Theatrical Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

by: Rudie Obias
July 22nd, 2011

Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson
Studio: Marvel Studios/Paramount

This summer is unlike any other from the past. Namely, due to all the comic book and superhero movies we’re getting from major movie studios. Are general audiences getting sick of this trend in Hollywood? The minor success of two other comic book movies that already came out this summer may suggest so. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and GREEN LANTERN, despite their fandoms, has opened to lukewarm box office receipts. Although their opening take was high, the expectations from studios and pundits were not met. So is CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER worth seeing? Yes, absolutely! This is the first comic book movie of the summer that actually embraces its comic book origins and aesthetic.

The story of patriot Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is not as well known as Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, but it’s just as resonant, unlike GREEN LANTERN’s Hal Jordan. Set during World War II, Steve Rogers wants to join the army and serve his duty to his country, the only problem is he is not physically fit or as big as his friends, who are getting recruited without fail. Steve Rogers stops at nothing to get what he wants. This says so much about the will and drive of Americans like no other film this summer. Locked in a patriotic spin, practically every frame of this movie is packed with American imagery of stars and stripes and rich in tone with red, white, and blue, that you can’t help but get caught up in its pro-American stance and sentiment. Reasonably, this works.

Rogers is then chosen to participate in a super soldier experiment because of his heart and courage, and right before our eyes, he is turned into Captain America. While evil is brewing across the sea in Europe with Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and his Hydra Force’s determination to take over the world by destroying big cities with the mysterious cosmic cube, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER keeps true to the comic book feel, as mentioned before. It’s a good old fashioned good vs. evil movie, complete with thrilling action and steamy romance, this movie is sure to please general audiences across the board.

The romance between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is very engaging and effective. Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell have a natural chemistry and appeal which is apparent on the screen. This is probably the most compelling romance I have seen in a comic book movie this year. I found this to be one of the more enjoyable elements of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, and I was surprised with my emotional reaction to one of the more heartbreaking moments in the movie.

Taking its cues from comic books from the 1940's, the humor in this movie is completely corny and mushy. Now, I don’t mean to use these words as a negative but quite the opposite. The more corny this movie gets, the more general audiences will fall in love with it. Joe Johnston knows what this movie is and plays up the genre and period as its strengths. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER harkens back to Johnston’s 1991 summer action movie, Disney’s THE ROCKETEER, and would probably serve as a good double feature. In THE ROCKETEER, Johnston also plays up the strengths of 1940's film serials that emphasized daring heroics, steamy romances, and thrilling action. In this way, Joe Johnston is completely consistent and solid with his work between these two films.

Now, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is not a perfect movie,  but it’s a solid one. There are problems with CGI and a few special effects, namely with the “shrinking” of Chris Evans to portray the scrawny Steve Rogers. At times, it looks good but the other times, it looks completely unbelievable as Evans’ fit face is completely unattached to his small body. Albeit these were very minor problems and, fortunately, it doesn’t take long for Steve Rogers to turn into Captain America.

At the end of the day, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is the perfect summer movie. It is fun and thrilling with big action, laughs, and a heartfelt romance. An audience will walk away from this one feeling like they’ve spent their money and time well at the theater. It’s not going to change the world or give you something heavy to think about, it’s not going to bore you or leave you unfulfilled either. There’s plenty for kids and adults with one and it’s extremely broad for all Americans. Get your popcorn ready, because Captain America wants you!

Grade: B-

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