Captain America: The First Avenger is a change of pace when compared to other comic book films. It’s so light and positive, that it comes off as both refreshing and lacking of something special. It certainly is a good film, due to the great casting, good story and steady pace of action, but it feels like it fell short of being something really amazing. It’s really hard putting your finger on one thing that makes Captain America fall a bit short because at the end of the day it still is a really good movie.
The film centers on Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) who is a scrawny little kid from Brooklyn that wants to serve his country in WWII. He’s brave and courageous. He feels that sitting around at home while soldiers are giving their lives for our country isn’t right and all he wants to do is his part. He wants to serve in the Army, not to prove anything to anyone, but because it’s the right thing to do. He’s been bullied all of his life, but he never backs down from a fight. His character portrays the perfect person or perhaps the perfect country?
Steve is given a chance to serve his country, but under the hands of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). He joins the military under a top secret science project that turns him into Captain America. This new ability doesn’t simply make him stronger; it also amplifies all of his qualities and traits. It makes good men better and bad men evil.
Captain America is originally shoved into some stupid stage show act which involves him punching Hitler over 200 times! It isn’t until he performs in front of active soldiers on the field that he realizes his true calling, to defend America and its ideals. To stand up for what’s right and to defeat evil.
The films main villain is Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Red Skull is just like Captain America, a science experiment. But Red Skull was one of those bad men that are hell-bent on taking over the world by forming a group called Hydra. This sets up for a very simple story that involves Captain America taking out Red Skull’s facilities and slowly working towards defeating Red Skull. The film doesn’t really pack any surprises, but it does pack a few punches.
Joe Johnston directs a very light film in a world full of dark and gritty ones. My biggest problem with Captain America: The First Avenger was also the best thing about it. It was light film with really no character development. The biggest problem Steve Rogers ever has in the film is being a small and weak man, but that is all changed once he becomes Captain America. Once he transforms into the Captain, he really never has any problems that he can’t defeat. His character is genuinely a good person and you can’t fully fault the film for that because Dr. Erskine clearly mentions that in the beginning of the film. He says something along the lines of, whatever happens to you after the experiment, don’t change who you are. Don’t let the power overcome you, just stay as you were and Steve Rogers does exactly that. He never becomes cocky or unappreciative of his new powers. He uses them for the greater good of our country. He symbolizes everything that is right in this world and he amplifies it by 100.
While that works for the film, it kind of makes me lose interest with the character. Chris Evans plays him perfectly, but very generically. I can’t knock on the film for that reason, but it holds me back from calling it something truly special. Captain America, the character is nowhere near as interesting as Thor.
The light tone helps the film flow from action sequence to scenes of dialogue rather effortlessly, which makes the running time feel brisk and tight, but it also makes for a string of good characters that never really get depth. You know who Captain America is and what he stands for but Red Skull never really comes off as a bad guy other than the times when he says that he wants to defeat everyone. They just randomly toss in a few scenes of him killing Hitler’s men for no reason. It’s like the whole film they keep telling you that he’s a bad person and they back it up with scenes of random deaths, but for no real reason. I wanted to know more about Red Skull and why he is who he is.
The scenes with Captain America and Red Skull in them together aren’t that special because there never seems to be a reason. Captain America wants to defeat Red Skull because he represents bad and Red Skull doesn’t really care about defeating Captain America unless he gets in the way. They meet up and talk at several points in the film, which ultimately leads to a disappointing ending battle between the two.
While the movies light tone fails to engage on any other level besides the surface, it does help make it a harmless viewing. The movie really does feel quick and fun. The action sequences are high adrenaline with Captain America and the team defeating evil Hydra members. When the action is taking a break the story flows rather quickly due to the excellent performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Dominic Cooper.
Cooper plays an early Howard Stark, that’s right, the dad of Tony “Iron Man” Stark. Howard pretty much comes off as a more serious Tony Stark. He’s not as funny, but his part is needed in the film and very good. Tommy Lee Jones shows that he can still act if given something good to work with. He’s funny and an asshole at the same time! Evans plays Captain with great valor and Weaving comes off as a bad ass with his German accent and awesome car.
Overall, my review is kind of random and all over the place because that’s exactly what Captain America: The First Avenger feels like. It has a story, with good characters and purpose, but it’s soft which makes it feel like it’s lacking any sort of character depth or greater cause. It’s a great way to prep you for The Avengers, but it never really feels like anything out of the ordinary. I don’t discredit the film for being light and simple because I truly believe that was Joe Johnston‘s intent, but unfortunately it makes for a lack of interest. It’s a good film that is worth seeing, but it’s not going to leave you begging for a sequel. If you’re looking to spend 2 hours at a theater, entertained with some neat action then by all means check out Captain America: The First Avenger, but if you want something that’s really engaging with deep characters and motives then you might want to wait for a rental. That being said, it is still a really good film, just not a memorable one.
Captain America: The First Avenger - 8/10