Captain America: The First Avenger Review (or ‘Not Just a Trailer for The Avengers)

2011 is without a doubt the year of the Superhero Film.

The latest one is one that I’ve been looking forward to for some time now – Captain America: The First Avenger

The hope going into the film was that it would be more than just a long trailer for the upcoming Avengers film, like Thor was.

So, was it?

What’s This One About?

Captain America: The First Avenger is the story of Steve Rogers, a diminutive man with the heart of a lion (not literally) who desperately wants to fight in the Second World War – not to kill Nazis, but rather because he thinks bullies should be

What a Fine, Upstanding Member of Society

stopped.

The problem is that his size and medical issues prevent him from being accepted into the U.S. Army, but his eagerness and spirit gets him noticed by a section of the Army working on a ‘Super Soldier’ project. When Rogers is chosen to become the first of the US Army’s ‘Super Soliders’, he is physically transformed into a massive, muscle bound hoss of a man thanks to a serum developed by the esteemed scientist and German defector, Dr Abraham Erskine.

Initially he is held back from going to war to become an American figurehead of the war effort, encouraging people to buy War Bonds, but it doesn’t take him long to get involved in the real fighting.

The villain of the piece is The Red Skull, a Nazi General in charge of Hitler’s special weapons division – HYDRA – and who has himself been subjected to the Super Soldier Serum.

Naturally, Captain America and the Red Skull end up in a showdown. And if you aren’t familiar with the Captain America story, you might be surprised at the outcome.

Oh, and there’s another one of these ‘Post Credits’ scenes at the end of the film. And really, it’s not worth staying for.

Thoughts

Once again, it’s worth noting that I’m a fan of the comic-book film genre, and while I’m not much of a reader of comic-books, I’m still aware of the origin stories of most of the major players, and Captain America is no exception.

With that said, I enjoyed this film.

The story itself is pretty much par-for-the-course for the genre. The weakling guy with the big heart (and I say that in the ‘courage’ way rather than the ‘He’s going to die young’ Rey Mysterio type way) ends up becoming a super-hero with powers beyond those of mere mortals, and has to face off against a super-villain with similar strength.

But I’ve got no problem with that. Romance films all have basically the same plot of ‘Man and Woman overcome adversity to fall in love and live happily ever after’, and nobody says a word, so Marvel Super Hero Origin films are fine to keep the same formula as far as I’m concerned.

No, the plot isn’t remarkable or unique, but it is good, old fashioned story-telling from beginning to end. Similarly, the acting is fine. It’s solid, if unspectacular.

The main thing about thing about this film is how it looks.

While Thor goes for jaw-droppingly spectacular visuals, this one goes in the opposite direction, setting the film in the 1940s. And they do a very good job of it, capturing the spirit of the 1940s well, not just in the World War 2 conditions, but with things like the Future Technology Fair at the start, and the Captain America PR tour (including a fantastic old style Captain America cloth costume).

One thing stands out above the rest though and that is the special effect of making Chris Evans (Steve Rogers) look small. Evans is naturally a big muscular guy, but for the first half our he’s about 5 inches smaller and built like a twig.

I had absolutely no idea how they managed to do that while watching the film, but it turns out they used a form of ‘Digital Plastic Surgery’, shooting every scene with ‘Skinny Steve’ multiple times and reducing his dimensions to make him

Here you get to see an example of how they made Chris Evans smaller in the film for when he is 'Skinny Steve'. It really is a clever piece of filming

appear to be a smaller human being. It’s an absolutely terrific special effect, which is made even more impressive considering they also showed him in a state of undress, with a completely different body.

Random Thoughts

  • I enjoyed the ending to the film, as it set up Captain America’s role in the Avengers film perfectly well, without taking away from the main plot of the film. As I said in the Thor review, I felt that film was a bit flimsy and only existed to set up Thor’s involvement in the Avengers. This works as a stand alone piece that takes time at the end to set up the Captain’s followup appearance.
  • But of course, I still have issues with having to wait 8 or 9 minutes for the credits to run through before I get to see a small (and ultimately worthless) scene.
  • While I’ve already expressed my admiration for the 1940s style Captain America costume, I also have to credit them for including the actual Captain America comic in the film. That was a nice touch.
  • Tommy Lee Jones was clearly put on this earth to play grizzled old Army Generals.
  • And on the subject of type-casting, it was nice to see Neal McDonough off Band of Brothers back playing a WW2 soldier. And what a hat/moustache combo!
  • Having Iron Man’s dad working alongside Captain America is a little contrived, and will no doubt set up a scene with the Captain and Tony Stark in next year’s Avengers movie.
  • I’ve read a few comments from people saying they don’t think the reason for the Red Skull having an…err…Red Skull was very clear. That’s probably true, though I went into the film with that idea in mind, and while it really isn’t that clear, it is hinted at/explained.
  • Spoiler (Highlight to read) I’m not exactly sure how he was frozen, and not just killed? That didn’t make too much sense, and wasn’t even attempted to be explained.
  • Once again, it’s a film that is perfectly ok to be watched in 2D, so save yourself the money and don’t bother with the 3D.

Should You Go And See Captain America: The First Avenger

Yeah, I liked it. It was well worth seeing.

Compared against some of the other comic-book films that have come out this year, it is one of the better ones, but not the best (that’s still X-Men: First Class).

And as I’ve said, it’s not just a trailer for the Avengers, even though it sets it up nicely.

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2 Responses to Captain America: The First Avenger Review (or ‘Not Just a Trailer for The Avengers)

  1. b4boon says:

    i see you liked first class, check out my review of it if you want

  2. […] Spiderman American Reunion Apollo 18 Argo The Artist Attack the Block Black Swan Bridesmaids Captain America: The First Avenger Chronicle Contagian The Dark Knight Rises Django Unchained Double Indemnity Drive Final Destination […]

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