Posted on 7/23/11 10:12 PM
Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the more successful and entertaining installments in the Marvel roster of films, even as it suffers from some of the same problems that hampered films like The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, chiefly as a vehicle to promote the upcoming Avengers ensemble event of 2012.
When Captain America focuses on its pulp roots and period details, it shines with old-fashioned aplomb. Even anachronistic details like Nazi's with lasers don't seem out of place in the stylized deco world that Director Joe Johnston (who also directed the wildly likable period actioner The Rocketeer) strives for. The digital effects that render Chris Evans as the 90-lb. weakling Steve Rogers at the start of the film are exceptionally good. A fantastic host of actors including Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, and Tommy Lee Jones round out the cast. Some of the action feels pedestrian and uninspired, namely some montages and motor bikes chases. But other scenes like a raid on a moving train and a fight taken to the air aboard a giant flying-wing warplane are thrilling and well choreographed.
My favorite part was a light-hearted nod to Captain America's comic origins during a montage in which Steve Rogers is recruited to suit up in retro tights and promote America's War efforts in a traveling show featuring show girls and a mock Hitler look-alike. The sequence balances humor and nostalgia with irresistible charm.
Not as effective are the inevitable tie-ins to the Avengers. A modern day intro and epilogue feel tacked on for the sake of pimping next Summer's Marvel mash up.
At one point Steve Rogers rescues a group of American GI's and allies who quickly become his backup on future missions. This team includes a Frenchman and both African and Asian Americans. Such racial diversity seems less organic and more calculated to appeal to audiences in international markets. Although, in all fairness, since I'm not familiar with Captain America's comic book roots, I could be wrong.
Evans makes a likable hero and is well cast to depict the physicality of Captain America, but as an actor he lacks the kind of charisma that would have beefed up the character as much as his biceps do. Weaving has fun with the part of Red Skull, but his German accent could use a little work and Red Skull's part in the movie just didn't interest me very much aside from providing some cool action sequences. I had no idea why the glowing McGuffin cube was important nor did I care. And since every Marvel film these days includes a post-credit sequence, I stuck around for that and was rewarded with a sneak peek of the Avengers movie that left me wondering "was that supposed to be exciting??" Comic Book fans will certainly have a different reaction and that's fine. But I find these movies more entertaining when they meet their own stand alone responsibilities than teasing something yet to come.