Friday, 29 July 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Suffice to say if Marvel had attempted to release Captain America about five or six years ago, they probably wouldn't have been greeted with the warmest of receptions. Nevertheless it's three Avengers down, in Thor, Iron Man and The Hulk, and without further ado it's Captain America's time to arrive at the party.

Based on the legendary Marvel title of the same name, Captain America does a slightly quirkier twist on the much crowded superhero genre by setting nearly all the action during World War II - and mostly pulling it off. It tells the tale of a young, scrawny, glass of water named Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he tries to bluff his way into the U.S. Army despite not being nearly close enough to being physically qualified - could probably still kick my ass but sure. Through a stroke of luck, his wimpy demeanour outmatches his enormous will which ultimately finds him enrolled in an experiment for a super soldier program hoping to change the course of the war, thus enabling him to become one of the most iconic superheroes of the 20th Century.

During the first half of the film, the whole build up with Cap's origin story was done with so much vigour you nearly forgot you were watching a superhero film at all and simply watching some coming of age World War II spectacle. Albeit with some of the fantasy driven visual nuances from the classic 1991 film - by the same director, Joe Johnston - The Rocketeer.

When originally announced I wasn't sure whether Evans was the right fit for the courageous, humble nature of Rogers' character, especially after seeing him play the opposite so well as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, but he really brought a lot of heart and grounding to the man. Which was essential to making Captain America work, as a film, on a global scale. He just attained this sincerely likeable quality which found even myself hailing him as one of Marvel Films' best film creations to date.

Likewise the supporting cast delivered some enjoyable and charismatic turns from the likes of the brilliant Stanley Tucci as the not-so mad scientist who turns Rogers into the muscular hero. Tommy Lee Jones is classy as ever, as the stern and battle weary Col. Phillips. Hayley Atwell was one of the better love interests in, Peggy Carter. One of the highlights personally was seeing Dominic Cooper as the institutional Howard Stark - father, in the Marvel Universe, to the one and only Tony Stark aka Iron Man - which of course brings continuity to the grand scheme of things when preparing for next year's Avengers film. And yes while on The Avengers, Samuel L Jackson yet again makes his obligatory appearance as the illusive leader of S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury.

Then of course there's Hugo Weaving, doing what Hugo Weaving does best, playing 'the bad guy'. Maybe not quite hitting the sinister heights which made him an international star during The Matrix trilogy, but under the guise of The Red Skull he certainly delivered a classical performance as the evil Nazi antagonist. Also quite enjoyed seeing the excellent Toby Jones as his right hand man.

Though disappointing me last year with The Wolfman reboot, Joe Johnston has definitely went back to what he does best, with the visual stylings he's probably best known for. The art deco vehicle designs of the evil HYDRA presented themselves beautifully, combining a real element of fun to the proceedings like his aforementioned Rocketeer feature, but also possessing a real action adventure quality rarely seen since the heights of the first three Indiana Jones films.

The CGI team working on the film should also be commended for the effects implored to make Chris Evans a 'scrawny pencil necked geek' even if it does dip a bit during the frantic fight scenes. Must say the numerous costume designs the protagonist went through were top class, can't wait to see how it's adapted in a modern setting next year.

Final Thoughts
Bold, entertaining and probably packing the most heart of them all. Captain America defies all of my personal expectations and delivers a film which, like X-Men First Class, harks back to a time when Summer blockbusters were meant to be huge events. Spectacles. A chance to escape but not needing to turn your brain off completely. An old fashioned good vs evil story, featuring a distinctly different character who should lend himself brilliantly to Marvel's epic superhero team-up, The Avengers next year. Captain America? F*ck yeah...


Captain America: The First Avenger is in cinemas everywhere now.

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