Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
CAPTAIN AMERICA: The First Avenger
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Running time: 125 min.
Release date: July 22, 2011
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller and Adaptation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
The origin of this superhero called Captain America dates back prior to World War II. It was March 1940, when the comic book and cover was made by authors Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. The comic book went on sale December 1940, a year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor with Captain America punching out Hitler. Simon and Kirby consciously created the character Captain America as a political tool because of how they were morally repulsed by the actions of Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the United States' involvement in World War II. They felt war was inevitable.
The Marvel Comics character Captain America was the alter ego of the fictional Steve Rogers, a sickly young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum and operation in order to aid the U.S. war effort. Captain America wears a costume that bears an American flag motif, and he is armed with an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon. This intentionally patriotic creation was depicted fighting the Axis powers of World War II.
Captain America: The First Avenger, produced by Marvel Studios, tells the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a very thin and sickly man from Brooklyn who is rejected for military duty several times (4F), and is given an operation that transforms him into a man with a muscular anatomy and super strength. However, before this movie takes off, the setting is in contemporary time (present day) when military personnel discover the body of Captain America in a crashed aircraft in the polar-ice region. His body has been frozen in time for 70 years. He awakes as the present day military doctors examine him and then the film reverses its setting to the 1940s. It is a flashback tale of his exploits as the Super-Soldier, who joins forces with his buddy Sgt. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and his love interest Strategic Scientific Reserve Officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), under the command of Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), to wage war on the evil Hydra Organization. The Hydra is the Nazi secret division led by the villainous antagonist Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Red Skull and his terrorist organization intends to use a mysterious energy source for world domination, even against the Nazis.
The stellar cast including Stanley Tucci, Tobey Jones, Lex Shrapnel, Derek Luke, Neal McDonough, Kenneth Choi, Bruno Ricci, J.J. Field, and Richard Armitage delivers solid performances. Also Dominic Cooper, Michael Brandon and a limited appearance by Samuel L. Jackson give merit to this film. This ensemble creates a fascinating 'WOW' flick, that includes high energy in the second half of the film. The big budget stunts, special effects, chases and rescues are non-stop. With spectacular rhythm and pacing, the character development is established prior to second half this movie. This is mainly because the second half of the movie strictly places the spotlight on the fights, battles and historical spectacles.
As an action/adventure movie, filmmaker Joe Johnston uses all of the formula elements necessary; however, it did not have that extra something to make this a special movie. The spectacles and special effects are abundant in a calculated manner, yet they lack 'pizzazz'. The character interaction is flimsy. Dialogue is not what motivates the themes of this period piece comic adaptation. Yet, I overlooked that because the action dictates the flow of the plot.
Captain America is a timely comic book superhero. In 1944, a serial played in theaters, and the protagonist was a D.A. without his shield and sidekick Bucky Barnes. In 1990, a Captain America film was made in Yugoslavia, Matt Salinger played the superhero. The film was only released on VHS in America. Although it was never officially theatrically released in the U.S., it was shown July 2011 on SyFy cable television, as a tie in with theatrical release of this movie. Chris Evans' character Captain America is scheduled to reprise the role in the 2012 film The Avengers.
Hopefully, the next episode of the Super-Soldier will provide more substance. In my opinion, Captain America: The First Avenger failed because the exposition of the film often falls squarely on the back of the dialogue of the characters. This film fails to remember that the exposition should establish the relationships, tensions and conflicts from which later plot developments derive. Without doing this, the film feels hollow.
FILM RATING (C+)