The Avengers is released in 2012 to a salivating public tantalised and tempted by almost a dozen bite sized teaser films with titles like Iron Man, Thor and The Incredible Hulk. I will be right up near the front of the queue.
Captain America might be the final film released before the frenzy but as the title proudly exclaims he is the First Avenger. This subtitle became the reason I didn’t watch the film during the cinema release. I mean The First iPod was an amazing feat of design and marketing but seems clunky and redundant now – it holds 10,000 songs (and has a battery that will allow you to enjoy the first 6 before it runs out) – the First computer games are now screensavers and t shirts for trendy ironic teens, the First mobile phone a brick with buttons, and the less said about the First Hulk movie the better…
But on the back of positive reviews and word of mouth from others who were able to see past that , I find myself holding the Blu-Ray cover and wondering if I might be proven wrong (for the First time in my life)!
Imagine my pleasant surprise to find that Captain America is fun and frivolous in all the right ways.
In 1942 America’s involvement in WW2 was in full swing, with their rude introduction occurring at Pearl Harbour the previous year. Countless brave young Americans line up to defend the honour of their proud nation against the Axis of evil.
Unfortunately thanks to a laundry list of health and wellbeing issues, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is unable to be accepted as one of them, despite his best intentions and continued applications, he finds his weak frame keeps him out of the army. He also finds that his big mouth, noble principles and never say die attitude continually gets him into trouble.
Then Dr Erskine (Stanley Tucci) identifies this scrappy runt with a heartbeat that keeps time with the Star Spangled Banner. Erskine tells Rogers of a new program which he refers to as his last and only shot of being able to serve his Country, of course Rogers agrees immediately and undergoes a painful procedure that Springfielders might say embiggens everything about Steve.
He enters the lab a scrawny 50 kg weakling and emerges more video game hero than man; a handsome, smooth, chiseled buffalupagus with the same super-GO USA-principals and incredible physical abilities. One of the (possibly unintended) side-effects is definitive swooniness.
Without too much messing about Rogers is plonked into an army unit where he is written off as a science project by his superior Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and sympathised with by Soldier Peggy Carter (a gravity defying Hayley Atwell).
After a brief delay to promote the cause Rogers is sent to the front line, where his new powers are put to the test against the Nasti Nazis, primarily the fiendish Hydra unit lead by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a man with physical secrets of his own, and a man who has aspirations of no less than world domination. He also has the coolest toys – more on that later…
The strength of Captain America is how it deliberately toes the superhero movie line, the beauties are beautiful, the men noble and brave and the bad guys appropriately back-lit to appear instantly ominous. There is also the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, and of course the Nazis are always good superhero escapist fodder.
Unfortunately I can’t mention the strengths without the minor weaknesses, for while Captain America is indeed worth watching I can’t help but feel it has been a victim to The Avengers success thus far, as the sheer number of big names already in The Avengers universe has resulted in Chris Evans being dragged off the bench for duty.
Chris Evans’ best role that I know of was his 10 minute character role in Scott Pilgrim Vs the World as a charisma-free beefcake action star moron. Here he plays the supposed antithesis of that guy, but he once again fails to bring the charisma, Evans might be a bona fide buff guy as the first unveiling of his super-modded physique shows, but there must be dozens of guys in Hollywood all better credentialed for the acting part of Steve Rogers – the problem is they are all in Iron Man/Thor/Hulk/X-Men/Green Lantern and so on.
Chris Evans is less the leading man for Captain America, he is more the last man standing in this game of superhero pick up.
Hugo Weaving and I on the other hand have a long relationship, he played an over acting robot/computer program (I don’t care which nerds) in The Matrix and was once again a scenery chewing over-enunciator spitting Tolkien dialogue in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As Schmidt/Red Skull he claims to have used the voice and accent of renowned German filmmakers as his template, but bugger me if it doesn’t come across as 99% Arnie Schwarzenegger to me – the one oft-copied and universally derided by millions. So either Hugo is busting out another crappy accent, or we should lay off the Arnie bashing because apparently that’s how all Germans talk…!
But that aside, the best part of the film though is the prevailing sense of entertainment over all, the fact that this is not historically accurate or scientifically possible is not mentioned. They don’t try to introduce ridiculous justifications – radioactive spiders anyone? – and more or less say ‘don’t ask why, we just can’.
Or perhaps more appropriately ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell”.
The Hydra team have some of the awesomest toys in cinema history, with Schmidt/Red Skull boasting a simply insane garage filled with a monstrous car, a slick one man submarine and numerous supercool aircraft. His men also have bad-ass uniforms and helmets and weaponry that other cinema bad guys could only dream of. The Nazis might be the undercard in this film, but they sure look cooler.
Watching this film made me realise that the much maligned ‘look how fast we’ve developed and what we can do now’ montage is underappreciated and underused. This leads to a film with one foot in the Avengers camp and the other in Indiana Jones territory, pretty good company I would argue.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. If you like your superhero films to be escapist entertainment look no further, I just can’t help but feel that this might be an 8 if there were better leads involved, (and it might tip into a 9 with some Hayley Atwell nudity)!