The latest in a series of Avengers-related superhero movies to be released is “Captain America”, directed by Joe Johnston, whose previous works include “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids”, “The Rocketeer”, “Jumanji”, and “October Sky”. Chris Evans, recognizable as the Human Torch in the “Fantastic 4″ series, fits the role surprisingly well, having been shrunk digitally in the first quarter of the film in order to look as scrawny and unfit for military service as the Steve Rogers (the Captain’s real name) character would.
For those unfamiliar with the comic-book series, Captain America is a chemically enhanced super-soldier whose sole purpose in life to was kick Nazi butt and protect the American people from tyrranical influences. His archenemy, the Red Skull, is a similarly created supersoldier and confidant of Adolf Hitler. Naturally, the characters were made in the 1940′s, when the themes and attitudes of the series would have been exceptionally relevant.
The first half of the movie tells the story of Steve Rogers, how he had been denied entry into the military five times, how he became a super-soldier, and how he eventually became the recognizeable powerhouse of patriotic badassery, Captain America. Being set during one of the darkest times in the country’s history, many of the opening scenes – while maintaining an amount of comic-relief – have a dark and moody overtone reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. When the action gets going in the second half, however, the movie largely abandons the ambience in favor of a more thrill-oriented focus. The second half is where the story really gets going, centering around combat with Captain America’s enemy, Red Skull. Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of the character evokes a certain sense of dignity and discipline, while simultaneously letting the audience know that he is dangerously insane. Like characters in the comics, Weavings’ smooth, Shakespearean acting serve to be the perfect foil for Chris Evan’s patriotic charisma.
The movie was excellent as a whole. However, if nitpicking is necessary, there were two scenes that were somewhat unneeded. First, there is a rather cliched bit involving an admirer making advances on a somewhat innocent and disapproving Captain America, moments before the actual love interest walks in. It didn’t bring much to their relationship, as things are mended within minutes. Second, there is an action sequence in which *SPOILERS* the Captain’s would-be sidekick dies. This could have been done without, and was only mentioned a couple of times later on as a sort of flimsy revenge-based reason for the protagonist to carry out the mission that he was already going to complete anyway. It should be noted, however, that these two scenes were very reminiscent of plot devices that could have been used in the original series during the 40′s, and these may have been more of an homage to that era of comics, rather than being genuine parts of the movie. This would certainly explain the passing attention that they were given.
In a time where more and more comic-book movies are being released (many of them not so good), “Captain America” stands out not only as one of the more successful film adaptations of a superhero, but just as a stylish WWII action film in general. It does so by maintaining a grounded and gritty feel that keeps the story modern, while respecting the classic character enough to convince fans that there is occasionally liberty and justice for their beloved heroes in the film world.
- Drake Miller