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Captain America: The First Avenger

A 2011 film Based on the Marvel Comics Character

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The Nostalgic Marvel Comics Movie

  • Jul 23, 2011
Rating:
+4
Star Rating:


Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun slice of pop culture nostalgia – a 3D film that crosses the gee-whiz imagery of a yesteryear pulp magazine with the rip-roaring action and adventure of a Saturday afternoon serial. Adapted from the Marvel comic book, it evokes an imaginary, almost innocent world of fantastic technologies, sinister domination plots, and gung-ho characters, all of whom believe that good old American moxie can vanquish the forces of evil. Watching it, I saw echoes of films such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Speed Racer, visual treats that were also unashamedly entertaining. I’m not quite sure why it doesn’t quite reach the level of those movies. Perhaps it has something to do with being one of five interconnected films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; if it had stood on its own and not been tied to the other four plots, it might have been truly great.
 
One of the many ways special effects are typically used is to enhance an actor’s appearance. With the possible exception of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Captain America is the only film I know of in which special effects make the star look like less than himself. This would be Chris Evans; for the opening scenes of the film, his six-foot-tall muscular build had to be digitally manipulated to make him appear short and scrawny. According to director Joe Johnston, this required each of his early scenes to be shot at least four times – first on set with Evans and his costars, second with Evans alone against a green screen, third back on set with only Evans’ costars, and fourth with an on-set body double mimicking Evans’ actions. With this much work involved, it’s no wonder his character looks so small for only about a quarter of the finished film.

                                           
                                             
Taking place mostly in 1942, the film tells the story of Steve Rogers (Evans), a kid from Brooklyn who’s all pluck and naïve patriotism. He wants nothing more than to enlist in the army and fight in World War II, but he’s turned away at every recruiting station for his sickly build and long list of ailments. His tenacity catches the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), an expatriate German scientist working for the United States government. He recruits Rogers to a squad of soldiers led by the cantankerous Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), all doubt and pessimism. Rogers passes a psychological test – his willingness to take one for the team – and is selected by Erskine to take part in an experiment that will allow him to aide in the war effort. In a secret underground lab located behind a New York antique shop, Rogers is placed in a metal tube and injected with a serum concocted by Erskine, one that enhances his physical features and brings him to the peak of human perfection. He has become a super soldier.
 
In any good superhero tale, the villain is almost always an eccentric madman that upstages every other character. Here enters Johan Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a former Nazi whose dreams of world domination have far exceeded Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. He too has been injected with Erskine’s serum, but in his case, there were ... some unfortunate side effects. Obsessed with the occult, he’s looking to harness the power of a glowing blue cube, which is said to have been “the jewel of Odin’s treasure room” (I hope you all saw Thor back in May). Even before Steven Spielberg made Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazis have been among the most reliable of movie-serial villains; Captain America keeps that tradition alive, and it works beautifully.

                                           
                                             
After donning a hooded blue suit and adopting an impossibly strong red, white, and blue colored shield as a weapon, Rogers quickly graduates from war bond stage show celebrity to full-fledged soldier. At his side is Officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a British soldier who will inevitably become his love interest – although they will do no more than kiss. Despite her steely professionalism, it’s impossible for her to not look beautiful; in every scene she’s in, she looks as if she has been prepped for a magazine photo shoot. I’m not really being critical here. Even if it is incredibly silly, it contributes greatly to the stylized comic book atmosphere. The same thing applies to Tucci’s German accent. It’s not too phony, it’s just phony enough.
 
Along the way, we will meet the showy military inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), father of Tony Stark, who we know as Iron Man. You saw those movies, right? We will also meet Schmidt’s right hand man, biochemist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), who suspects his master may be einen Vogel haben. I think the main reason Captain America: The First Avenger is so much fun is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; it retains that air of heightened reality, and it does so with absolutely no apologies. Although not the best entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – that distinction belongs to the original Iron Man – it’s still a highly entertaining film. Note: All the recent films in the Marvel cannon have required you to sit through the end credits, and this one is no exception. This time, however, you will see a theatrical teaser instead of an extra scene.

                                              

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July 24, 2011
Great review!
July 24, 2011
Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.
 
July 23, 2011
Nice review and I liked that commentary you had with the Peggy and Steve thing. In the comics, Steve dated both the mother and daughter...weird right? I really wanted to like this, but the plot was just pretty standard for me despite the services to tickle our love for pop culture. I saw the way it didn't take itself seriously as a weakness since they had originally wrote in the Concentration Camps (as they should've have) into the script. It may not be the definitive Cap movie for me, but it sure was better than the outings in the late 70's and the 90's.
July 23, 2011
I'm not at all familiar with the comic book, which is probably why I was able to get into the movie. I have to say, I think that writing in the concentration camps would have been far too dark. If it's a comic book adaptation, it should have some sense of fun; the real attrocities of the Nazi regime are far too serious, and in my opinion, not at all appropriate.
July 23, 2011
I see your point as to how an adaptation should be fun; and that is why I think comic adaptations have to be treated with the same complexities and sophistication in writing as the comics themselves. The comics do reveal the way Cap reacted to the atrocities committed by the Nazis and this was why he was what he is; he fought much harder to fight the Red Skull. In X-men, they also had mutant concentration camps, and this was the stage set for the mutant massacre. Marvel's appeal has always been how much closer they are to reality unlike DC's books.

I see how it can be inappropriate for commercial viewers, but comics these days have evolved to maturity since the 60's and 70's (which was why The Dark Knight was so successful, it took some risks). One day I wish that H-wood would pay real attention to storytelling rather than merely relying on the iconic status of a comic character.
 
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More Captain America: The First Ave... reviews
review by . July 23, 2011
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“Captain America” has been one Marvel character that has been so overlooked, underused and definitely misused. I think this is already the 5th comic book adaptation this year and the 3rd one released that featured a major Marvel comic character. “Captain America The First Avenger” has been released with little to no major promos and it feels like a movie that follows a formula that has been used by many other comic book movies so many times before. To appreciate Joe Johnston’s …
review by . December 11, 2011
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In a "alternate" universe (a la Inglorious Basterds) where Nazis had ray guns, planes that look like stealth bombers and lab equipment that looks modern day, we have another tale of World War II. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans with amazing special effects that have him looking shorter and pencil thin) keeps getting rejected by the Army for health reasons. He is not dissuaded and just keeps enlisting in other stations.    He appears ultra-patriotic and doesn't care if bullies beat …
review by . August 29, 2011
Shields Up!
Captain America:  The First Avenger is a solid action yarn that tries, at least in my opinion, to do too many things at once.      The plot of the film revolves around Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a scrawny wannabe soldier who gets turned away time after time when he attempts to enlist in the US Army to fight for the Allies in World War II.  His "never give up" attitude attracts the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German scientist …
review by . July 28, 2011
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review by . July 23, 2011
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 Thor, X-men First Class, Green Lantern, it’s been like Christmas all year for comic book fans everywhere. If you read my quick tip then you know I’ve been hyped for this movie all year, in anticipation for the Avengers movie may of next.       Asthma, Heart palpitations, if you can name it chances are Steve Rogers has it. A physically weak man in every sense of the word but if there is anything that’s a constant in comic books it’s that strength …
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review by . July 23, 2011
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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER   Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely   Directed by Joe Johnston   Starring Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving       Peggy Carter: You can’t give me orders!   Captain America: The hell I can’t! I’m a captain.       I was weary of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER before watching it but still optimistic. After all, …
review by . July 23, 2011
With the release of Captain America: The First Avenger now out, the comicbook summer of 2011 now comes to a close.  We had our ups with X Men First Class and our downs or at the very least dissapointments with Green Lantern but when the Golden Age hero Captain America now hit the big screen, the summer was going out on a high note.      The movie takes place with Captain America's origin, during WWII with Steve Rogers, a stringbean of a man who cannot get enlisted into …
review by . August 23, 2011
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   So I'm just going to say right off that I enjoyed this movie, although the bar was set pretty low what with Thor, which - lets face it - was not a very good movie.  I had also, just before seeing Captain America, happened to catch an early 90's/late 80's looking version (I later determined it was released in 1990) starring Matt Salinger.  So after all that, Captain America blew me away.      The story begins with the discovery of a gigantic, …
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
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About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #6
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Captain America: The First Avenger is a 2011 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Captain America. It is the fifth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by Joe Johnston, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and stars Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, and Stanley Tucci. The film tells the story of Steve Rogers, a sickly man from Brooklyn who is transformed into super soldier Captain America to help the war effort. However, Captain America must stop Red Skull, Adolf Hitler's ruthless head of weaponry and leader of a terrorist organization, who intends to use a mysterious tesseract energy-source for world domination.
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Details

Director: Joe Johnston
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Drama, Thriller, War
Release Date: July 22, 2011
Runtime: 124 minutes
Studio: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures
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