Josh Wilding Reviews: Captain America: The First Avenger 3D
Here is my in-depth and spoiler free review for the latest movie from Marvel Studios. Is it a Green Lantern shaped flop, or up there with THOR and X-Men: First Class as another superhero hit? Find out here...
SYNOPSIS: "Captain America: The First Avenger" will focus on the early days of the Marvel Universe when Steve Rogers volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America. As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Bucky Barnes and Peggy Carter to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull.
While I’ve made the upmost effort to ensure there is nothing in this review which qualifies as a spoiler, if you want to know nothing about the movie before it’s released across the world over the next few days, you may want to turn away now!
Apologies for the lateness of this review, but as I'm sure most of you already know, the movie wasn't released here in the UK until yesterday! Whether you've seen it or not, I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts below.
Anyone who knows anything about Captain America will just about know how this story goes. While the movie plays around with the source material a little bit, adding some things and taking others away, this never has a negative effect, and screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus actually improve upon a lot of things. The USO scenes in particular are a blast, despite leaving me with the feeling they could have just skipped it altogether to focus on more important scenes. However, it's a smart way of coming up with the "Captain America" moniker and simultaneously paying homage to the original 1940's comic book. The story is told effectively, with the right balance of action, drama and comedy. Some things ultimately do suffer, and others aren't focused on anywhere near as much as they should be, but the film as a whole doesn't suffer TOO much because of this. Overall, director Joe Johnston nails the tone and effectively handles the many different aspects on show here. The action scenes are as exciting as could be hoped for, although it's a shame that we never truly see Cap pushed to his limits...everything all seems a bit too easy for him at times. The devision to have HYDRA as the main villains rather than the Nazis (who are here, don't fret!) was a wise one, and it makes far more sense in terms of the story. The other major problem are the modern day bookends. Both are for the mist part unsatisfactory, and are bound to leave anyone not that familiar with the comics a little confused. Yes, we'll see these in full in The Avengers, but they really done work quite as well as I was hoping. Still, they serve a purpose, and I can't fault the way in which the movie ends...what a fitting line!
Chris Evans steals the show as Steve Rogers, or Captain America, as he soon becomes known. Whether it's as the skinny pre-serum weakling desperate for the chance to fight for his country or as a reluctant member of the USO, the actor brings a unique quality to the character which makes it hard to imagine any other actor being capable of. And when he does finally don the iconic suit to fight for his country, we already know that this IS Captain America, regardless of what he's wearing. From the first moment of this movie to the last, Evans embodies everything that makes this character one of the most beloved in comics. And the same can also be said for Hugo Weaving's Johann Schmidt/Red Skull. As reliable as ever playing the bad guy, he's a fitting enemy for Cap, although it's ultimately a shame their feud isn't further developed, especially when compared to that of Thor and Loki in the last movie from Marvel Studios. While these two don't share nearly enough screen time, the fact that Weaving is so damned great at portraying the iconic villain, and is given the opportunity to show just what an evil bastard he is within the first few minutes of the movie starting, eventually ensures that we know this is a guy who has got to be stopped. Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter is quite possibly the best love interest seen in a comic book movie so far. There's no doubting the fact that the chemistry between her and Evans' Steve Rogers is a highlight, but the stellar performance from the British actress ensures that she singles herself out as more than JUST a love interest, and there's thankfully no damsel in distress situations on display here! Beautiful, tough and fun to watch, Captain America: The First Avenger has left me hoping and praying that Marvel Studios decide to bring her back to play Sharon Carter, Peggy's granddaughter.
Sebastian Stan's Bucky is another character who would have benefitted from a little more attention. The friendship between him and Steve is established quickly, and the chemistry between Evans and Stan is noticeable from the start, but I would of loved to have seen more of the bad ass version created by Ed Brubaker...we get a glimpse of it, but perhaps not as much as I'd like, especially if they plan on pursuing the Winter Soldier arc in future instalments of the franchise. Stanley Tucci shines as Dr Abraham Erskine, and despite already knowing his fate, I couldn't help but hope it wouldn't end that way and we'd get to see even more of him. Serving as a father figure to Steve and an all round likeable chap, the only fault I can possibly find is that I wish we could have seen some more of the past which is hinted at and mentioned. Tommy Lee Jones delivers some cracking one liners as the hard as nails Col. Chester Phillips, and Toby Jones' Arnim Zola relishes his role as the Red Skull's right hand man/whipping boy. Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark is another great addition to this movie, with some really fun scenes which also serve to further build and develop this cinematic universe. The supporting cast help round out the impressive ensemble, and despite the Howling Commandoes being nothing more than glorified cameos, they're great fun nonetheless. And hey, here's hoping we haven't seen the last of them...that's what sequels (and flashbacks!) are for after all. While it would be easy to criticise the movie for failing to develop some of these characters further, it has to be remembered that this is Steve's story, and director Joe Johnston does well to keep the focus on him AND include such a large cast of characters.
The visual effects are, for the most part, flawless. While anyone with a sharp eye is bound to notice the odd bit of dodgy CGI (the HYDRA factory and occasional shield shot both briefly suffer from this, as do a handful of other moments) it's hard to find too much to complain about, with the effect of the HYDRA weapons looking particularly fantastic. There may not be anything on offer to match the intricacies of Iron Man's suit or the breathtaking sight of Asgard, but this is more than made up for with the quite frankly excellent effects used to make Chris Evans look skinny. Flawless throughout, placing the actors head on the shrunken body works perfectly, and is completely convincing. Thankfully, the 3D version is one of Captain America: The First Avenger is one of 2011's best. As with any conversion, it doesn't necessarily enhance the experience to the same extent as a movie like Avatar, it thankfully lacks the murkiness of THOR and the pointlessness of Green Lantern. The shield throwing scenes in particular benefit from the effect, while the entire movie just looks GOOD. The score fits in perfectly with the tone of the movie, and the USO's "Star Spangled Man" is so ridiculously catchy, you'll probably have an overwhelming desire to download it from iTunes as soon as you leave the theatre.
While THOR was ultimately a little better than Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger manages to top them both, resulting in the best, and most enjoyable, Marvel Studios movie to date.
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