Thursday, August 11, 2011

Captain America, a movie review

As the myriad of long time readers will no doubt recall, I have very much been looking forward to the Captain America movie and I am here today to tell you, at great length, what I thought of it now that I have finally seen it.

Short and sweet: I liked it.

The longer version? Have a seat...

First, a little background: The story of Captain America!

Captain America is the story of the world at war. It is the story of the good fight. It is the story of good vs. evil. It is the story of a good man. It is the story of a scrawny little pencil neck geek with a death wish. It is the story of Steve Rogers, a young man who wants to join the army but is too wee a young man to be allowed to sign up to fight. It is then that Steve meets a kindly old German gentleman by the name of Professor Erskine, a man who preys upon Steve's unbridled patriotism and manages to convince him to take a bunch of drugs and agree to participate in an experimental treatment. Amazingly, Steve doesn't wake up in a bathtub full of ice with an ouchy butthole and missing a kidney, but as a supreme bad ass--a super soldier, if you will.

However, unsurprisingly, the Nazis frown upon this (as they are wont to do, being Nazis), so they sabotage the experiment after it finally works, ensuring that while America won't have an army of super soldiers, they will still have one... thus illustrating the type of planning that lost them the war... Anyway, this upsets Cap (as his friends call him... ahem...) and he throws the Nazi through a window. Krrr-Rash! Take that, Ratzi! He then spends the next few years fighting spies at home, before shipping overseas and giving the rest of the Nazis what-for!

But Captain America doesn't survive the war.

Captured by Baron Zemo, he and his stalwart buddy, Bucky, escape and try to stop an experimental drone from flying to Germany or an experimental rocket from striking Britain or an experimental missile from striking Washington... depending on what issue you read... Anyway, he and Bucky jump aboard, but it's booby-trapped! Or maybe they damage it. Either way, it blows up BIG TIME! The explosion tosses Captain America down into the sea and kills Bucky or tosses him into the sea, as well, where he is found by the Russians and brainwashed into becoming the super assassin: The Winter Soldier... depending upon what comic you read.

Captain America sinks to the bottom of the sea, where he is eventually frozen in ice and found by Eskimos, who worship him as a God (A Popsicle God) until an angry Namor the Submariner comes across this lunacy and decides to throw the Eskimos' Popsicle God into the ocean, because he's a huge jerk. The Eskimos stand at the edge of the ice and watch their God float away and they're like: "Dude!" and Namor is like: "What? Fuck you guys." And then he swims away... the jerk...

Meanwhile, Popsicle Cap floats south where he is found by the Avengers, who are tooling about the ocean in their submarine looking for the Hulk... in the middle of the ocean. They're looking for the Hulk. A giant green guy known for hanging out in the desert... Yeah. So, rightly deciding that the Hulk may have given them the slip, they take Captain America home, dry him off and decide to keep him!

And a hero from the past is reborn into the modern world! Adventure ensues! Not to mention occasional wackiness! And shield-slinging! And heartfelt speeches!

And thus, many a garbage can lids were destroyed by children pretending to be Captain America.

The movie more or less follows the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) becoming Captain America and fighting in World War Two against his arch-enemy and Nazi counterpart, the Ubermensch: The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and then crashing. Ker-SPLASH!

And I thought it was great. Of course, that's with the caveat that I didn't think it was a great film, just that, as a Captain America fan, I really enjoyed it. There were problems, yes. There was a bit more Rocketeer than there was Raiders and it can be a bit clunky, pacing wise. Some of the cool supporting characters were a bit short-shrifted and some of the effects were wonky, but those are small things.

If I was going to pick two big complaints, they would be:

1. Joe Johnson. He is one of those workhorse directors whose best has always been no better than middling and reliably lacking flash. He can get the job done, but there's nothing special. He favors the cheesey and the broad and it shows more than a bit. However, he got the look, tone and color palette right for this film, so bully for him. Still, there's a part of me that wishes Fincher would have done this movie. Why David Fincher, you ask? What do you mean, why? What the hell's wrong with you?

2. The ending. This is kind of a weird one and maybe it's just the comic fan in me, as they didn't get the ending wrong, per se, as in, it was pretty much how it went in the comic, sort of. No, it's more like... they biffed it. Too fast? Too rushed? Not enough here? Too much there? It was just a bit off. I felt like the endings were placed in the wrong places, their pacing was off. And! AND! They never actually mention that he was frozen in ice and placed in suspended animation in the film. They never actually say it. I wonder how many "normals" out there watched the ending and had ZERO idea what just happened.

So, yeah, there were issues, but whaddyado?

Now, some folks might complain that the movie Captain America is fighting Hydra, instead of the traditional Nazis, to which I say:

1. That's untrue. In the movie, Hydra is an off-shoot of the Nazis. Yes, they break off, but they're still a group that originated with the Nazis, so therefore, he is fighting Nazis.

2. It's a good thing, as reality and comics aren't exactly peas and carrots, you know? It's like Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four. Why does he spend all day making flying bathtubs for himself, why not use the engine design to end the world's dependence on fossil fuels? Why not cure cancer, Reed, instead of, oh... I don't know, making t-shirts that stretch reeeeally far? Asking why Captain America didn't stop the concentration camps is just awkward. Putting him among such horrors, ones that he is ultimately completely impotent against? It just seems... disrespectful. Kind of like how they killed Hitler in Inglorious Bastards. Impotent and disrespectful.

3. By making it a secret side war against Hydra, the Allies still win WWII on their own, without Captain America, so their victories and sacrifices aren't lessened by the inclusion of a star-spangled underwear model. This is good because of, you know, respect.

So, face, as in: In your.

Moving on...

Evans was great. He portrayed Steve as a good person, not a stick in the mud or a bumpkin or a naive idiot. He was a competent soldier, not a bully. And he looked fantastic. The costume. The shield. The colors. Sure, the motorcycle chase wasn't necessary, but it was classic Cap. Hugo Weaving was great as the Skull. He was just awesome and I loved the Werner Hertzog accent. I also liked the way they left gaps in Cap's WWII service, allowing for more period set sequels in the future. There was good action, it had a few laughs. It also had the usual Marvel movies tie-ins, but they weren't clunky, they fit well. I really enjoyed it and believe that there was more good than bad, without a doubt, but I freely acknowledge that I am biased and more than willing to forgive. Your mileage may vary. 

Now, they just need to tell the story of Isaiah Bradley, the secret first Captain America...

A true believer,

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