Jeromy's Movie Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

Pat yourself on the back. You’ve done it! You survived this summer’s onslaught of comic book movies. Sure, we’ve got Cowboys & Aliens coming at us next week but as far as mainstream superhero fare is concerned, Captain America: The First Avenger wraps it up. I wish I could say that it ends the CBM run with an exclamation point, but unfortunately it's more of an ellipsis…

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Studios should be getting better at making comic book movies but as this summer has blatently demonstrated, they seem to be just be getting lazier. Case in point, Captain America: The First Avenger may be the most phoned-in production to date in Marvel’s library of Avenger tie-in movies. Since the original Iron Man, subsequent films have been on a gradual decline in quality. Captain America offers nothing but more of the same but like all Marvel films it pays just enough action, laughs and fan service to keep those who want to like the movie from being dissuaded. Most won’t hate this movie or even dislike it because, like Thor before it, it never gives you a solid reason to. A little objectivity however and its faults become more apparent.

This movie feels like a live-action version of Saturday morning cartoons. The dialog is incredibly weak, falling into cliché after cliché. The jokes are funny but mainly because they’re mostly delivered by Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci. The set pieces look cheap, with one scene at Hydra’s mountain resort particularly bad, during which the destruction going on in the background almost looks like it’s projected on a wall.

The good news is that Marvel has safely secured their Steve Rogers. Chris Evans does an excellent job of filling the suit and throwing the shield. He plays the dutiful, eager, and courageous soldier exceptionally well but he doesn’t really have a chance to explore any of the character beyond that. True, those inner conflicts mostly come into play once he’s thawed out in modern day but the writers have given no dimension to his WWII version. He’s a 90 pound weakling who wants to fight, then he’s a super soldier who gets to fight and that’s really all there is to him. To stress again, none of this was due to Evans' performance and is solely a critique on the writing.

The rest of the cast is essentially playing to their strengths and do so as well as they were expected to, with Dominic Cooper (Devil's Double) as Howard Stark and his reunited The Duchess co-star Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter being the two real standouts.

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That brings it down to the most egregious offense. Those of you hoping that Hugo Weaving portraying Red Skull would be a performance ranking up there with the best in the genre may be in for quite a disappointment. First of all, after seeing Red Skull briefly in trailers and photos, I was in the camp who thought the makeup job looked incredibly well done. After watching it on screen for an hour and a half, I have to say it does not hold up to scrutiny. The way light often reflects off of it makes it look entirely synthetic and as a prosthetic application, aside from the nose, a $50 trip to a makeup supply store and an air brush could provide the same application.

As far as character goes, Red Skull doesn’t do anything. Yes, he’s evil. We know this because he and everyone else tells us so repeatedly and… he has plan. A villainous, villainous plan. We know he must be stopped, but he never does anything that allows us to feel any real stakes. We’re told but never shown what he’s capable of so the threat he poses never seems palpable. He’s got the Tessaract (Cosmic Cube), which he uses to create weaponry, but that’s about it. What he does have is a plane with bombs on which he (or an evil minion) has conveniently hand painted their respective target cities. Weaving could do this role in his sleep and with the dialogue he was forced to deliver, very well may have. It really crosses into the realm of hokey.captain-america-first-avenger-movie-photo-52-550x365.jpg The writers seem to hope that if he talks evil enough (cast fan favorite Hugo Weaving) and looks evil enough (come one, he’s got a red skull) that we’ll buy that he’s evil. Instead, all we’re given is a one-dimensional caricature of a comic book villain.

The action in the film is adequate if not unimaginative. Running, jumping through fire balls and a few shield smashes to Hydra faces and you can easily forget the film's faults. If you accept the fact that along with the Super Soldier transformation came an inherent knowledge of hand-to-hand combat and other fighting skills, it’s good fun watching Cap take out Hydra soldiers one by one (or two by two). Also, one has to admit that it’s difficult not to get excited when Cap throws the shield for the first time, but after the first few tosses it would have been nice to see more creativity with the choreography. If all you want to see in this movie is Captain America fighting, even if you have to wait a while in between those scenes, you’ll be satisfied.

Overall, Captain America: The First Avenger was a disappointment. X-Men: First Class was a nice touch of class but with my brain still utterly conflicted about Thor and my mouth forever unclean with the taste of Green Lantern, I really wanted Cap to compensate for their shortcomings. There's not enough to hate it but not nearly enough to like it. Serving more as an origin story for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it feels like Marvel just wanted to get this out of the way so they could get to the good stuff. As per usual, they didn’t screw anything up that would jeopardize Avengers which is, after all, their number one concern. They simply short changed another flagship character’s first major cinematic debut by playing it safe in order to achieve that goal. The payoff better be worth it because, for me at least, they've run out of good will.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, Captain America: The First Avenger stars Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones and Neal McDonough. The film is directed by Joe Johnston and is scheduled for 2D and 3D theatrical release on July 22nd, 2011.

3 Stars

Comments

gtrman

gtrman's picture

This is going to sound silly, but making a great film that stands the test of time is hard. Making a sequel that tops it is even harder. Is it possible they made a movie that will sell tickets and get the fans and those not "in the know" in seats, but not impossible to top? If Thor was good, a sequel could be great. If CA:TFA is good, a sequel could be great, see what I'm saying?

violetlight

violetlight's picture

Great review! I actually can't wait to see it! Looks like a fun movie!

askanison40

askanison40's picture

Andddd... Here we go again. Oh never mind. Why even bother? You guys hate everything. And the one movie that really sucked (the X-Men prequel), you kind of liked. Whatever.

Bzzd  |  Gaming Editor

Bzzd's picture
askanison40 wrote:

Andddd... Here we go again. Oh never mind. Why even bother? You guys hate everything. And the one movie that really sucked (the X-Men prequel), you kind of liked. Whatever.

Hey askanison40. Sorry if you disagree with Jeromy's review. We've still got another Cap review on the way tomorrow that you might find more to your liking. Smile

REDSTORM

REDSTORM's picture
askanison40 wrote:

Andddd... Here we go again. Oh never mind. Why even bother? You guys hate everything. And the one movie that really sucked (the X-Men prequel), you kind of liked. Whatever.

I'm more of a DC fanboy, but I loved X-Men First Class. I'm certain they also enjoyed Thor... Heck, some of them even enjoyed Green Lantern. While negativity has been a bit more common lately, to say they hate everything is just ridiculous.

gmoney0505

gmoney0505's picture

Can't wait to see this movie. I was hoping it may come out and be the better movie out of all the CBM released this year in a underwhelming summer of CBM. If this does not meet my expectation, then the avengers movie will drop too low for me to even be excited about because the last 2 Marvel movies haven't been all that hot since Iron Man & TIH.

wheels1.5

wheels1.5's picture
gtrman wrote:

This is going to sound silly, but making a great film that stands the test of time is hard. Making a sequel that tops it is even harder. Is it possible they made a movie that will sell tickets and get the fans and those not "in the know" in seats, but not impossible to top? If Thor was good, a sequel could be great. If CA:TFA is good, a sequel could be great, see what I'm saying?

geterman: I agree with that completely. The problem I have with this review is something I've noticed a LOT in comicbook movie reviews. They are essentially unreasonably high expectations and unrealistic standards. This is simply because you AS A FAN don't truly have objectivity. You're looking for perfection ACCORDING TO YOUR VIEWS. So you nitpick at everything that wasn't what you wanted the movie to be. It doesn't necessarily mean it's a good a or bad movie. I'm a huge Ed Brubaker fan, but I wasn't expecting the same kind of storytelling he pulls off every month. This is probably why I follow reviews from people who aren't necessarily fans of comics or have a vague knowledge of them. They can break a movie down as people who wanted to be entertained, they don't come in with expectations any greater than that. Even as a fan myself, I think neither should we. Or you're never going to truly enjoy the ride.

fanboiii

fanboiii's picture
askanison40 wrote:

Andddd... Here we go again. Oh never mind. Why even bother? You guys hate everything. And the one movie that really sucked (the X-Men prequel), you kind of liked. Whatever.

What about X-Men: First Class "really sucked" exactly? X-Men is looking to be the best superhero movie this summer.

Interesting John  |  Web Developer

Interesting John's picture
wheels1.5 wrote:
gtrman wrote:

This is going to sound silly, but making a great film that stands the test of time is hard. Making a sequel that tops it is even harder. Is it possible they made a movie that will sell tickets and get the fans and those not "in the know" in seats, but not impossible to top? If Thor was good, a sequel could be great. If CA:TFA is good, a sequel could be great, see what I'm saying?

geterman: I agree with that completely. The problem I have with this review is something I've noticed a LOT in comicbook movie reviews. They are essentially unreasonably high expectations and unrealistic standards. This is simply because you AS A FAN don't truly have objectivity. You're looking for perfection ACCORDING TO YOUR VIEWS. So you nitpick at everything that wasn't what you wanted the movie to be. It doesn't necessarily mean it's a good a or bad movie. I'm a huge Ed Brubaker fan, but I wasn't expecting the same kind of storytelling he pulls off every month. This is probably why I follow reviews from people who aren't necessarily fans of comics or have a vague knowledge of them. They can break a movie down as people who wanted to be entertained, they don't come in with expectations any greater than that. Even as a fan myself, I think neither should we. Or you're never going to truly enjoy the ride.

I don't get the impression that Jeromy's overly familiar with the comics, he seems to be rating this one on it's merits as a movie Wink

Keven  |  Senior Editor

Keven's picture

Thor - 4.5/5

X-Men: First Class - 4.5/5

Green Lantern - Haven't seen

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - 5/5

- That's right - I've been going nuts for the popcorn flicks this year. I LOVED Transformers 3 - was it loaded with stupid? Absolutely. But it was goddamn amazing when they hit the Chicago apocalypse.

The BLAM doesn't 'HATE' everything.

Keven  |  Senior Editor

Keven's picture

just to clarify - Transformers 2? - I wanted to punch myself in the crotch through most of it. So I'm not 'biased' as a Bayfanboy - the third one saved me and saved me good.

Interesting John  |  Web Developer

Interesting John's picture
Keven wrote:

just to clarify - Transformers 2? - I wanted to punch myself in the crotch through most of it. So I'm not 'biased' as a Bayfanboy - the third one saved me and saved me good.

Wouldn't that be a FanBay? >_<

violetlight

violetlight's picture

mmmkay...here's what i think all this boils down to. Captain America...a hero in the marvel universe. If you're a fan of the character in the comics, you have become emotionally invested reading issue after issue. Who would want to read a comic in only one issue that 1. introduces the character. 2. establishes who he will become 3. has a bad guy 4. good guy is sent to beat bad guy 5. there is a woman in there somewhere 6. bad guy threatens all of humanity 7. hero beats bad guy 8. Hero saves the day. Done! The End! Okay...who's next? I don't know about all you guys who read comics, but when i read a comic, it sure doesn't stop there. It continues, (unless it's a 1 part issue origin story) and continues and continues...issue after issue, and there is a build of emotion and love for the character. Basically it's this: "the book is always better than the movie." Some times movies are just as good as the book(s)...Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. Amazing movies. What's going on with all these comic book movies, marvel or DC, i'm sorry to say, is simply that they are made to quickly go through all those 8 steps(sorry, couldn't come up with anything else to make it 10)...Oh! make sure there are big fights and explosions! The bad guy is defeated and there's a kissing scene in the end. Wipe our hands of the movie and print! Who's next? WHo else do we have to cover real quick in under 2 hours so we can get this Avengers movie out? Hurry hurry hurry! It isn't really fair to the reader now is it? Don't we all want to be emotionally invested in these characters and see a longer movie? Don't we want our intelligent brains stimulated? I'm sure if there was time taken to make it better, you all would sit through another hour now wouldn't you? I know I would! That's all this reviewer is saying..i think. Come on you guys! Give us something raw, real and we haven't seen before! Make it amazing for us! But... unfortunately, when money is a factor and they can't wait to get those action figures and collectible cups out...who they also target are those that just want mindless entertainment. And there. That's what I think. Will I still go see it? Sure! I want popcorn and see a hero save the day! But my days are long and exhausting so i don't want to use my brain. Anyway...Smile

REDSTORM

REDSTORM's picture
Keven wrote:

just to clarify - Transformers 2? - I wanted to punch myself in the crotch through most of it. So I'm not 'biased' as a Bayfanboy - the third one saved me and saved me good.

Just because you mentioned "biased" I'm going to have to jump in and say this....

I loved Transformers 3 as well. But damn did I feel bad when everyone's favorite black truck bit the dust.

Keven  |  Senior Editor

Keven's picture

REDSTORM wrote:
Keven wrote:
just to clarify - Transformers 2? - I wanted to punch myself in the crotch through most of it. So I'm not 'biased' as a Bayfanboy - the third one saved me and saved me good.

Just because you mentioned "biased" I'm going to have to jump in and say this....

I loved Transformers 3 as well. But damn did I feel bad when everyone's favorite black truck bit the dust.

haha - was wondering if you'd jump in after I said 'biased' - can't get anything passed you. And yeah - the twists in Transformers 3 actually shocked me - I didn't see some of them coming at all which is crazy when a Bay film usually plays out fairly predictable.

ckal

ckal's picture

Ugh, I thought Transformers was an overly long, boring, non entertaining movie. Better than the second, the first still by far the best.

I'm going to see Cap tonight at midnight. I hope I'm in the camp of people who loved it and thought it was the best superhero movie this year.

Phinehas

Phinehas's picture

I like money.

REDSTORM

REDSTORM's picture

So I saw the movie a day ago and I have to say, it was GREAT! Definitely tied for top comic book movie of the summer with First Class!

Keven  |  Senior Editor

Keven's picture

Cap = 3/5 tops

Very predictable and the only really engaging action sequence was right near the very end. The movie was very montage loaded and Joe Johnson has problems really engaging his audience for some reason. It wasn't a bad movie at all - but it wasn't very exciting either. The Red Skull bored the hell out of me too - and you gotta love lasers that make badguys disappear - oh PG13 - I hate you sometimes. Best scene of the movie was when that guy gets blended near the end and it's probably because I was shocked to see blood after everyone was getting disco-d to death from the magic laser guns.

Phinehas

Phinehas's picture

"Since the original Iron Man, subsequent films have been on a gradual decline in quality."

You mean, the other 3 films since from Marvel? They were made by other directors! How can they be in decline? Do you remember what cbms looked like before IM and TDK? They have ever been improving with an occasional burp along the way.

"A little objectivity however and its faults become more apparent."
No it doesn't. There are two things everyone takes to them into any judgement of a matter. A very subjective bias and presupposition. You are not excluded from the rest of humanity. The only way to be obective here, is if there were an accepted criterion by which to measure a good film. Well, buddy, there isn't. This is why you're not truly offering "objectivity," but opinion.
And you know what they say about opinions...

"The way light often reflects off of it makes it look entirely synthetic..."
1. I agree that only the color was poor. It was too light. In my >opinion<, it should have been much more darker sanguine.
2. Any bald man's nightmare. Sheen. It'll happen with prosthetics OR with real skin. Sorry. You're wrong there. Ask gtrman. Though, IMO, I could accept that they could have left in him in shadows a little more, providing more sinister daring-do. But that is a problem with the lighting director. Not the make-up artist.

"We’re told but never shown what he’s capable of so the threat he poses never seems palpable."
Really??? Did you actually watch this movie? Let us go back to the film. The tesseract's power was extracted and stored in what are essentially batteries. The power that was extracted was best demonstrated when Cap brought back a sample of it to Stark to examine. When the tiny little bit that Stark extracted had exploded, it demonstrated for the audience, especially towards the end, what power Skull was planning on using on the American cities.

"Weaving could do this role in his sleep and with the dialogue he was forced to deliver, very well may have."
Oh! Hmmm... I thought it was another perfect example of Weaving's impressional range. What do you want? For him to cry?

"The action in the film is adequate if not unimaginative. Running, jumping through fire balls and a few shield smashes to Hydra faces and you can easily forget the film's faults."
When you went there, what were you hoping to see? A pithy victorian era dialogue film adapted from Jane Austen and not a Jack Kirby cbm?

"...but after the first few tosses it would have been nice to see more creativity with the choreography."
Like a few karate chops? In 1940's era war?

I totally sympathize with askanison40's sentiments, though his were a tad extreme. There is a nit-picky bunch in here. Not everything cbm related is going to crap gold. That's it. Not by virtue that a its impossible, it's just a matter of taste, really. Going for steak, when you're actually in the mood for chicken or ice-cream. That's how I see it. You were in the mood for something else, and you got a very well made action flick. I bet had you not been in the mood for 1981's "Raider's of the Lost Ark," you would have made a similar critique. "I sure do wish they worked on Indiana's fight choreography... All he did was punch Nazis. He shoulda done some somersaults and round houses..."