Monday, August 08, 2011

Captain America

My wife and I watched the latest Marvel movie to hit the multiplexes Sunday, "Captain America: The First Avenger". We were both pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the movie was.

The 2011 movie is meant to show the origin of Captain America in the lead-up to the major Avengers movie to be released in 2012 (hence "The First Avenger" in its title). Chris Evens ("Scott Pilgrim vs The World"/Lucas Lee, "The Fantastic Four"/Johnny Storm/Human Torch) puts in an excellent performance as Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.

In his prior movies, especially as the Human Torch, Chris' characters have come across as somewhat brash and arrogant. This time around, as a skinny kid from Brooklyn, Chris' Steve Rogers is far more humble. He has to be; as "Skinny Steve" he's constantly being beat up and picked on by the bullies of the world. Chris surprisingly strikes an excellent balance between honest humility, realizing his physical limitations, with a stubborn determination never to give up. As Skinny Steve he voices that you can't run from the bullies of the world forever; you have to stop and fight. As "Skinny Steve" he's determined to do that, no matter what.

He's given his chance to stand up to the bullies (along with his super powers) by Dr. Abraham Erskine, portrayed excellently by Stanley Tucci ("The Core"/Dr. Conrad Zimsky, "Robots"/Herb Copperbottom, "The Devil Wears Prada"/Niigel, "Julie & Julia"/Paul Child). I've yet to see a role where Stanley Tucci didn't excel. He brings a polished spontaneity to his role as the good doctor, especially in the scene where he tells why he chose Steve Rogers over all the other so-called better candidates. His time on screen was short but memorable, and his final simple message to Steve Rogers is moving.

Finally, there's the major villain of the film, the Red Scull, a.k.a. Johann Schmidt, played with excellent effect by Hugo Weaving. While Hugo has starred in many roles, the one that will always come to mind was as Agent Schmidt Smith in the Matrix trilogy. Although, truth be told, he was equally good in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" as Mitzi. Hugo brings a highly sophisticated villainy to the role, something I haven't seen in a film since Charles Gray played Ernst Stavro Blofeld in "Diamonds Are Forever." Best Red Skull scene in the movie was the personal weapons demonstration he gave to a trio of visiting Nazis.

I was also pleased with how the movie followed a number of original Captain America comic details. For example, the first shield used in the movie is a copy of the original shield from the Captain America issue #1 printed in 1941. I liked the way the costume evolved, from a comics-like ensemble to the more combat-realistic attire used in the latter half of the movie.

The movie also triggered a bit of nostalgia as well. As the fallout from the crazed political brinkmanship surrounding the debt ceiling increase continues to echo around the globe, the movie reminds me of a time in this country when we all pulled together to win the second world war. I wish that sense of sacrifice and cooperation were still as widespread today as it was during that period. It's easy to look back on that period with historically supplied rose colored glasses; we know we won. Back then, we weren't sure we were going to win against the German Reich or the Japanese Imperial Army. Until Pearl Harbor there were many who wanted us to remain isolationist. But once we were committed, we stayed committed and united until victory was achieved on both fronts. How far we've come since then, how spoiled, how lazy.

"Captain America" is a fun movie, both form a contemporary sense, and a nostalgic reminder of what we once were, and could be again if we want.

1 comment:

  1. "…the movie reminds me of a time in this country when we all pulled together to win the second world war…"

    …which is not accidental, given that Captain America appeared on the scene to fight the Nazis during the later days of America's war in Vietnam.

    I came to the comic late, discovering it in adulthood under Daniel Johnson's guidance, and I find it fascinating. This is definitely a movie that I want to see.

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