers.  Rogers is the everyman who wants to serve and help, who wants to stand up to bullies.  Nowhere is the arrogant hothead we saw in his portrayal of Johnny Storm in the FF movies.  The only sign of the flippant Human Torch  can be seen during the World's Fair/Expo sequence when the original Human Torch makes a brief cameo.  Also, be looking for Dum Dum Dugan and other forerunners of SHIELD in the film. 
The story was excellent as well.  Even though it did not follow the original story to the letter, the crux of the story was there.  In fact, I believe it followed quite well the four issue mini series "The Adventures of Captain America."  While introducing us to many characters, the film does not seek to overwhelm us.  It hearkens us back to WWII film making.  Here, in the middle of the war, we have thrills (the story with the effects and the Shield!), Spills (Steve Rogers getting bullied and also trying to talk to Agent Carter), and Romance! (the budding relationship between Carter and Cap). 
Hugo Weaving ate up scenery as Schmidt/The Red Skull.  He was diabolically funny and fiendishly clever.  He exuded the arrogant superiority that Schmidt feels toward everyone, as well as his macabre sense of humor.  Tommy Lee Jones almost steals the show as Colonel Phillips, wisecracking yet endearing at the same time.  He does an excellent job as the tough leader who has a heart of gold.  Hayley Atwell was also impressive as the sultry yet all business Agent Carter, the ice queen whose heart is melted by "the right partner."  The casting in this film was fantastic from beginning to end.
The effects and makeup added to a well moving and plotted script, making this film fantastic.
The bonus scene after the credits and teaser trailer for the Avengers is fantastic as well.  I did not want to leave the theater.
Chris Evans made me believe that the serum brought out the good in him and made him the epitome of the American Dream, and Weaving made me believe the serum tore into his cold black heart and brought out the nihilistic fury of the Red Skull.  I think Kirby and Simon would have been proud.  Hayley Atwell did great as the Femme who can handle herself, but is caught up by the humble nobility of Cap.  Tommy Lee Jones works well as the hard nosed commander with a flair for comic lines.  This film was the essence of World War II cinema mixed with the best of comic pulp!  One of the best!

The Bad:
There really was nothing bad to report, except that I would have loved to have seen more Invaders and less Howlin' Commandos.  Also, I would have preferred they kept Bucky as a kid or younger than Rogers, rather than as an equal.  I myself was bad as I cheered when Bucky meets his "ultimate" fate in the film (I am not a fan of the Winter Soldier or the new fake Cap who was recently killed again in the Fear Itself Event Series). 
The only other bad thing was the aversion to the Nazi symbol.  It is evil, folks, deal with it.  Why do we have to create Hydra as part of the Nazis (which they were not, originally) so we don't have to show the swastika?  Why do we have to take that level of political correctness?  That was kind of lame.
Also, I would have loved some explanation more as to the relationship between Fury and Cap.  Even in the Ultimate Universe, which the writers have kind of melded with the mainstream Marvel Universe, Fury and Cap have some common ties.  In this film, that is not even suggested.  In the original comics, it was Nick Fury, not Cap, who was the leader of the Howlin' Commandos.  Of course, wanting to make this more believable, they kept the Howlers in the past and Fury in the present.  Oh well, not a big deal.  Also, I would have loved to have seen Baron Zemo, as he plays a role in Cap's history as well as a key in the history of the team Cap is synonymous with:  The Avengers!

The Ugly:
The Spider-Man reboot trailer.  This movie looks sucktastic.  I have no idea why we have to go back and do the whole origin again, but Sony is demanding it.  This trailer was lame.  Peter Parker looks too much like Harry Potter gone emo.  I don't care about what happened to Pete's parents.  I know they are dead.  I don't need to see him saying goodbye to them as a kid.  I don't need to see the origin story again.  The whole trailer reeked of CGI and looked more like an Xbox game than a movie.  The only cool thing about this film is finally Spidey is going to have mechanical web shooters!  Other than that, I am not looking forward to this unnecessary step backwards with what looks like a sub par cast at best.  Even the costume is so suspect they don't let you see it but as a glimpse at the very end.  LAME!

Conclusion:
Captain America: the First Avenger lives up to its hype.  As the last movie to be made before the Avengers, it lives up to the wait.  The actors were all excellent.  The script was well written, and the characters were true to their essence in the comics.  And, based on what I see in the Avengers trailer and from Comic Con, Cap's costume is going to look even better for the Avengers, especially since they lose the Ultimate Cap look of having red circles with white stars on the shoulders!  That is so commie looking!  The new look is fantastic.  Assemble your family and get right out and see the greatest hero in Marvel's illustrious history, because he stands for the Red, the White and the Blue!  Go see Captain America, the First Avenger, and the red, and the white and the blue will come through when Captain America throws his mighty Shield!!!!!


New Hope Patriot Missile Rating:
5 Shields out of 5
 
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