Saturday, July 04, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

I spent part of Independence Day 2015 watching my first-ever Marvel superheroes movie, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011).

I became a bit curious about the series because the Marvel franchise is owned by Disney and the rest of my family enjoys the films. The WWII setting made CAPTAIN AMERICA a good entrance point for me into the Marvel world.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny young man who wants to join the army and fight for his country, but he's turned down as 4F. It's worth noting that Evans' thin appearance in the early scenes is thanks to CGI but that aspect is fairly seamless.

Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a U.S. government scientist, sees something special in Steve and not only gets him into the army, he also puts him into a top secret program. Steve is injected with a serum which makes him a "super soldier," ultimately known as Captain America.

Steve joins Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) fighting a Nazi spinoff organization called HYDRA, headed by Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who (of course!) plans world domination.

The above is an attempt to describe a sprawling 124-minute film as succinctly as possible. The movie's running time is both a blessing and a curse; the movie is a bit too long, yet there is lots of back story and information missing. Viewers are told next to nothing about important characters like Carter and Stark; sure, there was a secret program underway but I would have loved to know what on earth a female British agent was doing commanding male troops in the U.S., let alone fighting in combat!

Of course, I went into this film with zero knowledge about Marvel superheroes, so it's possible some background info may have been absorbed by audiences elsewhere along the way.

Evans does a good job, successfully conveying the formerly short, insecure man who still exists inside a newly powerful body. He may be a superhero, but, among other things, he still doesn't know how to talk to women.

I also thought Atwell and Jones were excellent, and I enjoyed the bits of humor they added to the film. I also liked that Atwell's character was simultaneously feminine and tough. Atwell brings a fresh film persona and a unique character to the movie, which I appreciated.

The movie's biggest drawback is the lack of a good musical score. My husband calls the scores for these superhero movies "wallpaper," and he's right. You don't even notice the score is there. I can't help remembering how my friends and I left the theater humming John Williams' SUPERMAN (1978) theme when that movie came out; a top-drawer score can do so much to lift a film to another level of excitement, and that aspect was sadly missing here.

A side note, the final sequence has definite echoes of RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), what with the speeders in the forest and trying to break into a bunker. I later learned that the film's director, Joe Johnston, was the art director for RETURN OF THE JEDI so that seems to shed some light on the similarity!

All in all I thought CAPTAIN AMERICA was a pretty good film of its type; it had a solid story with humor mixed in, and it avoided taking its violence to a level I wouldn't want to watch. I also liked the WWII setting, although that won't be a factor in other Marvel films. I enjoyed the movie enough to be interested in watching the sequel, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014) or another film in the Marvel series. I'll also probably check out the AGENT CARTER TV series.

CAPTAIN AMERICA was directed by Joe Johnston and filmed by Shelly Johnson.

Parental Advisory: CAPTAIN AMERICA is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action."

CAPTAIN AMERICA is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Update: Here is my review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014).


Blogger Jerry E said...

Not normally my area of interest, especially these days when the films seem to be all CGI and no 'heart'. But I was introduced to this film one evening when we were staying with our daughter and son-in-law and found myself really rather enjoying it! I think its WW2 setting put it into my comfort zone immediately LOL and I seriously doubt I would really want to go further with the series but, of itself, yes it was fun.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Oh, and by the way, Hayley Atwell is a young British actress to watch. I have seen her now in several productions on both small and big screen and find her both talented and appealing.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

This film was also my first intro to the Marvel Universe (my daughter had to explain some things to me, ha ha). I saw it in the theater when it first came out and loved it. Yes, the WWI connection was a big help. I also like the clean, gentlemanly way of Captain America and found it to be very patriotic. Do catch up on the TV series "Agent Carter". It was very well done and is set in post WWII so I loved the set dressing and costumes and makeup. Was very glad to hear it has been renewed for a second season.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

I liked this movie too and share many of your opinions. I was disappointed they had to create a villain worse than the Nazis, but I guess Hydra has long been part of the Marvel universe. I'm also disappointed they ended the movie with Cap America moving forward in time. I would have enjoyed more WWII movies with Cap and Peggy.

I too wondered why a British woman was involved in this military group, but Hayley Atwell steals all her scenes and almost the movie. She's very active on Twitter/Instagram (sometimes a bit too much, lol). Her father is an American and she has dual citizenship. She's been very good in everything I've seen her in. I hope S2 of Agent Carter will be less campy.

Glad you enjoyed the movie! --Missy

9:37 AM  
Blogger Larry Fiore said...

Imho,The Winter Soldier is even better than the first one and may be the best Marvel film overall. I know many critics and others felt the same way.
I think you'd enjoy it, especially with your enjoyment of this installment.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I thought I had answered the comments on this a few days ago but just realized there was apparently a glitch and it didn't post! Thank you all so much for your comments. It was fun to try this movie, and I was interested to learn how many of you have seen it also!

Jerry, I also enjoyed Hayley Atwell in her small yet significant role in CINDERELLA. Will be watching for her in the future.

Irene, wonderful to hear from you! Like you, I had family members fill me in on some back story. :) I have AGENT CARTER recorded from TV and will definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

Missy, thanks much for the added info on Hayley Atwell. I'll have to be sure to see Season 1 before Season 2 debuts! My daughter told me Season 2 will be set at Howard Stark's movie studio.

Larry, thanks for your review of THE WINTER SOLDIER. I will definitely be watching it, hopefully before too long!

Best wishes,

10:08 AM  

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