It is very surprising that with all the comic book films of late, nobody has really done a period superhero film until this year. X-Men: First Class started it off by setting itself in the 1960s with its heroes averting the Cuban missile crisis, here we have Captain America: The First Avenger where the titular hero is kicking some Nazi (and Hydra) butt back in the good old 1940s, it’s a smart move to keep the genre feeling fresh, but does it work? Steve Rogers (Evans) is a scrawny New Yorker who wants to help his country by enlisting for the armed forces but is thought to be too weak by military officials. He is soon inducted into a secret programme where is injected with super serum turning him into Captain America, the star spangled man. Now as the most powerful soldier the US has to offer it is up to him to stop the dastardly villainous Red Skull (Weaving).
This movie is very entertaining; it’s easily the best film Marvel Studios have put out so far, and it’s for the sole reason that it doesn’t take itself too seriously at all, it doesn’t try to place itself in a realistic situation instead it’s a big comic book movie. The film never takes itself incredibly seriously, it feels about as light and breezy as a classic American serial (a technique that director Johnston used well previously on his film The Rocketeer) which is even nicely parodied during the scenes of the Captains rise to fame in America (easily some of the best moments of the film appear at this point. It’s lack of seriousness doesn’t make it feel stupid, it just feels very easy to watch and enjoy. At points the plot does feel a bit garbled (never was quite sure on what the Red Skull’s dastardly plot was) and a lot of it is told in montages which have some sequences that would have been nice to have seen played out. Due to the use of montage the film doesn’t really rely on set pieces too much, which is a relief as many comic book movies seem to fall into the trap of mistaking set pieces for narrative, instead Captain America: The First Avenger spends it’s time developing characters and setting up what is to come in the future.
There are many great special effects in this movie (the technique used to make Steve Rogers look like a small man beats down everything David Fincher did in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button easily), everything looks magnificent but the one special effect that I’m sure nobody was expecting was the great talents put forward by Chris Evans. Evans has always been a likeable enough screen presence in the past, being amiable lead in films like Cellular and Fantastic Four but here, he becomes something completely different and you forget that it is Evans inside the suit and really believe it’s Steve Rogers fighting to save his country. The rest of the cast are top notch, Weaving is menacing as always whist Jones is serviceable as the gruff and grizzled military official but the nicest find is Hayley Atwell, an up and comer who is absolutely fantastic and rivals the seasoned pros with her performance as the strong and quick witted Peggy Carter, more than just a damsel in distress. The films use of these strong actors is just a testament to what Marvel Studios has been doing, it’s working on it’s characters just as hard as (if not harder than) everything else in the film. The strong script really offers up sharp dialogue and lovely character moments which helps its audience relate to it’s out there situation, right down to the final dialogue, it’s not surprising to learn that writer Joss Whedon, who works wonderfully with characters and dialogue, did an uncredited rewrite of the script. After this, bring on Whedon’s Avengers Assemble!
How do you make Captain America: The First Avenger and not have it end up looking like a big red, white and blue pride parade? It seems pretty difficult, the character seems to be drowning in patriotism, it almost seems hard to take for anyone outside of the USA but Joe Johnston and his team have done a great job. Captain America: The First Avenger is a smart, witty and action packed take on the super hero genre. It’s Spider-Man meets Raiders of the Lost Ark with a little bit of Inglourious Basterds thrown in for fun. It may seem a little rushed at points and the plot is a tad muddles but it’s still great fun with some excellently written characters and it sets up Avengers Assemble nicely… also that Star Spangled Man song from the film is darn catchy.