Monday, July 25, 2011

Movie with Abe: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed by Joe Johnston
Released July 22, 2011

For the past few years, Marvel Studios has been releasing films featuring a number of its superheroes, all leading up to the major "Avengers" movie coming up in 2012. Some, like "Iron Man," are more science fiction-oriented, while others, like "Thor," are more fantastical. "Captain America: The First Avenger" strikes a tone somewhere in the middle, creating a fantasy storyline wedged perfectly into American history during World War II. The first "Captain America" movie that actually works is a roaring success that stands extraordinarily well on its own and delivers exactly as it should.

The character of Captain America is heavily symbolic and therefore can easily become comic and even corny. Drawing a fine line isn't easy, yet somehow this film, from Joe Johnston, the director of "Jumanji," "October Sky," and "The Wolfman," does an excellent job of it. The 1940s setting is captured brilliantly, and all of its actors, particularly Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell, fit marvelously into that backdrop. They convey the sensibility of the times with ease, assuming their roles with just the right energy, fervor, and hopefulness. Steve Rogers (Evans) is chosen by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) because he is pure of heart and a true blue American, certainly not for any physical prowess or hard-headed confidence.

It’s with that idea of a hero that “Captain America: The First Avenger” succeeds. While he is stronger, faster, and more physically able than most, Captain America is someone with a distinct memory of what it is like to be the underdog. Rarely does he show off his abilities, and when he does so, it’s in an effort to save others. Captain America starts out as a showboat designed to raise money for the war effort, but ultimately evolves into a full-blooded American hero. The transformation is subtle yet stirring, and there’s something about seeing him run into a Hydra camp with an American flag blatantly emblazoned on his shield that’s just hard not to love.

Unlike many of the other Marvel movies of late, this isn’t an overly effects-heavy film, and seeing it in 3-D is hardly unnecessary. The performances from the entire cast are top-notch and far better than they might need to be for a superhero flick. There’s no matching Hugo Weaving in terms of villainy, and Tommy Lee Jones does good grumpy. Atwell is particularly alluring as the determined and resilient Agent Carter, and Evans makes for a great Captain America. The incorporation of such characters as Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark makes this a fun foray into the Marvel universe, creating proper expectation and excitement for the Avengers film without sacrificing any quality in this installment.


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