David’s Captain America: The First Avenger Review

15 Aug

Preface:  I’m very sorry this is so late.  I began this review right after I saw the movie two and half weeks ago.  But with a changing work schedule, people staying at our house, and a trip to Dallas, it just got lost in the mix.  Yes, that is an excuse.  But I apologize for being so lazy and so easily distracted.

Let me begin by explaining my lengthy and complex relationship with Captain America.  While I have always liked the character of Captain America, he was never my favorite member of the Avengers.  Thor has always been more interesting because it involves Norse mythology, plus, the awesome Jack Kirby designed the entire look of the comic.  Iron Man grabbed more of my attention because, let’s face it, he looked cooler.  But there was always something about Cap.

Maybe it was that he seemed incorruptible.  Thor and Hulk would punch first, and figure out who the bad guys were later.  Iron Man was literally a figurative bastard.  He just happened to be on the right side of the fight.  But Cap was a good guy.  He didn’t judge anyone, but let the people he came in contact with prove themselves.  It is interesting that the Marvel version of Superman is Captain America.  They both fight for the American Dream.  They both stand up for the little guy.  But in terms of powers (the single greatest currency in the comic book universe) they are polar opposites.  Superman is the single most powerful man on Earth.  Captain America, on the other hand, is a regular man who’s had his ride slightly pimped.  He’s one step ahead of the rest of us.

As I grew up, another thing began to grab my attention in the Captain America story.  My views on our country, and our political system in particular, were mostly formed during the years of the George W. Bush presidency.  During that time, the apathy and general feeling of discouragement that I have pretty consistently felt since were firmly set in place.  The America that I had loved as a child didn’t seem to exist anymore.  And the belief that it had ever existed seemed just plain silly.

And then I would pick up the new issue of Captain America, or the Avengers, and I would see what I had always wanted to believe about this country I was born in.  That’s what I love the most about Captain America.  He is everything I have ever loved about America the idea.  Not the United States of America, the country.  Not the colonies that broke away from England.  Not the writings of Benjamin Franklin, or even the Dream Team of 1992 (although that may come the closest).  Steve Rodgers (that’s his real name) represents the idea of America that all of us born here grew up with.  The idea that anyone can become someone important.  The idea that no one deserves to be judged on anything except what they make of themselves.  The idea of freedom.

And I want to stress that I am in no way trying to claim that these are American ideas.  They aren’t.  These are basic human ideas.  But as a child I was taught that my country was based on these same ideas, and by the time I reached college I was having a hard time believing that outside of the pages of a comic book.

So, needless to say, I was pretty excited about this movie.  Take the greatest example of the American Dream and drop him into a World War II movie.  What could go wrong with that?

Well, as it turns out, very little.  Captain America: The First Avenger is fantastic.  The acting is good, the action is great, and story is fun.  A lot of people were worried about Chris Evans going from the role of the Human Torch to a much more serious Captain America.  And I for one was nervous about Tommy Lee Jones after his last foray into comic book movies (haven’t we all tried to forget Two-Face?).  But neither disappointed me.  Evans showed off his abilities in a serious role, while Jones proved that he can fit in a comic book environment without coming off as a caricature of an already clichéd character.

In addition to these two, we have Hugo Weaving as a surprisingly not campy Red Skull, and the always incredible Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine.  And finally, we have a return to greatness by Joe Johnston, who started with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, and Jumanji, and then faltered in more recent years with Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo, and The Wolfman.

I’ve heard other reviewers who have said that Johnston made a great war movie, and then dropped a superhero in the middle of it.  And I think that’s a fair assessment.  We have tanks, Nazi villains, hidden treasure, humor, a dash of camp, British operatives, flame-throwers, and a superhero who throws a shield.  That is the recipe for an entertaining movie.

My biggest concern going into this movie was the character of Bucky.  Bucky has always been an important part of the Captain America story (just like Robin is in the Batman story), but he’s always been extremely lame as well (just like Robin is in the Batman story).  I didn’t expect this movie to pull this off any better than any cinematic attempt at Robin has.  But it works here.  The character isn’t lame, he’s important to the plot, and you actually end of liking him.

I recently read an interview with Matthew Vaughn (the director of Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) where he said that comic book movies are a dying breed.  And he may be right, but I wouldn’t bet on it just yet, especially if this movie is any indication.

still laughing at Stan Lee’s cameo,

david

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2 Responses to “David’s Captain America: The First Avenger Review”

  1. Dustin August 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I finally got around to seeing this last week. I liked it a lot more than Thor, but probably slightly less than X Men: First Class. I was really hoping to see a younger Bucky, but in the context of the film, his age worked well I suppose. I liked most the cast. The romance was just okay, but better than Thor at least. The action was all really solid and the Red Skull was awesome. I loved seeing Dum Dum Dugan, but it did make me wish for a young Nick Fury to be present.

    The other main issue with the film is that it came out right around the time that the Kirby family case for the rights/just some form of compensation to Kirby created Marvel characters was dismissed. While the merits of the case are questionable from a legal standpoint, morally Marvel is way out of line and should at least be giving his family the same treatment they give Stan. It is a shame and it makes supporting anything Marvel feel a little bit slimy, especially a character like Captain America who was originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. I think that more than anything limited my enjoyment of the film.

    I have been following Ed Brubaker’s run of Captain America since it began 5+ years ago. It is definitely worth checking out if you have not.

  2. iamhrothgar September 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. The Marvel treatment of Kirby has always been disgusting, and I really have a hard time enjoying Stan Lee’s cameos as much, knowing how much he had to do with this behavior beginning.

    However, Kirby is being recognized more and more now. If not by Marvel, at least by the community. DC has released all of those hardbacks in the Kirby library, and while I’m not sure how much money his family is actually getting from that, it certainly is glorifying Kirby as a creator.

    Hopefully, as this generation of creators grows up he will become more and more of a legend.

    As for Ed Brubaker’s work, as I’ve read of it was the part that connected to Civil War. Which, to be honest, tainted it for me. I need to give it more of a chance though. Everything I’ve heard has been good.

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