Monday, August 1, 2011

Captain America

Captain America, I suppose, has to be admired on some basic level, as all film with a certain degree of competence deserve to be admired, in which one can appreciate the acting, the direction, the visual aesthetic and the action. It’s a complete package with the bow on top. Nothing less and not much more either.

I guess one can primarily admire it for it’s having a real human character at the centre of it. Most comic book movies these days are animated video games with human faces that pop up amidst the computer generated effects. Captain America has a lot of that kind of stuff too but it also has a little comedy and a little heart as well. It has, above all, a hero who provides a human centre for the story; one who you could get behind. Not enough to put it in line with Iron Man or The Dark Knight to be sure, but enough to safely say, without much irony, that it’s better than, say, the Transformers movies. Faint praise is still praise, no?

For those who don’t know, Captain America is about Steve Rogers (Chris Evens) a small awkward kid who wants nothing more than to serve in the army and fight for his country in the war. He enlists under several different names but with a list of ailments a mile long is denied at all of them. The kid has guts and heart though and isn’t afraid to take a back alley beating or two from the local bully when need be.

Trying to enlist one final time at the World Fair where Howard “father of Tony” Stark (Dominic Cooper) unveils his first hover car, Rogers is discovered by Dr. Erskine (Stanely Tucci), a German scientist who fled to America away from Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a ruthless Nazi who believes he can harness the power from some glowing cube in order to rise above Hitler and win the war.

Erskine, wanting to use this unexplained power for good, selects Rogers as a test subject much to the cynicism of Colonal Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones doing Tommy Lee Jones) and the admiration of potential love interest Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell). Regardless, once injected with this mysterious power, Rogers exits the experiment a muscle bound hunk with amazing physical power.

He is first put to use as an American hero selling war bounds but once he learns that his friend has been captured behind enemy lines and presumed dead, Captain America single handily goes behind enemy lines, infiltrates Red Skull's operation, saves the men and sends Red Skull into a rage.
All of this is all fine and dandy and made with style and humour. Director Joe Johnson does a good job of creating the look and feel of an old newspaper serial of the time and he takes special care of ensuring that there is a human story amidst all the special effects and the action.

However, if there is any problem with this concept it is that, while stacked up against other Marvel comic book films that have defined the genre such as Spider-Man or Iron Man, Captain America simply doesn’t have much personality. Evans in the lead role doesn’t have the charisma or charm to pull off Rogers' sweet naivety even after he becomes Captain America, and Weaving, a great character actor in his own right, isn’t given the kind of depth that goes into making a great villain, especially one as iconic as Red Skull.

And that’s Captain America: a film that is, in these summers of excess, better than most, but not nearly enough to achieve anything close to memorable. Comic book movies used to be based on relatable characters with human traits put into a narrative that doesn’t cross real life, but runs in such a way parallel to it that it’s pointed yet simple messages can jump across the divide and connect with us. Captain America sets up all the elements to get the first thing right but doesn’t come close enough to approaching the second. Too bad.

1 comment:

  1. No clever messages here, just bang-on romance and action, with another fresh twist on 20th-century history woven in for the kids to dive into after the credits have rolled. Good Review Mike!