Saturday 30 July 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger - Review

Captain America could have gone oh so very wrong.  Poor Cap was never the coolest comic book character, always hamstrung by the flag on his shield and the lack of humour.  Joe Johnston's movie does a great job of side stepping most of that, making Steve Rogers human and humble, instead of earnest and annoying.

The film begins with Rogers as an ailing weakling determined to play his part in the war effort in the early 1940s.  The CGI that puts Chris Evans' head on the body of someone else, is, although admittedly very clever, flawed.  It's a neat trick but his head looks way too big for his body.

Steve is never going to get into the army with his tiny frame but he gets selected for a new program that's attempting to create super soldiers and is injected with a serum that turns him into the real Chris Evans.  It's during these early scenes that Captain America (despite the giant head issue) is at its most interesting.  There's real heart as Rogers is denied seeing immediate action and is instead used to inspire recruits and secure funds for the war.  It's a beautiful diversion from your average superhero movie and Evans does a great job of conveying the frustration and ultimate humiliation of being forced into his blue costume with a tiny wooden shield.

We're heading at speed towards the Avengers movie and Captain America has a wealth of material to nod back at and it doesn't fail to make the fanboys squeal.  There's Asgard here aplenty, a bucket load of Stark and the film is, although able to stand on its own, better for it.  These films are starting to feel like big budget episodes of a brilliant TV series.

Hugo Weaving is arch nemesis the Red Skull, and he adds some proper menace to the role, clearly relishing his part as the leader of Hydra and Hitlers henchman in charge of advanced weapons research.  The cast throughout is solid and watchable, Tommy Lee Jones is ace as a gruff Colonel and Hayley Atwell is more than watchable as Caps love interests.  

Thor, from earlier this year, was one of the most fun films we've seen from the Marvel cannon but Captain America picks up the baton and is, at the very least, its equal.  Steve Rogers journey from brave but flawed kid to all American hero feels just right and the last few scenes are actually pretty touching despite a some what lack lustre final battle.

When Captain America gets it right, it gets it really right.  It should reignite a truly iconic character, even, dare I say it, make him cool.  Of course the story is preposterous but it's a superhero movie, it's supposed to be that way and the giant head thing is hardly a reason to not like it.  Indeed for the most part the effects are stunning, the acting great and the period setting adds it a rare sense of gravitas.   

3D is destined to divide us all for a long time to come.  Here it's post production and at times (rather like Thor) barely noticeable.  I'd argue that when it's this subtle you may as well not have it.  There's no where near the sense of depth that Transformers 3 had: when the camera is up high on a snowy mountain looking down I like my 3D to make me feel a little vertigo but here that doesn't happen.  That's not to say there aren't times when it does shines: Cap throwing his shield will have you jumping as it careers out of the screen but it's at those moments you remember it's a 3D movie and you're torn out of just being 'in' the movie and reminded you're sat in a cinema wearing glasses.  Transformers 3 immersed me in 3D from start to finish.  Captain America fails to do that.  

The bottom line though is that The First Avenger does kick ass.  Way more than I thought he ever could.

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