Monday, August 1, 2011

New Captain America Movie Wears Heart on Its Shield

I was going to write that, "Captain America: The First Avenger was the best comic book movie I've ever seen", but then I remembered the Dark Knight Returns and the Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. Then, I was going to say, "Captain America was the best Marvel comic book hero brought to the big screen", when I recalled Spider-man 2, X-men 2, and X-men First Class. So, I can't label it "the best" anything, but what I can say is that after I saw it, it stuck with me and that's a good sign.

I wasn't sure if The Fantastic Four's Human Torch was the right man to fill the pirate boots of our favorite Star Spangled Avenger, but Chris Evans brought an innocence to the role of Steve Rogers that convinced me. Hugo Weaving was built for the role of the Red Skull, all the way down to his giant capped choppers. (Still not exactly sure what happened in his final scene.) In a world of cosmic cubes, propeller powered missiles, and vaporizing energy guns, Tommy Lee Jones anchored us to reality as the grim and gritty, get-it-done guy he inescapably plays in other movies, this time he was a colonel. A relative new comer, Hayley Atwell played Steve's love interest, Peggy Carter. There weren't any real juicy acting bits for her to sink her teeth into, but her grace brought a nice balance to the all boys club. Her relationship with Steve was really the glue that not only held the film together, but kept me from any bathroom intermissions.

True to the comic, this particular adaptation has Steve Rogers, a good man limited by his frail body, undergoing an experiment that transforms him into a buffed out symbol of America. Of course, the movie took some liberties with the original comic, tweaking Bucky here, no swastikas there, but it still felt like Captain America at the core. I was pleasantly surprised by how dense the movie was with Marvel lore and Easter eggs adding to, without distracting from, the story and actually lining up things for the movies to come. I almost missed the first Human Torch in his air tight case in the middle of the Stark Expo lobby.

There were a lot of subtle touches as to the evolution to Cap's costume that seemed plausible. (He could have just as easily had an "S" on his helmet.) We all know Cap's shield is supposed to made out of adamantium, the same stuff as Wolverine's claws, but vibranium, the ore found on the homeland of the Black Panther, still works. Though, I'm not sure how well the shield throwing ricochet would work with a metal that absorbs energy.

Everyone wants to be strong. It's a basic feeling with universal appeal and that's the movie's hook, but only a solid story and interesting characters can keep an audience, looking for more than explosive action, in their seats. In this regard, Captain America: The First Avenger succeeds with flying red, white, and blue colors.

R. Ticulation

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