Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
For full disclosure, I’ve never been a huge fan of Captain America. He always seemed a little too hokey and as a teenager, the flashier superpowers of the X-Men simply were a better draw.
However, in their quest to create the backdrop for 2012’s upcoming Avengers movie, Marvel and the film studios behind their properties have been delivering spotlight films for the key characters over the last three years.
Iron Man got the ball rolling and The Incredible Hulk tried to make fans forget Hulk (not that it matters anyway because Norton got sacked in lieu of Mark Ruffalo moving forward). Then this year saw Thor re-energize the buzz surrounding next year’s franchise mash-up and the pièce de résistance was supposed to be Chris Evans shedding his Human Torch skin to fill the tights of “Captain America: The First Avenger”. (Ancillary characters like the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) found themselves in cameo roles but I doubt the outcry for individual movies on their behalf amounts to much.)
Got all that? Good.
Actually, neither Thor nor Captain America are characters popular enough to warrant films on their own but the impending Avengers movie is really the key factor. And while Thor found a way to exceed relatively low expectations, the same can’t necessarily be said for the shield throwing, flag waving leader of the Avengers.
Now, it’s not Chris Evans’ fault, whose charisma and physicality work nicely for the role; and all of the other actors do a pretty good job as well. The sets and special effects were up to par, as were the costumes, which is made especially difficult because of the cheesiness of the character. Heck, the 3D is even decent (though not so much so that one wouldn’t enjoy things just as much in 2D).
However, while the movie didn’t necessarily drag and the 2-hour runtime wasn’t much of a bother, at no time did anything on-screen really do something exciting. It was a long, fairly consistent stretch of competent filmmaking, rife with action scenes that felt authentic to the period (aside from the technology on display in the ’40s) … but … well … none of it got the blood pumping.
Part of that may be due to a somewhat muted visual presentation as director Joe Johnston seemed to be trying to make the picture feel like it captured the era in which it’s primarily set. Part of it is that this is yet another origin tale for audiences to take in, all so future films can (hopefully) deliver more fun and excitement, now that we’ve gotten familiar with the characters.
Actually, it’s somewhat hard to identify the specific problems that create such a ho-hum reaction to a big summer tent-pole film but what matters is that for all of the attention to detail, first and foremost, the movie should be entertaining. Nothing stands out and wows the senses. Trying to gather something to say about it afterwards, the best I could say was ‘Meh, it was fine’.
There’s also a problem of where the film ends, as it’s actually a rather sad and melancholy note; hardly the type of tease that will make fanboys salivate over future installments (solo or Avengers related). Speaking of which, as has been talked about from press screenings in other cities, the one I attended was missing the teaser scene that follows the credits. This happened with Iron Man as well and it baffles me as to why the studio feels the need to deprive the press of this when we’re in a position to tell fans to stick around until the very end.
Well, if you’re interested in what happens, I’m sure those of you that are internet-savvy can find the clip online even while the studio does its best to enforce issues regarding piracy, but the basic SPOILER is that they show quick glimpses of each of the major players in the Avengers film. Ooh … great … grand … wonderful. I honestly don’t care because it’s footage they’ll officially release anyway over the next few months but it shows a lack of respect to leave this off of screening prints when leaks are far more likely to come from fan-only screenings thanks to a shaky handi-cam or via an insider who worked on the project.
****END OF SPOILER****
Getting back to the film itself, I’m not sure why anyone needs to see Captain America: The First Avenger, especially on the big screen. Nothing’s really wrong with it but saying that you’ll feel like those were $53 dollars well spent isn’t exactly honest either. Super fans will notice they take creative license here and there but those who aren’t familiar with the comic books will find things easy to pick up and the film gets a passing grade. Here’s hoping next year’s much anticipated gathering of the super heroes remembers that we’ve been introduced to the characters already so it’s best to keep the action coming and not to forget that a well-written script isn’t the place to cut corners.
Captain America hits theaters on January 22, 2011 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.