Captain America.. Our scrawniest hero reviewed.
My review of the First Avenger, Is Captain America the hero we all hope him to be?
I'm doing this review just a bit differently.. rather than watching the movie again and writing up my thoughts, i'm actually working my wa through this while watching the movie.
However, i want to give some of my initial thoughts leading up to the movie. Of all the movies that I thought could work stylistically going into it, Captain America was the one that I was most enthusiastic about. If they were to be true to character, then this would be a period piece that would give us the birth of our beloved Cap, while also hopefully finding the style and adventure of the original Indiana Jones. I was also sold on Chris Evans becoming Cap for one reason, and that was his fear in taking on the role. He understood the weight of it, and wanted to fulfill that expectation which caused him much self reflection. In many ways I see that as the exact reaction that Steve Rogers would have if placed in the same situation, to portray. When Joe Johnston was brought on board to direct, I was hopeful that he could bring the heart and era of the Rocketeer and take it to the next level in a truly exciting Captain America adventure.
As the movie begins, i'm slightly surprised by the initial scene.. bringing us to the present.. with the discovery of Cap's shield embedded in the ice. In many ways i love the imagery, while also wish that moment could have been captured a bit later in the film.
We are then quickly taken to our introduction to Johann Schmidt in a scene that I also think happens a bit too early, without giving any additional exposition on why Schmidt is there and what his true reasons are for wanting this power that he so dearly seeks. In many ways this scene is the beginning of a slightly disappointing arc for Schmidt/Red Skull during the movie. I feel that the character is missing about 5-10 minutes of further development that would greatly enhance not only his stature as a truly great villain in this movie, but also helping to set up the quest for power that drives so many villains in the MCU.
However, this quickly takes us to our introduction to Steve Rogers, or shall we say skinny Steve. I think Chris Evans captures the heart of skinny Steve exceptionally well in our introduction. Here is a scrawny weak young man who wants nothing more than to be able to serve his country and fight for what he believes in, yet his limitations physically keep getting him rejected. This rejection never breaks his spirit and he never wavers from his belief. It is this spirit, and the heart of Steve Rogers that inevitably gets him selected by Dr. Erskine. His selection gives him a chance to show who he is through action rather than through first impression. The scene where Steve jumps on the grenade captures that spirit perfectly and justifies everything Erskine believed when wanting to find the perfect candidate. In order to truly be a super soldier, that man must be true of heart and maintain true to oneself even after the serum makes you the hero you always dreamed to be.
The journey from skinny Steve to Cap lets us meet both Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell as Colonel Phillips and Peggy Carter and I think both bring much to their performances. There is a wonderful way that Colonel Phillips is full of doubt, but fully understands the reasons why Erksine has chosen Rogers. He also plays gruff better than almost anyone out there. Hayley Atwell is a bit of a revelation in this, much as Tom Hiddleston was in Thor. She brings a very nuanced performance as Peggy. You can see her understanding of skinny Steve and in many ways it is the character of Steve Rogers that captivates Peggy. She is enamored with him and his belief that no matter what the cost he should fight for what he believes in. From the subtle looks she give him in the cab ride to his transformation, to the brief touch of Cap's chest, you can see Peggy Carter slowly fall for Steve Rogers.
I think a wonderful aspect of the journey from Steve to Cap is the introduction to Howard Stark. Dominic Cooper gives a great portrayal of the man who would shape Tony Stark. He gives a perfect blend of brilliance in what he is able to accomplish with his science and intelligence that is beyond his time, while also showing off that flair and charisma that you expect out of Tony Stark's father.. I mean come on he even enjoys fondue.
After the brilliant montage where Cap is selling bonds and giving Hitler a consistent beating, we finally see the version of Cap that we have all wanted. Cap the hero on his first true mission and what a rescue mission it is. This scene in my eyes is very much like the comic coming to life and the way that Cap uses his shield and rescues the hostages is pure fun and adventure. From this point on, my biggest complaint is the lack of further smaller adventures with Cap and the Howling Commandos. There is a brief montage of adventures, as well as the brief scene on the train where we lose Bucky. This is a lost opportunity to develop the camaraderie between Cap, Bucky, and the Commandos. It would also help to deepen the pain for Cap at losing his best friend. You learned of the relationship between Steve and Bucky early on, but some further exposition after Steve becomes Cap would make it even more powerful and poignant.
The final raid on Red Skull and the fight on the plane is well done, if not a bit brief. The scene between Cap and Peggy is poignant and perhaps the most touching scene in all of the Marvel movies. Cap's sacrifice is just another way of proving that his true strength lies in Steve Rogers, rather than the Super Soldier.
I really enjoyed Captain America. It is a movie with heart, adventure, humor, and heroism. In many ways this is a throwback, an ode to films like Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It has all of the elements of a great summer blockbuster while successfully bringing one of our favorite characters to life faithfully. It is not without fault, and misses a great chance at developing some important characters even deeper. There are also some odd choices in the editing of the movie which I think slow down certain parts, while taking away some chances at furthering the adventure with more of Cap and his commandos on the offensive. This is one of my favorite Marvel movies and a great introduction to Cap that leaves me extremely excited and curious to see how they treat Cap in the modern world. The scene at the end and his introduction to Nick Fury is a brilliant way to set up what we all hope is a truly masterful and epic Avengers.
Up next will be a ranking and recap of the movies leading up to the Avengers, as well as what I hope to see in each of the sequels and Iron Man 3.
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