Joe here! I’m standing in for the Sandwich while he’s off at Comic Con. This past Wednesday I had the grand joy of getting to see “Captain America: The First Avenger”!
I’ll be honest. While a comic book geek, I know mostly just-below-the-surface information of the Character of Captain America. It’s not a book I read regularly. Of all the versions of Cap out there, my favorite is the “Ultimates” Cap, with 616 Cap taking second place. It does appear that the Marvel line of movies is integrating some of the “Ultimates” feel while holding onto its four-color roots… which I’m all for. If you’re a fan of Cap, then I can’t really give too much of the story away for this flick, you already know it. This flick is basically an origin and introduction movie… as all the movies introducing the Avengers have been.
A welcome surprise was the beginning of the movie, it starts in present day.. After a quick, small glimpse of some red, white, and blue, we are taken back to 1942. We are first introduced to Johann Schmidt played by Hugh Weaving. We learn a little bit about what he’s after and what he knows. Not much… but he seems to know a lot about Asgardian lore. “Foreshadowing” you say? Noooo. Most of what we learn about the Red Skull is from Dr. Erskine (Tucci) in one of his chats with Steve. Schmidt is into occult lore, thinking it’s akin to science, he takes a step too far before he’s ready and we get the Red Skull. For whatever reasons the Red Skull (or the writers even) have, he only reveals his true nature to Cap at a certain point but then remains that way for the remainder of the film. Not sure why it took Cap to be the catalyst for this... the final separation of Nazi and Hydra? Anyway, I’ll talk about Hydra in a bit. Weaving’s portrayal of Schmidt and then the eventual upping to the Red Skull is pretty typical Weaving. He’s cool, calm, and evil. Kind of like Agent Smith… if he had a red face… and a German accent. I was hoping for a more gravely voice… that’s always how he sounded in my head… but other than that, he looks fantastic.
Next we are taken to New York and an Army recruiting facility and introduced to our hero to be, Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans. The CGI for Evans and what they did to him was very well done. The change in look of scrawny Steve as compared to ‘Cap’ Steve was apparently done by digitally making Evans smaller as compared to just pasting his head on a smaller actor’s body. If that’s true, it worked beautifully. Though, it was odd hearing Evans’ baritone coming out of that scrawny frame. All Steve wants to do is serve his country. He gives off a strong sense of honor and willingness to help. Erskine wants Steve because he IS that noble man. His discussion with Steve about power and strength is reminiscent of Uncle Ben’s words “With great power come great responsibility”. The speech sticks with Steve and the events of his post rebirth make it hit harder. Relegated to poster boy status, Steve takes it upon himself to become the hero Dr. Erskine was hoping he would be. He exhibits very little self doubt and fills the hero role well.
Dr. Erskine’s (Stanley Tucci) admiration of Steve’s repeatedly failed attempts to enlist and serve his country is the basis for Steve being chosen to play the hero. His speeches and sit-downs with Steve regarding his own past, Johan Schmidt, and the values of being a good man are all heart felt. His insistence on Steve’s being the right choice to Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) gets some good laughs.
Speaking of Colonel Phillips… Tommy Lee Jones steals just about every scene he’s in. Colonel Phillips is obviously your stereotypical, grizzled veteran. Jones delivers pretty much every one-liner in the film… all with dry sarcasm and all laugh worthy.
“Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was kind of “Meh” for me. At no point in the film did I feel anything for him. He starts off as a sort of goal for Steve to meet… the soldier doing his duty. Later in the film, he just becomes a shadow and no more important than the rest of the troops that follow Cap. The only difference is that he’s Cap’s ‘best’ friend… and even that only gets mentioned twice… barely… after, well… you know. He was just very vanilla and not interesting.
Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, is pretty much out love interest. She arrives when Steve is in boot camp and firmly establishes her no-nonsense, female in charge, role with a shot to another soldier’s jaw. Throughout the movie, she slowly becomes more of your typical ‘dame’. She struggles with her affection for Steve, barely. A few scenes have them talk and dance around the subject of man and woman. The relationship isn’t as unbelievable as say, Anakin and Padme, but it does seem kind of forced. It could just be me… it just didn’t feel like it progressed in an even way.
We also get to meet Howard Stark, played Dominic Cooper. If you ever wondered why Tony acts the way he does, like father, like son. Stark is the United States greatest mind. You get the feeling that he’s a care free risk-taker… in both his personal life and with science. He’s smooth talking and even lends Steve a few pieces of advice when it comes to women. I liked him and it’s sad we won’t get to see him in Avengers.
I was very surprised to see the Howling Commandos. Though not by name… and come to think of it, we really don’t even hear their names. It is incredibly obvious who the characters are. I knew two right off the top of my head… future S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Gabriel Jones (Derek Luke) and “Dum Dum” Dugan (Neal McDonough). Neal McDonough’s head seemed a bit small for his body... the obvious padding up to portray Dugan’s bulk just didn’t look right. The Commandos role is as Cap’s own little strike force. Unfortunately, all we really get as far as knowing them is a short bar scene and a montage of them defeating Hydra across Europe.
This movie, when boiled down to it, is pretty much a WWII movie with a bit of flash and sci-fi thrown in. Hydra, the Red Skull’s organization, is an advanced scientific research division for Hitler and the Nazis. The writers do a fine job of separating Hydra from the Nazis. I’m guessing they didn’t want to keep saying “Nazi” and steer away from that part of history. Hydra mixes occult knowledge and science… magic just being another name for advanced science that lesser men can’t understand… anybody reliving the Jane/Thor scene in “Thor”? Their vehicles and weapons are RIDICULOUSLY advanced for the time period. It’s a wonder the American troops didn’t piss themselves and run away at the sight of one of their own getting, literally, vaporized by a beam of blue light. Almost every single one of the Hydra troops carried a ‘laser’ rifle. But, despite the advanced weaponry and cool looking gear, Hydra is the villain… and they always lose.
Through the movie we get a few nods and bits. Pay close attention to the World Fair scene. You get a quick glimpse of the “Synthetic Man”… a nod to the original Human Torch, Toro. A bigger nod was to another Cap villain, Dr. Armin Zola. Played by Toby Jones, Zola is the one responsible for creating all of Hydra’s fantastic science. I wasn’t expecting him at all… I’ve always thought of Zola as a goofy looking cyborg that got trounced repeatedly and didn’t scare me or make me worry about Cap or the Avengers in any way. But to see him was a nice little surprise.
As the movie comes to a close, we get the ending I was hoping for, Cap in modern day. It’s not a big scene and something I thought would be relegated to ‘Credits Duty’. But, we get to see Cap get his first glance at modern times… I enjoyed it. Now, Marvel has trained us to expect something in the credits. In “Iron Man” we got Nick Fury. In “Incredible Hulk” we got Tony Stark. In “Iron Man II” we got Mjolnir. In “Thor” we again got Nick Fury, but with the Cosmic Cube. In “Captain America” we got… nothing. The much rumored footage of “The Avengers” that was to be the end-of-credits teaser, was absent. Whether this was the theater’s fault (which I doubt) or the studio’s fault (more than likely), the lack of anything in, during, or after the credits was very much lamented by all in attendance. I’m guessing this was the studio’s fault. I want to see he footage. I plan on going to see Cap again and sitting through the credits to get my “Avengers” preview fix. If it’s not there… I guess I’ll just have to wait until the theatrical previews hit.
Overall, the movie was enjoyable. Marvel has once again given me a great movie that holds on to the canon adequately enough and delivers great action, solid effects, and good dashes of humor. Romantically, it gets knocked some. I was very entertained, but it could have used some more romance and some better use of Cap’s secondary characters.
8 out of 10 sandwiches
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