Skip to main content

Review: Captain America - The First Avenger

Captain America is a rarity of sorts in the modern blockbuster. There is no sense of postmodern reflection for frail Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) only a sense of duty that shines brighter than his translucently pale chest. Steve Rogers longs to do his part for the United States in war time, he has volunteered to join the armed services multiple times and each time receives notice that he does not meet the physical qualifications.

Steve feels lost in a generation of men whose bravery is defined by service. He can't even take enjoyment in an matinee showing without rising to defend those in arms. Character is not lacking for Rogers, only body mass.

Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) takes pity on the charmingly persistent Rogers and clears him for boot camp. Steve has more than his fair share of critics in Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent Carter (Haley Atwell). More than proving his mettle during boot camp, Steve is offered to join a trial experiment for the Super Soldier serum created by Dr. Erskine and Howard Stark. The serum thought to be the over-the-top measure to beat the Nazis and Red Skull’s Hydra works and Captain America is born.

The film is filled with the sort of old school World War II action that is missing from the cinema anymore. Chris Evans is the ultimate boy scout, a man from a time where duty was king, and the film relies upon its ability to wax nostalgic about the yesteryear of its greatest heroes. Alan Menken's "Star Spangled Man" is one such rousing example.

There are no false notes about Captain America either, none of that trademark cynicism always present in modern war films. This very easily could have been made in the 1940s with Gary Cooper, it is that authentic.

Steve is just a man that hates bullies whether they take the form of an ignorant moviegoer, or a maniac hell-bent on the destruction of the modern world. Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), is that maniac, managing to avoid the pitfalls of a rote Nazi villain and instead provides a worthwhile foil to the super soldier in red, white and blue.

There were worries that a film about Captain America would either be entirely too unrealistic, or campy, fortunately the film is neither. What makes the film an oddity, though, is the action scenes are not the big draw. A man resolving himself to fight an enemy under any cost is much more satisfying.

***/****

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.