CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
March 28, 2012 (DVD)
To round out this Movie Madness month I finally took time to rent the two remaining flicks that were meant to be predecessors to this summer’s Avengers extravaganza. First was Thor, which I wrote about yesterday, and I immediately followed that with Captain America: The First Avenger, which was also released last summer. The viewing order was intentional, assuming that Captain America was the better of the two movies and, therefore, the one that would garner most of my attention. Interestingly, this did not prove to be true. I liked it well enough, but Captain America just didn’t have the same “fun” factor that I found in Thor. And lead actor Chris Evans (whom I really didn’t like in his first superhero appearance as The Human Torch) doesn’t even begin to compare with the adorable Chris Hemsworth. Sometimes I can even surprise myself with what I’m drawn to and what I’m not.
What did work in Captain America was the story itself. It’s beautifully shot with gorgeous World War II period design and a straight-up dramatic narrative. It also features the always-delightful Hugh Weaving in yet another unforgettable role as the villain, Red Skull. And there are a lot of small details that connect this movie to the other films in the Avengers franchise, such as Iron Man Tony Stark’s father in a key role and a mention of the nine realms that are integral to Thor’s story. Of course, the title of The First Avenger tells you to expect such interconnectedness, but I was honestly surprised by mention of other superhero origin stories, expecting this film to be where it all started and for the other films to hearken back to this one. But I suppose it makes sense to mention them in Captain America since it was actually released after all of the other Avenger films. Not that any of that matters, really. And it was definitely a fun feature to watch for as I sat through the movie.
Captain America succeeds in all the right ways: concise story-telling, engaging characters, relatable hero, and quirky supporting players. It doesn’t feel jingoistic, which easily could have been part of a story about the war against Hitler, but it does hit all the right notes about patriotism and freedom and fighting with purpose and honor. I also loved that Captain America himself never acted like a superhero, which is part of the character’s charm. [His origin as sickly young man, Steve Rogers, transformed into a super-soldier ensures that his humility remains intact.] The movie was truly a breath of fresh air within the superhero genre.
It’s a shame this movie didn’t appeal to me on the same emotional level as so many other comic book flicks. There’s nothing wrong with Captain America. I should have loved it. My beloved Neal McDonough even appeared in a few scenes as one of Rogers’s mission recruits, as did Tommy Lee Jones as his commanding officer, but even that wasn’t enough to make me love the film as much as I’ve loved so many others. Still, it won’t keep me from enjoying Steve Rogers in The Avengers later this year. It’s just that he’s not likely to be a focal point for me. And that’s okay. I’ll just leave him to the legions of fans who have literally loved him since 1941. That’s pretty impressive on its own.