“Captain America: The First Avenger” brings the Marvel Comics hero to life with satisfying results.
Previous attempts, such as an adaptation released in 1990, were low budget B-movie fare and left a desire for the character to be given a big budget film treatment, and this film delivers on that note.
Despite the fact that Chris Evans had already played another Marvel Comics hero, the Human Torch in “The Fantastic Four,” Evans’ performance as the Star Spangled Hero and his true identity Steve Rogers allowed him to display a wider range of his acting abilities. More than the usual cocky characters he has played in the past, which is why Ryan Reynold failed in “Green Lantern.”
Hugo Weaving’s performance, with the help of his convincing make-up, made the Red Skull character truly leap off the comic page and onto the screen with good results.
The love interest played by the gorgeous Hayley Atwell displays toughness and tenderness with her co-star in a convincing romantic relationship.
It is very uncommon for actresses today to pull off a 1940s look, but Atwell succeeds.
Dominic Cooper’s portrayal of Tony Stark’s father, Howard Stark, would have been stronger if he were more like Howard Hughes, rather than taking cues from Robert Downey Jr.’s eccentric performance of Tony Stark in “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2.”
Tommy Lee Jones is perfectly cast as the grouchy Colonel, who has plenty of one-liners to make the audience chuckle.
The film manages to present a convincing 1940’s period look with its tone, settings and costumes.
Scenes of Captain America promoting the war effort with familiar looking patriotic propaganda posters, along with his exploits of taking on a long-winged airplane evoked the excitement of the adventure movie serials of the time. The scenes depicting Chris Evans as a weak man are brilliantly pulled off with the use of CGI, as it is more convincing today to have well-built people appear more weak, than the other way around.
There was only in a couple of spots where the green screen and CGI was apparent, such as a scene in New York’s Times Square and train take over in the Alps.
Director Joe Johnson’s roots working for George Lucas’ Star Wars Trilogy crept their way into this film, such as a scene where Rogers and the super solider serum’ creator, Dr. Erskine, discuss how his prototype of the serum created the evil antagonist, nicknamed the Red Skull, a la Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi discussing the dark side of the Force and Darth Vader.
The Red Skull’s team of soldiers resembled and acted like Imperial Stormtroopers and even conduct a motorcycle chase with our hero in a forest setting.
One aspect of the film that will disappoint some fans of the comic was the decision to have the fictional Nazi science division, abbreviated as HYDRA, act as the antagonistic organization for the protagonists, rather than the Nazis themselves.
Films such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Rocketeer,” which director Joe Johnson worked on, used Nazis effectively as the antagonist and brought an important sense of verisimilitude to the story, despite all of the fantastic fantasy elements occurring. This would have perfectly suited “Captain America” and the realistic tone developed in Marvel Studios’ other films, such as the two “Iron Man” films and “The Incredible Hulk.”
Once “Thor” was released and referenced that many of the technological advances are in fact decended from the Gods, including the power source of HYDRA’s advances equipment, the sense of verisimilitude is largely diminished.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” was not a perfect adaptation of the character, but it did serve its purpose as a lead-up to “The Avengers” film coming out next year.
While it does feel more rushed to lead into the upcoming film than the others, one must remember that if this film had been made 10 years ago, along with the other films produced by Marvel Studios, they would have just been stand-alone films with no references to each other and absolutely no chance for a team-up “Avengers” film.
Like the movie serials of the 1940s, we are all on the edge of our seats to find out how Captain America turns out, but we have to wait not a week, but a whole year!
It is a small price to pay to see all of these classic Marvel characters in one film together, but it is worth it.
Dan Kampling is a film enthusiast, majoring in electronic media at Wichita State University.
Movie Review: “Captain America: The First Avenger”