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Captain America - a review

Put simply, I loved this movie. To my great surprise, it quite likely eclipsed Iron Man 1 as my favorite Marvel movie. Review ahead, heavily influenced by my biases.

As with Superman, its really hard to get Captain America. He's an iconic hero, square-jawed, heroic, compassionate, seemingly faultless and just generally a good guy. Angsty, broody heroes like the Bat - his parents are dead! - are actually easier to write, I think, than a character like the Kryptonian or the Captain simply because normal people get being angsty and broody, but have a much harder time coming to grips with the notion that people can be selfless heroes, even though we see it all the time with soldiers who volunteer to wade through the dirt and muck and blood to defend a (sometimes ungrateful) nation, or the firefighter who rushes back into an inferno to rescue a kid when every human instinct is screaming to stay away. Just look at the guys who went back into the Towers after 9/11 for a perfect example.

Even more, Captain America represents an ideal that, too often, seems dead and buried, especially in this modern age of cynicism and the decline of a once great nation. This is a guy who stands for Truth, Justice, and the American Way (like Superman used to before DC turned him into a "citizen of the world"), and he wears a costume that reflects his American upbringing. Only in the 1940s, when America was staggering out of the Depression and stumbling into world power status to face the Nazi threat, could a character like CA be created - do it today and you'd be laughed at or accused of being a simplistic, jingoistic "tea bagger" (but hey, that's okay, because insulting conservatives is always okay in this decaying age, and if you can work in an unnecessary and frankly pedantic jab at Fox News, why that's even better.)

Modern sensibilities have rendered a character like Captain America tragically obsolete, even though he's needed now more than ever. Millions of my countrymen scoff at the notion of American exceptionalism, or buy into the drivel that the United States is the focus of modern evil (this part is especially sad when you look at the sheer madness that has consumed the world in the form of militant jihadism), or are simply embarrassed by the very idea that America can be a force for right. Hollywood churns out dozens of anti-American flicks every year, even though they're generally box office flops - gee, I wonder why?

So with that in mind, I was very much worried that Captain America: The First Avenger would turn out to be an utter waste of time that insulted my sense of patriotism. Comments from the director didn't encourage me, nor did rumors that they were going to release the movie overseas under the title "The First Avenger" to avoid offending anti-American types. Even when the first reviews started trickling out and all were uniformly positive, I was hesitant. Hollywood had burned me too often, and Marvel has been on such an role this year, what with Thor (which kicked ass) and X-Men: First Class (which did the same). So I went into this movie really wanting it to rule.

And it did. Oh, yes. It did.

Major props must go to Chris Evans who played Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, for his decision to stick to the source material and not play the wise ass he usually portrays. Instead, he played the anti Spider-Man - where Peter Parker must have responsibility thrust upon him by way of tragedy, Rogers actively seeks it out because, in his mind, he has no right to do anything less than the guys overseas fighting the Nazis. No, he doesn't want to kill people, he just wants to do his part to help the nation of his birth. I was quite concerned about his casting, but he laid all of those doubts to rest.

Hugo Weaving is excellent as the Red Skull ... but seriously? When hasn't he been excellent? Even in utter crap like the two Matrix sequels or the terrible "V for Vendetta", Hugo is awesome. Ditto that with Stanley Tucci, who really does a bang up job of the scientist responsible for Captain America.

The tie-ins to the other Marvel movies are both subtle - the Skull's energy weapons sound identical to Iron Man's repulsors - and blatant - the cosmic cube is tied into The Mighty Thor. Interestingly enough, there are other little tie-ins that I adored: you see the original Human Torch very briefly, and the Howling Commandos are there, and they did multiple incarnations of the Captain America suit that all made perfect sense, and ...

But I digress.

This is, thankfully, not the usual super-hero origin story. We don't have a brash, reckless, ass Learn A Lesson and Gain Humility As A Result (Iron Man, Thor, the imminently avoidable Green Lantern), but rather is a war movie that happens to have a super hero in it. Steve is already humble and, even though he's now superhuman, he doesn't lose sight of his old personality. He is a Hero, which is sorely needed wherever or whenever you are.

Admittedly, there are some plot holes that are seriously fridge logic - if the vibranium shield completely absorbs all vibrations, then how could Steve bounce it at all? Or, why exactly did he go into suspended animation instead of just dying? But then, this is a comic book universe, so belief was easily suspended. Especially since they made an actual Raiders of the Lost Ark nod which just made my freaking day.

So in the end, I left the theater giddy and pleased, not the least of which due to Avengers trailer after the credits. Its odd to see a movie from Hollywood that celebrates being an American Hero, but I would very much like to see more.

Five out of Five. I fully intend on seeing this movie again and very, very soon.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Know what I'm doing tonight now!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )