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Reviews

'Captain America: The First Avenger': Get Ready for Some Red, White, and Bruise

Captain America: The First Avenger is a rip-roaring adventure story that faithfully adapts the iconic superhero's comic book story.


Captain America: The First Avenger

Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke
Distributor: Paramount
rated: PG-13
Release date: 2011-10-25

I've always seen Captain America as Marvel's answer to DC's Superman: the red-white-and-blue goodie-goodie who saves the United States from the bad guys at the end of a Technicolor adventure. Personally, I've always had more interest in guys like Wolverine and Batman, heroes who are dark and moody and often find themselves on the run from the very people they're trying to help. There's more "crunchy texture" to such characters, if you will.

Of course, that doesn't mean I dislike Cap and Supey. I love Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie, and lament what could have been in the sequel. I also enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger, which serves up a rip-roaring adventure story that feels like it stepped off the pages of the comics, which is what I expect from a superhero movie.

I admit I don't know everything about Captain America's origin story, so I don't know if this is from the comics or unique to the movie, but I enjoyed Steve Rogers' struggle against the role he's placed in after he proves his heroism. Here's a scrawny guy willing to take beatings from bullies as he repeatedly finds himself rejected by the Army for a laundry list of physical shortcomings. After being injected by a super soldier serum and becoming the brawny Captain America, he thinks he's going to get his shot at fighting in Europe, only to find himself trotted out on the war bonds circuit. He's forced to go AWOL and save his friend Bucky Barnes (whose ultimate fate you already know if you're familiar with the comics) to finally prove that he can be a real soldier.

The storyline is pretty predictable if you have a rough idea of Cap's origin story, but the film manages to transition to the modern day with a bittersweet coda; I hope Joss Whedon's upcoming Avengers movie delves a bit more into the fact that Steve Rogers is now a man out of sync with his own time. The climax is okay, but I've come to the conclusion that a good superhero movie simply needs to build enough momentum during the first two acts to leave you satisfied during the third, as long as the good guys don't win through a ridiculous deus ex machina; that's not a problem here.

The casting is solid, with Chris Evans in particular doing a superb job in the title role. The decision to use CGI for the scrawny version of Steve Rogers holds up well, except for a brief scene in a car with love interest Agent Carter -- the scale between the two characters inexplicably changes to a noticeable degree. Hugo Weaving isn't great as the Red Skull, but he does a decent job with the role. I really enjoyed Stanley Tucci as the scientist who comes up with the super soldier serum. The film even manages a few lines that made me laugh, not so much because of the dialogue itself but because of the delivery.

Unsurprisingly, the bonus features on this disc are pretty sparse. As I mentioned in my Thor review, the studios are shortchanging standard-def discs in favor of Blu-ray releases, a trend that I'm sure will only accelerate. The main featurette is "Outfitting a Hero", which runs about ten minutes and covers the evolution of Cap's costume from the comic book to the movie; I have to say I agree with the decision-making process there. Other than that, we have trailers for the upcoming Avengers film, the new Avengers animated TV series and videogame, and other Paramount films.

Finally, there's a commentary track with director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson, editor Jeffrey Ford. It's mostly a technical track that explains what was green screen and what was a set, how other actors and the environments were adjusted for Chris Evans' performance as scrawny Steve, and so forth. If you're into that kind of thing, it's a great conversation; personally, while I enjoy seeing the curtain pulled back on movie magic, I don't need to hear how it was done for every scene.

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