Film review, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, from Built For Speed

The latest Marvel Comics movie adaptation, Captain America: the first Avenger, takes the comic book mythology & turns it into an Indiana Jones style WW2 romp with Nazis, ray guns and bald-headed villains.

Captain America aka Steve Rogers is at first the stereotypical 90 pound weakling who, in 1943 is desperate to join the army and fight Hitler. He becomes the unlikely candidate for a special program run by Col. Tommy Lee Jones in which weird serums and Stark Industries technology are used to turn Rogers into a muscly super soldier with no body hair.  Attired in a ridiculous blue suit and wielding his iconic stars and stripes shield, Rogers becomes ass-kicking super hero Captain America. His target is an evil Nazi named Schmidt aka Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who, according to the film, is even worse than Hitler in his maniacal quest for global domination.

The 1940’s setting is the film’s biggest asset as it allows the filmmakers to indulge a stylized look reminiscent of those old Amazing Stories sci fi mags.  It also allows amusing parodies of America’s war time identity and patriotism particularly in the cleverly staged send up of the war bonds propaganda drives.  It looks, in these funny energetic early scenes, as if Captain America might be something really special.

Predictably, though, the film quickly bows to the teen boy mentality and becomes a succession of over-the-top computer-generated action sequences.  Much of the cgi looks fake (they just can’t get human movement right) but this isn’t too much of a problem given that the movie as a whole is deliberately cartoonish. In fact, much of it is played for laughs as this was the only way they could sell such an outrageously silly, flag-waving character as Captain America.

A major problem with this film, though, is that it lacks a sparkling central performance such as the one Robert Downey Jr. gave Iron Man. Like Sam J. Jones in Flash Gordon, Chris Evans looks the part of the hero but isn’t exactly a riveting screen presence.  He is well supported, though, by Tommy Lee Jones who’s always a jolt of adrenalin for any film and female agent Hayley Atwell who’s a feisty heroine reminiscent of Liz Hurley in the first Austin Powers movie.  Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark (Tony’s dad) also makes a dashing, thin-moustached heroic cad.  Hugo Weaving chomps the scenery amusingly as the dastardly Schmidt and didn’t need to turn into Red Skull which makes him look like a red version of Jim Carey in The Mask.

Like the other Marvel Comics adaptations, Captain America is fun, fast moving and visually spectacular but it’s also emotionally empty.  Also, like all the Marvel Comics spin-off flicks so far this one has the coda/ advertisement for the next film in the series, so stick around for the end credits.

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  • I was actually nervous, but they did a good job with this one. The principal weaknesses were Captain America’s “team”, which amounted to an ensemble of stereotypes, and in spite of the retro-feel it felt a lot more G.I. Joe than Indiana Jones, with the HYDRA soldiers safely dehumanised behind black masks. But they’re minor quibbles – the performances and film itself are extremely good, in particular the last scene.

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