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Like Zack, I saw Captain America last weekend, and I was a little surprised to see his review of the film given that we have a podcast recorded concerning it (coming soon!). After mulling it over for a few days, I decided to jump in and give my own thoughts on the film as well. Think of this as Thor, Zack’s post as Iron Man, and our podcast as The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon, Zack’s “favorite” filmmaker).
As I’ve expressed before, I am a big Captain America fan. He is arguably my favorite superhero, and I think I have approximately 150 Captain America comics littered around my house (yes, I wasted my youth). As such, I was anticipating this movie (though, oddly, I wasn’t gushing with anticipation as I would have expected). This film had a lot going for it with a perfectly matched director and a solid cast. So, why was this film such a huge disappointment for me? What went wrong? I think it was a lot of little things that ultimately turned me off to this movie. That being said, it isn’t a bad movie; it’s just not a very good one.
The cast turned out to be a mixed bag. Chris Evans was a great choice for Cap, and I feel he really threw himself into the role. His “aw shucks” boyscout routine really starts to get old by the second half of the movie, but I think that has more to do with the script and direction rather than Evans himself. Also worth mentioning are Stanley Tucci and Dominic Cooper who really give their minor characters such life that you can’t help but enjoy them. The opposite end of the spectrum is Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull. Honestly, in what should have been the best piece of casting yet in these Marvel films, Weaving looked bored in the role. Then again, the script didn’t help any (more on this below). The rest of the cast is rounded out with Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sebastian Stan. While Tommy Lee Jones plays Tommy Lee Jones, the rest of them are very underdeveloped and not given much to do (except maybe Toby Jones).
The narrative structure of the film is very weak. It starts out strong, and then jumps to a series of montages where Cap goes from being a naive newcomer to experienced officer who starts devising military strategies in no time flat. It broke my suspension of disbelief. This is one of the biggest sins a movie (especially a fantasy movie) can do. Things just start happening for the sake of happening. Worsening the problem is that director Joe Johnson throws cliché after cliché at us, but doesn’t give them any spin so it is not as obvious that its a cliché. Also, the fight sequences were just plain goofy (and not in a good way). Whenever Cap hit someone, they would fly across the screen in a comical fashion. It felt like those moments belonged in something such as Batman & Robin.
However, the biggest issue with the film that I had was that, given the Red Skull gave out no menacing quality, there was a feeling that nothing was at stake. Nor was there any personal connection between Red Skull and Cap to give any meaning to their showdown. If nothing was at stake and there was no meaning to anything that was going on, then it was hard to care about what was going on. And if I didn’t care what was happening, then why am I watching?
All that being said, there are a lot of good things in this film as well. I really liked some of the nods to the comic such as Camp Lehigh (with, what had to be, Sgt. Duffy), Toby Jones’s introduction in the film, and a Human Torch cameo. The World War II setting is a great change from most superhero movies (it would have been criminal not to have the first Cap movie set there) and the story, despite its problems, has a strong foundation.
I also want to give credit to a chase sequence early in the film between Cap and an assassin (played by, hopefully soon-to-be-a-star, Richard Armitage). Outside of it being well executed, I rather enjoyed that we get a movie where a minor bad guy gets to be somewhat formidable after his reason for being in the movie is over. Too many movies seem to have bad guys becoming incompetent after they achieve whatever bad thing they set out to do.
As I said, this isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a good film either. Part of me wants to blame my disappointment on a fanboy attitude, but even looking objectionably at the film, I can’t say it is strong. Hopefully, the producers realize what missteps they took with this movie and, in the inevitable sequel, will deliver a movie worthy of Captain America.