Captain America: The First Avenger

Review by Lewis Bazley @lewisbazley

Directed by

Joe Johnston

Starring

Chris Evans Hayley Atwell Hugo Weaving

Anticipation.

Haven’t we already been subjected to a GI Joe film?

Enjoyment.

In your FACE, Nazis! Hugely entertaining action hero howitzer.

In Retrospect.

Familiar, but great performances and pitch-perfect tone make this one of Marvel’s best.

A fast, thrilling and unashamedly old-fashioned adventure that falls in with Marvel’s best.

Chris Evans’ admission that he entered therapy before filming Captain America: The First Avenger revealed that muscular Bostonians have a sensitive side, but it also pointed to the amount of pressure resting on Marvel’s figurative shoulders ahead of 2012’s The Avengers.

He’s iconic, but an anachronism, so how can the Star-Spangled Avenger – even his nickname’s naff – hope to appeal to audiences as much as Robert Downey Jr’s laconic Iron Man, or Chris Hemsworth’s mighty Thor? Moreover, can this precursor to The Avengers maintain enough interest in a superhero supergroup that’s been very slowly assembling since 2007 to make Joss Whedon’s ensemble effort a hit?

Thankfully, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. He might not get to punch the real Hitler, but Evans does a superb job as the skinny student-turned-super soldier. Whether he’s standing up to bullies with a head that’s evidently too large for his 90lb body, struggling to inspire troops at a propaganda rally or taking out umpteen Nazis with his starry shield, he’s likeable and, despite the cartoonish aspects of the character, genuine.

Director Joe Johnson – whose appointment struck fear into the hearts of fanboys everywhere – marshals the story with only minor glitches to create a stirring and knowingly conventional adventure. A climactic sacrifice nods to Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death to set up Cap’s snowy fall and modern resurrection and, unlike Jon Favreau’s overcooked Iron Man 2, you’re left genuinely eager rather than apathetic to see the final assembly of The Avengers.

It’s by no means perfect, with needless 3D muddying the by-the-numbers third-act action and jeopardising what’s supposed to be a fist-pumping comeback scene, while the villainous Red Skull is risible to look at. Despite Hugo Weaving’s fine Werner Herzog impression and arrogance, he’s also a drain on the otherwise rip-roaring pace of the script. A major death feels utterly meaningless given how little time we spent with the character and Team America fans will struggle not to smirk when Tommy Lee Jones’ gruff Colonel Phillips seems to press the ‘Valmorphanise’ button during a chase scene.

In terms of tone, however, Captain America is difficult to fault. Johnson wisely plays up the Saturday morning serial aspects of the character, patently referencing Raiders of the Lost Ark, bringing Hayley Atwell’s assets to the fore and letting Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci revel in the limitations of their characters. This summer’s other standout superhero film, X-Men: First Class, might have touched on revisionist history and racial prejudice but Captain America is, rightly, much more concerned with derring-do, heroism and chucking Nazis out of planes.

While the CGI used to portray Rogers as a featherweight weakling doesn’t always work, Dominic Cooper’s American accent is somehow hammier than Clive Owen’s in Sin City and the restorative qualities of the ‘super serum’ seem scientifically questionable, in truth these shortcomings are insignificant. Captain America is a fast, thrilling and unashamedly old-fashioned adventure and Evans didn’t need to sit on the psychiatrist’s couch – he’s brought an American hero to life in style.

Published 28 Jun 2011

Tags: Captain America Comic book movie Marvel

Anticipation.

Haven’t we already been subjected to a GI Joe film?

Enjoyment.

In your FACE, Nazis! Hugely entertaining action hero howitzer.

In Retrospect.

Familiar, but great performances and pitch-perfect tone make this one of Marvel’s best.

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