Saturday, June 21, 2014

CRACKER? Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)


                I am not a big superhero fan, but I do love war movies so why not review a hybrid.  “Captain America” is a superhero who is a soldier and was involved in fighting Germany in WWII.  The character was created in 1941 and helped the good guys win the war.  He then went on to fight in the Cold War.  Lately, he has been tasked to join the Avengers to fight modern villains.  “Captain America:  The First Avenger” is a movie that goes back to the character’s origins. 

                The movie has your typical superhero opening with the discovery of something mysterious.  The setting is Norway in 1942.   An evil Nazi named Schmidt finds something Norse.  The object which has enormous potential power is called the Tesseract.  Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is the leader of Hydra which is the German weapons development organization.  Meanwhile, in America, a wimpy looking Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) dreams of joining the military, but he can’t pass the physical.  His genuine desire to serve his country and the fact that he is from Brooklyn catches the attention of a scientist who recruits him for a super-soldier project.  Rogers volunteers for injection of a serum which will convert him into an awesome physical specimen (like if Rambo and the Terminator had a baby).  The new and improved Rogers is manned up by the gruff, grizzled, growly Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones).  He is chaperoned by the sexy British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).  At first, he is used for propaganda purposes and to sell war bonds (and pin-ups for WACS), but you can bet he has a date with Schmidt (aka the Red Skull).  In the honored tradition of superhero movies (and all recent action movies in general), the villain is hissably despicable.  And that’s before he lifts his mask to reveal a red skull.  Schmidt considers Hitler to be a pussy.

Can you guess who the bad guy is?
                Captain America arranges a meeting with the Red Skull and they negotiate an end to their differences.  Just kidding.  There is a big set piece where Cap infiltrates the Hydra factory to rescue a potential heterogeneous squad of he-men followers and his best friend (the world was smaller back then).  A raids montage follows which includes a fight with a German tank that apparently ate three Tiger tanks.  Cap goes medieval on the Nazis by using  a shield.  (Did they throw shields in the Middle Ages?)  We also get an Aston-Martin motorcycle ala James Bond.  There’s a Star Wars forest scene (without Ewoks, thankfully).  A train scene like you’ve never seen before.  Just kidding.  This all builds up to the climactic duel on a Hydra futuristic bomber (which was based on two actual Nazi designs – thank God the war ended early) complete with Japanese ohka-like suicide rockets.

                I have to say that “Captain America” is not as ridiculous as most superhero movies.  The acting is fine and the cast is appealing.  Tommy Lee Jones is perfectly cast as himself.  He admitted that his character has been seen in thousands of war movies.  Chris Evans is studly and sturdy as the Captain.  Kudos to him for losing a tremendous amount of weight and allowing his muscles to atrophy so he could shoot the pre-serum scenes and then eating, weight-training, and steroiding his way to his Captain America self.  Just kidding.  It was Hollywood magic.  His hero is pure, but not diabetes-inducing.  However, if you are looking for Batman-like personal strife, forget it.  The Red Skull is an acceptable villain although he was more interesting before he pulled his mask off.  There is no character development of the squad, but why bother when they were going to be left in the 1940s?  The dialogue is surprisingly kind to your brain cells. 

                The problem is not with the characters.  It’s with the plot.  It is predictable and even throws in the best-friend-has-to-die-to-make-it-personal trope.  Not to mention the sexy, girl-with-a-gun (but perfect hair) love interest.  The plot is extremely unrealistic and takes a big chance by setting itself in a real historical event, but the futuristic weapons shoved into the 1940s are cool.  It is like they had to make this movie to get Captain America into the present so he could join the Avengers, but they could not avoid sending weapons back in time to appear in the movie.  The action scenes are typically busy and explosive. And ridiculous.  All of these scenes have been cribbed from other action flicks, but the target audience for superhero movies doesn’t seem to care about originality.  As usual, the ratio of deaths to wounded is extremely high, but this is true for standard war movies.  Also the inability of the bad guys to hit the broad side of a barn makes it very frustrating if you are rooting for them (which probably hurt the movies box office with Skinheads and Jihadists).

                Overall, it is a fun variation of a war movie.  I can see it making my 100 Best War Movies list.  Just kidding.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am appreciative of what Captain America did to help the Allies win WWII, but I cannot condone drug abuse.


GRADE  =  C+  


  1. It was pretty standard as comic book-based movies goes, inoffensive, but no x-Men: First Class. I did not think it would crack the list. I like your comment about drug use.

  2. Must be the summer or your getting soft to review CA. But I like it. I like the movie too. It's a solid B+ for me. One of the main appeals IS that it's set in the past. CA and Superman belong in those time periods. When they are moved up to present time they become just another superhero, and by outfit alone tend to look silly. Good choice by director and screen writer. At least half of the success of this one is the strong musical score. Very rousing which is exactly what's needed. Acting was across the board good. An excellent villain for once that was not CGI related. Very good makeup work made him believable and good acting made him menacing. I also liked the "tragic" ending where he ditches the plane. Then in typical franchise fashion they had to tack on that mumbo jumbo to get him into the present. Of course your not gonna have the hero die, so I'm good with it. Lots of humor throughout which is frequently missing from the more "serious" superhero films (Man of Steel, yeah you, this one is for you). One thing that is fading in the newer superhero movies, quite literally, is color. Too dark and CGI dreary for me. CA has a lot of pulp color like the original comic panels. Teens don't care about that, they want cool graphics and action of course. This one was more for the older fans. I would pair this one with Rocketeer which now that you have softened up you can review too. Same director who makes fun, quality "popcorn" movies-- Joe Johnston.

  3. I am not softening. I did this review mainly to reach the nerd community. Mission accomplished. I still do not like superhero movies because I believe in the laws of physics and do not abide ridiculous well. The points you make are the reasons why I tolerated it more than most. It was a summer beach watch for me.

    1. When I mentioned I would review it - you said it wasn't suitable. Now you beat me to it. :)
      I'll review it one of these days as well.

    2. I just had a wild hair as we say in the States. I thought it would be great snark fodder, but it wasn't bad enough.

  4. I don't get the nerd community comment. Do you mean comic book fan community?

  5. I thought they were the same. I apologize.

  6. No problem, just nerd is not my favorite word, although sadly some fans of comics are pretty nerdy.

  7. Next time I'll use the word "geek". I don't know why you consider it to be sad that some comic fans are nerdy. I'm a nerd, by the way. But I'm not stereotypical and I don't like comics. Other than "300" of course.

  8. The movie was pleasant to watch with great action scenes and dramatic moments. I struggled sometimes with the internal logic of the story, though.

    For whatever reason the thing that bothers me most is Captain America's minimal training. In one sense it is clever to have Captain America spend most of WWII (by which I, like a typical American, mean most of post-Pearl Harbor WWII) as an entertainer selling war bonds, so that he can be well-known in the public without the public knowing about the secret conspiracy that he fights. However, this gives Captain America little opportunity to develop the leadership or battle experience that we are asked to associate with the Captain later on. We are asked to suppose that these abilities are just innate to him, and to me it felt a bit Mary-Sue-ish.

    By comparison, the problem of "Hitler lets the Red Skull commandeer valuable engineering resources to build vast underground bases and one-use exotic vehicles, even though the Red Skull does not help the Germans in any way and even murders their generals," did not touch me as strongly. I suppose irritation is an arbitrary emotion.


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.