Friday, August 12, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (3D)

If you had to choose an iconic Marvel superhero that best resembles the characteristics of DC Comics' Superman, Captain America should definitely be on the shortlist. With director Joe Johnston’s (Hidalgo, Jurassic Park 3, Jumanji) admirable take on the ultimate freedom fighters' origins, the excitement for the inevitable Avengers movie has reached fever pitch. But how does Captain America's story compare to other Marvel heavyweights like Ironman, Thor and Spiderman?

The first thing you come to appreciate about the film is the beautifully imagined 1940's from a parallel universe, where the second world war seems familiar, but in a lot of ways totally different and quite absurd due to the inclusion of some weirdly probable historical detours. Luckily, all of these slight factual twists are explained and contextualized thoroughly, making it easy to forgive them in the embodiment of this fun superhero movie.

The retro sci-fi set pieces offer a lot of eye candy, but the real visual stimulation here is arguably the two leads themselves: Chris Evans (The Fantastic 4) does a great job in portraying a morally inclined loser that turns into a symbol for America's struggle for peace after he is injected with a superhuman serum. The exquisite and fairly unknown Hayley Atwell (The Duchess) is as a believable feminist with a soft center. Tommy Lee Jones’ presence as a no-nonsense army general gives the film a bit of added credibility and the rest of the ensemble cast also does a stand up job. The villainous Red Skull, aka Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, V for Vendetta) plays the role of Nazi extremist very successfully as he plans world domination by means of a strange glowing cube in a box.

“The retro sci-fi set pieces offer a lot of eye candy, but the real visual stimulation here is arguably the two leads themselves.”

Yes, the plot isn't rocket science, but it is this simple premise, combined with strong performances that give Captain America a surprisingly moving emotional beat to chew your popcorn to. The dialogue continues the trend of simplicity to a serious degree, with some very cheesy, clich├ęd lines that are almost ridiculous. Weirdly enough, you easily forgive this, as it all seems to fit in perfectly with the intentional retro vibe. Still, it does seem a bit out of place in a 2011 blockbuster, but that might just be me...

Rounding off this surefire hit's plus points are some spectacular old-school fight scenes and delicious CGI effects that combine to produce 3D (or 2D) awesomeness! The small bits of interesting social commentary are a welcome distraction from all the action, but don't expect any significant changes to your perspective about war, gods or life in general.

“Don't expect any significant changes to your perspective about war, gods or life in general.”

All in all, this is most likely one of Marvel's most distinct comic book adaptations to date, due mostly to the colourful world, a capable cast and tightly packaged action sequences – A welcome addition to the buildup to the upcoming Avengers series.

The second version of Captain America’s outfit is a great improvement on the first – His tailor should be commended.

Highlight 1: When Captain America enrolls in the US army, he starts off with more of a PR position. This results in some hilarious intertextual references that will make you utter a giggle or three.

Highlight 2: An intense final confrontation takes to the air as the story plummets to a death-defying conclusion.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Meerkat tails