Monday, 15 August 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

Captain America: The First Avenger 
‘Superhero Summer’ is over, and Thank God!! However what started with the average Thor (Review), finishes on another average action film. The ‘Captain America’ franchise remains relatively unknown when compared to the likes of Batman and Spiderman. However with Marvel’s push towards ‘The Avengers’ film, Captain America was inevitably going to receive his own theatrical release. Early trailers showed a gritty, and more restrained, realistic approach to the superhero, without the gaudy costume. But after the likes of Green Lantern (Review) and Thor, my patience with the ‘superhero’ film had and still remains thin. In terms of the director, Joe Johnston’s track-record has been sketchy and lacks experience in action film-making. While the likes of Hidalgo, October Sky and Jumanji  were relatively entertaining films, Jurassic Park III  and 2010’s The Wolfman aren’t exactly high-points of his sparse directing career. So with a big budget and a well-established Marvel franchise, what has Johnston conjured up? 
Set in 1942, the plot follows the frail and young Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he attempts to join the American military. Constantly being rejected, his ambitious nature catches the eye of a German scientist, Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Erskine’s scientific experiment results in changing Rogers into the ‘super soldier’ Captain America. Meanwhile, Nazi Germany’s HYDRA research development, headed by Johann Schmidt/ Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), is attempting to weaponise an ‘alien’ energy source and dominate the globe before Hitler. It’s up to Captain America to defeat Schmidt and end the war. 
Following the same structure of many superhero films, Captain America focuses on the origins of the Marvel superhero. Thus we see Steve Roger’s inadequate life, disappointments and physical limitations. We then see his transformation as gains his powers, gets the girl and saves the day. It's all cliché but remains interesting. Yet it's hard to ignore glaring problems and faults in the film’s story and pacing. The film starts off well, quickly establishing Roger’s character and showing his route to ‘super-soldier’. It is exactly when he gains his powers that the film starts to slip into a dawdling bore. Captain America’s demotion to a mire propaganda tool, performing in shows and theatres, is over-long and agonising to watch. From here we are introduced to too many characters, weak story-telling, and tame action scenes. The film is definitely lacking in its intended action department. With all the explosions and gunfire, there isn’t one lengthy action scene. Instead we are treated to a ‘montage’ of battles and motorbike stunts which seems out of place, and hilariously over-the-top. The scene would have been complete with ‘America, F**k Yeah!’ being blasted out. It’s ironic that a ‘training montage’ would have possibly be more suited and relevant. Rogers seemingly is able to know how to throw and ricochet his iconic shield off walls, he’s able to parachute out of planes, and he knows the limits of his new abilities. 

The film’s style is another area which raises eyebrows. While the film is set in the 1940s, there is a clear generic, stereotypical look and tone to the feature’s atmosphere. Simultaneously, HYDRA's soldiers look more like robots with a stupid 'Superman' salute than actual human soldiers. The blurry CGI backgrounds have a similar look to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow  and thus really become tiring and distracting. However the forests, bunkers, and snowy mountains offer a needed change of scenery from the constant ‘superhero ‘cityscapes of New York and Gotham. 
Acting-wise, Chris Evans does his job as ‘Cap’, bringing nothing amazing but nothing terrible to the screen. Meanwhile, Hugo Weaving’s performance is somewhat hindered by awful dialogue and a significant lack of development. While the ‘red skull’ looks off, there is an interesting background to the villain. However it’s never explored, and we merely are told about his ‘transformation’ and his ideologic, aspiring character through uninspired talk and a barrage of bad accents. Tommy Lee Jones puts in excellent performance that brings most of the laughs, while Dominic Cooper also does well as Howard Stark, giving slithers of the personality that Robert Downey Jr gave Tony Stark in the Iron Man films. Hayley Atwell breaks the cliché damsel in distress formula giving a genuine performance that plays well off Evans. However, like Green Lantern and Thor, we see various significant characters from the comic books that are are never adequately explored or even properly introduced. 

Overall, Captain America: The First Avenger is a dumb, dumb film of averageness. While it doesn’t induce the sorts of pain and anger as Green Lantern did, it still remains flawed, unorganised and cliché. While the film starts well, it withers to boring mess that fails even to inform the audience of the villain’s evil plan. Good performances come to the aid of a stale script, but the lack of a bona-fide action scene hinders this ‘action’ summer blockbuster.

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