Review of 'Captain America: The First Avenger'

captain_america.jpg It is 1942, the height of World War II, and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is frustrated that his frail health and short height have prevented him from enlisting to help the war effort to right what he sees as a great injustice. Indeed, it is this strong moral sense that gets him into trouble time and time again as he is repeatedly beaten up by unsympathetic bullies. Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) offers Rogers a chance to do something for his country by having him volunteering for “Project Rebirth”. Rogers undergoes a painful procedure that sees him injected with a serum that gives him super strength as well as regenerative properties (and height!). Initially Rogers dons the costumed persona of “Captain America” and used as a propaganda tool by his government. Under the command of Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) Rogers tours the stages of the US to sell war bonds but when visiting the front line he realises his show is of little interest to the soldiers there. Learning his friend's unit has been captured by enemy forces Rogers leaves to rescue them where he encounters the villainous Johann Schmidt / Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), leader of Nazi Germany's “HYDRA” programme, and his plans for world-wide domination…Will Captain America save the day?

One of the first of the recent spate of super-hero movies this origin story surprisingly is not as “pro-American” as you might think (despite it's name) with it's hero simply wanting to do what is right rather than what his government wants him to do. The story is refreshingly simple but keeps the suspense up for a hero who, while strong, is not invincible. Evans throws himself into the one-dimensional, innocent and naive, Captain America character with complete commitment that comes across on the screen. His blond-haired innocence is the primary focus here with blatant “do good not bad” ethos extending everywhere down to the requisite shyness around woman - A child in a man's body. This is not a complex character study. Weaving seems to be having fun as the Red Skull though seems to spend a lot of time simply scowling at those around him (granted, he does this very well) rather than actually doing anything particularly nasty - No surprise here then. As the colonel tasked to keep Rogers under control, Tommy Lee Jones is woefully underused here with little in the way of any complex thought or emotion - Well, it is Tommy Lee Jones so expecting anything more would probably be a stretch.

Let's face it, the movie goers are here to see action and adventure without any deep complexities of character and this movie delivers quite effectively on both of these with the bad Nazis (“boo, hiss!”) seeking to dominate the world with a red-skulled baddie at their head. There is little regard here to historical integrity other than as a story setting - The Nazi soldiers brandish laser weapons without anyone taking a second glance. The action is very well choreographed with several large set pieces and the obligatory mano-a-mano fights throughout. The sets are quite amazing if a tad over-CGIed for my taste. It is obvious that the big budget was not spent here but on the ensemble movies that followed.

Was it any good? Yeah, not bad. I have to admit it is nice to see a super-hero film that does not dwell on the inner-angst and psychological turmoil of the main character, simply a fun, straightforward, super-hero movie much like the comics on which it was based. Why do we need the complex backgrounds to get in the way? They never seemed to bother those that read the comic books. This differs from other action hero movies in that the hero here is squeaky-clean with no serious character flaws which, of course, makes him far less interesting but certainly easy enough for everyone to understand. Want a modicum of character complexity? Try Iron Man. Want a simple plot, easy to spot bad guys and good guys with a bunch of action to boot? Try Captain America.

This is an origin movie so much of the time is spent in exposition introducing Captain America to the world to prepare for the movies that followed (noting to viewers that you should stay for after the credits for a bit of what was/is to follow in the sequence). Turn off your brain, sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2016-12-26

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Year: 2011

Length: 124 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure