Captain America Wants YOU to Get Excited about The Avengers!
I’ll be the first to admit to suffering from superhero fatigue. It seems every summer is overrun by comic book adaptations and superheroes, most of them wallowing in mediocrity and indistinguishable from each other only in levels of awfulness. I choose my poison carefully, and this year I’ve found it refreshing that Hollywood has decided to do comic book period pieces, first with the fun 1960’s set X-Men reboot, and now with the workmanlike 1940’s set Captain America. This is essentially one of many prequels to Marvel’s upcoming Avengers multi-superhero-mega-comic-book-all-star-uber-blockbuster-spectacular, which we get a preview of after the credits. I can’t say that I’m very excited about it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Captain America on its own merits.
Joe Johnston, your poor man’s Steven Spielberg and long-time likeable hack director, channels his Rocketeer roots with this WWII-based expository film about Captain America’s origins and his battle with Red Skull. I always enjoy a film where we kick Nazi ass, and a villain with a skeletal face is always fun. Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers aka Captain America. I’ve been told I’ve seen him in other films, but I couldn’t tell him from Adam. I suppose he’s just what we want in the lead with his all-American looks and wooden line deliveries. His gal-pal is played by Hayley Atwell (the fetching British actress who was the only member of the cast not to overact in last year’s atrocious TV miniseries The Pillars of the Earth). She looks absolutely smashing and certainly knows how to fill out those period blouses and skirts. Also on board is Tommy Lee Jones as the gruff commander, perfectly typecast. Then there’s Hugo Weaving as Red Skull doing an entertainingly bad impression of Christoph Waltz as Skeletor.
There’s a great attention to the period detail which I always appreciate (especially this time period) and credit must be given to the newsreel and USO musical number homages. Johnston, meanwhile, does his best to recreate Indiana Jones-style pacing and humor, which often falls flat but is harmless. The action and set pieces were nicely staged and looked good, though there was an odd sluggishness to the overall proceedings that kept the film from soaring to higher levels of entertainment. The film also lacked the one-big WOW moment, though that might be more a symptom of our general malaise with overdone special effects and ridiculous CGI in other lesser films.
When you cut to the chase, the old-fashioned design of the film and Johnston’s earnest approach work in great favor when compared to the contemporary crassness of Hollywood blockbusters (see any Michael Bay film and most other comic book films). Captain America doesn’t work on every level I wanted it to, but the faults (like Weaving’s horrible accent and the cheesy humor) only add to the innocent fun. It’s a charming throw-back with great production values. I personally will never tire of the WWII era…and as long as there are beguiling actresses like Hayley Atwell willing to don the period attire, I’ll happily come along for the ride.
Side Note: Don’t waste your money on the 3D. We only chose the 3D route because it was discount Wednesdays at our local cineplex where all shows (3D included) are offered up at a flat rate. The 3D added absolutely nothing to the experience, and in fact, I imagine in 2D all the nice period details and action sequences will appear in clearer focus.