Friday, July 29, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston)


The most outstanding testament of how Marvel handles its core superheroes with utmost care in films, this is truly, without a doubt, the best Marvel movie that I have seen, or to be more exact, the finest 'Pre-Avengers' Avenger movie out there. It has certainly balanced the typical side humor present in almost all popcorn flicks with its action sequences that make it all the more explosive and entertaining. It's a war-torn celebration of patriotism and outlandish strength, and who would be better to represent such a film but the most obviously propagandistic superhero out there that is Captain America?

But a reminder to those who might be put off by the film's geographically-specialized protagonist, the film, directed by Joe Johnston like a true blockbuster filmmaker, is also quite conscious with its hero's stupendous status. Like a war-time satire, it highlights Cap's post-frailty but pre-hard hero masquerade as a symbolic mascot that parades around camp after camp and city after city to promote bravery and desire for clean-cut Allied victory. It partly worked because of Chris Evans' nuanced portrayal as a pretty boy figure that seemingly came out of the corners of the American Dream but whose outer motives is all but superficial. As told by the film's very fascinating look at Steve Rogers' literally 'small' beginning as a Brooklyn Boy U.S. draftee wannabe, his moral fiber is perfectly sound save for his physical built. But along came the scientific experiment and bam! Just like that, he's now muscular than ever and a genuine super soldier.

Now, based on the standards of common superhero origins, Steve Rogers' rise as a star-spangled super patriot is all too easy considering that Bruce Wayne got his parents killed before having enough inner strength to balance his conflict between being a hero and vigilante to become the legendary bat entity that he is. It can easily be said that Captain America's path towards being a superhero is relatively convenient compared to others, but with how the film has introduced his humble origins with a slightly sympathetic and sentimental view and then combining it with over-the-top occult and far-fetched science, do all superheroes really need to have some dark past to really carry out a great back story?

Strictly speaking, Captain America really is one of the few superheroes out there that really does not belong to an edgy reality. Although he existed in an era of widespread violence that is World War II, he's on a territory of his own. Some may say that his appeal is more inclined towards children more than it is for adults, but with his no-questions-asked fighting skills that the film has captured with its uniquely overblown (in a good way) Serial-style action sequences and a hardcore haze of Nazi foes, Cap balanced both demographic well enough. He's both a kid's dream idol and an adult's colorful nostalgia, and with "Captain America: The First Avenger", his myth as a Marvel character and as a most recognized figure of pop literature was finally materialized into the silver screen in a most overwhelming, and quite surreal, fashion.

With non-stop and knock-out (wow, two hyphenated rave adjectives in a sentence?) excitement and great performances by its array of actors, particularly Tommy Lee Jones in his Lee Marvin-like character, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark and Stanley Tucci's bit performance as Dr. Erskine, it is a wonderful all-around cinematic experience.

But surprisingly, Hugo Weaving, considered the absolute go-to-guy for villainous roles (come on, he even voiced Megatron) and is also one hell of a versatile actor, is flatly one-dimensional in his role as Red Skull in a very 'James Bond villain' kind of way. But then of course, that might be intentional.

In countless alternate worlds where heroes and villains repeatedly play death-defying chess games of immense magnitudes with each other, Red Skull uses his mouth more than his hands. Words are not particularly useful when you got a boomerang shield heading into your face, you know.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" is like a grocer's errand boy who came late for your orders yet you find out that there's an extra something that he has put inside your grocery bags. We all know that a good Captain America film is long overdue, but as it finally came into our very midst, it exceeds the simplicity of the qualitative requirements of a decent movie. Instead, maintaining with the errand boy analogy, it 'delivered' with the silvery spark of a great action-adventure film. Sure, it's a given that Cap's 'Avengers' mates are extremely ecstatic about the film, but I instinctively know that elsewhere, Indiana Jones is also out there wearing a smile.


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