"As a comic book movie, it's a lot more Spiderman than Batman Begins"
It's worth noting that I'm not a comic book nerd at all, and as such I'm in no way familiar with the origins and back story of Captain America, I've heard of the character before but I knew nothing of the world he inhabits. So I was coming from a completely unbiased angle, I wasn’t a fan boy desperate to see my comic book idol written large on the silver screen I was simply a spectator hoping to be entertained.
Although as I previously mentioned, i'm not a comic book nerd at all, I have however seen many comic book movie incarnations over the years and regrettably Captain America like so many others fails to make an impact, but then again is it really possible for comic book movies to go above and beyond their intricate source material, to remain faithful to their roots but also create something cinematically powerful and mesmerising. The short answer to that is, yes and currently, in my opinion we only have one real example of a movie that transgresses comic book kitsch, that fully absorbs and revels in the universe of the characters and the story but in the process has produced a distinctly cinematic experience, and that is of course Christopher Nolan's Batman series.
It's not a bad film, it's just not a very good film either. Coming in at just over two hours, the film feels very rushed, racing from one scene to the next taking very little time to give the characters a chance to blossom onscreen thus reducing the overall emotional investment from the audience. Take Chris Evans for example, taking on the role of Steve Rogers, initially an incredibly weedy but surprisingly brave young soldier intent on joining the army but each time failing his physical due to his skinny frame. Which is incidentally one of the films strong points, if only speaking from a technical view point, the CGI of putting Chris Evans face onto a skinny body is very well done and looks completely real, Benjamin Button standards.
Again, I'm not aware of the back story and I imagine in the comic book, the transformation from Steve Rogers to Captain America is a lot longer, and becomes much more of an emotional journey as opposed to what we see in the film. It all seems like a paint by numbers affair, we’re quickly introduced to the villain of the piece, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull as well as his scientist dogsbody which plays out very much like a Dr. Frankenstein and Igor relationship.
Hugo Weaving and Toby Jones respectively flesh out these roles in excellent evil genius fashion. He’s after some world changing god-like super power buried in the earth, turns out the janitor from Harry Potter was hiding it all along!
Like an extremely speedy tour guide, the narrative quickly progresses and we’re introduced to Stanley Tucci’s character playing an ex Nazi scientist whose accent conjures up memories of Michael Caine adopting a German accent in the 80’s comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but after a while you get used to it. Dr. Erskine offers Rogers a chance to become the hero he’s always wanted to be and swiftly enlists him into the US Army, we’re then hurried along to army training where we get to see Rogers looking obviously out of place against all the other burly soldiers, yet through a series of incidents he stands out as an ideal candidate, brave and compassionate, qualities Dr. Erskine recognises in Rogers. A sentiment not shared by the weathered Colonel, played by Tommy Lee Jones. I've always been a Tommy Lee Jones fan, he’s had a few hit and misses (ahem Man Of The House) but in this he provides a certain amount of the comedy with his grizzled Texan drawl.
Which is part of the problem, Chris Evans character simply isn’t that interesting, yes he’s brave and heroic but there's not much more to him than that. So again we’re hurried along to the transformation scene, lots of techno gizmos, or techno gizmos as they may have looked in the 40’s, at the helm is Dr. Erskine and ..Howard Stark!? Who we met briefly at the World Of Tomorrow convention, but it's now we realise he is becoming an important character. Dominic Cooper plays Tony Stark's father in this film, he is a thoroughly decent actor yet his role here seems slightly strained, now that Marvel are throwing all their characters into the mixing bowl, it seems more like an in joke than serious character development.
After a not so lengthy explanation of what's going on, the military top brass settle down, with some obligatory clunky dialogue (“someone get that boy a sandwich”) Rogers is placed into a metal coffin, after some whirling and flashing and screaming he emerges as a hulked up beef cake, prompting a lot of gasps and whispers from the female members of the audience whilst inducing mild envy amongst the men.
From there the film trundles along fairly predictably, after a sequence where Rogers unable to fulfil his military duties is instead resigned to promoting the war efforts as the character of Captain America, a pantomime hero who delights audiences around the country. This all changes though when he finds out his friend has been trapped behind enemy lines along with dozens more US soldiers. Then s**t starts to get real.
The action sequences are fun and exciting, and once Rogers fully inhabits the character of Captain America, we’re treated to a barrage of Nazi ass kicking, fighting his way to the baddy, Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) think The Mask..but without the eye popping. In fact its the fight scenes where the 3D really comes alive, and this is definitely one of the films redeeming features, I’ll even admit to at one stage flinching when Captain America launches his iconic circular shield towards a tank, that rebounds and flies straight towards the camera.
He isn’t working alone obviously, that would be incredibly arrogant so instead he’s put together a multi cultural team, including a Frenchman and an Englishman. However these characters get no real onscreen time to bond, in fact the only strong sense of relationship in the film comes between Rogers and his best friend Bucky, even the screamingly obvious romantic subplot between Rogers and Corporal Walters (who is a women by the way) fails to create any chemistry and spark. It's not long before all the Nazi facilities have been wiped off the map all but one, you guessed it...the mountain based lair of Red Skull. Before you know it you’re watching the climactic third act and you realise...how did we get here!?
As a comic book movie, it's a lot more Spiderman than Batman Begins, it's more fun and colourful than dark and broody but then maybe a film like Captain America wasn’t meant to be dark and broody, it's a character called Captain America for god sake, decked out in his patriotic red and blue costume, it's a fun character not a lonely, traumatised character seeking revenge. It's a young guy who just wants to serve his country and stop the ‘bullies’, as he refers to them.
This review does seem on the whole quite negative, I don’t feel the film is offering anything new, it's a completely bog standard comic book movie, theres a lot of cool fight scenes and explosions, the film has a fun retro feel to it but theres nothing emotionally charged about the film to get you hooked, even the ending which should yank the heart strings slightly but it just didn’t for me.
Once at the end though, there is a little twist to proceedings and a nice little cameo but you’ll just have to wait and see. If you are just looking for a fun Friday night film, or indeed you are a fan of the comic and you want to see how its been translated to screen then I recommend it, if you’re expecting anything of the emotional and stylistic weight of something like The Dark Knight then you’ll be disappointed.