Friday, July 22, 2011

“Captain America: The First Avenger” – Is that World War II or are you just happy to see me?

Am I the only one who is getting a little tired of superhero movies? I really hate to say that because it makes me sound old, and I like superheroes. I guess I’m really just tired of superhero movies that are very average and don’t even try to be more. As I wrote in my review of Thor, this year features a heavy load of these movies and the only one that achieved a level of worth-your-time-and-money is X-Men: First Class. With the exception of The Green Hornet, which was like getting kicked in the chest by a horse, all of them have been very ho-hum. Sadly, Captain America was only slightly better than ho-hum – which actually got me thinking about the rest of the Avengers’ movies and what I wrote about them:
The Incredible Hulk – Worth exactly none of your money unless you enjoy a theater trying to jumpstart your heart with sound waves.
Ironman – Worth seven dollars, which is all attributed to special effects and Robert Downey Jr. being awesome.
Ironman 2 – Didn’t review this one because I was pissed off at life at the time. Considering I thought it was exactly on the same level as its predecessor, perhaps slightly better in the plot department, we’ll call it worth eight dollars.
Thor – Worth three dollars due to lack of any kind of coherence. I considered rating it the same as The Incredible Hulk, but I wasn’t bleeding from the ears when I left the theater.

Which brings us to Captain America. With the exception of Ironman 2, all of these films are about developing the title character. Unlike the other films, Captain America is set in the past (World War II), so we get a healthy helping of period shots, period dress, and period props. While I know this follows the comic books, they didn’t have to set all but six minutes in the past. And those six minutes are the only important minutes of the film, as they are the tie-in to The Avengers. The movie starts with some guys finding him frozen in the Arctic and ends with Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) telling him he’s been asleep for seventy years. Everything in the middle is nearly pointless and all we learn about our hero is that he’s “a really good man.” Wow – I need to lie down after that shocker. He’s Captain America. I didn’t think he was a dick at heart.

I did say “nearly pointless” because the middle seemed to have something important, though we won’t really know until next summer. Our villain, Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), unearths a cube said to be from Odin and at one point, we get a glimpse of the CGI universe from Thor. I have my guess as to what this means, but it’s the one thing I won’t spoil for you so you can form your own opinion. The rest of the film consists of the following: Captain America (Chris Evans) being transformed from a CGI wimp to a CGI beef cake. Red Skull ripping his Hugo Weaving face off to reveal his red skull. Tommy Lee Jones portraying the tough colonel and delivering good one-liners, as only he can. Captain America assembling his team of diversity-in-action (black guy, French guy, mountain man, Asian guy, childhood buddy – none of which I made up). Tony Stark’s dad, Richard (Dominic Cooper), proclaiming that Red Skull’s technology is way ahead of America shortly after demonstrating his hover car. And lots of blue lasers disintegrating people (yes, I did say this takes place during WWII). All of these things make a little more sense in context – well, maybe not the lasers – but they don’t work very well together. While these things serve to force the movie forward, nothing ever poses a real challenge to the good captain. Once he becomes “the man,” he bowls through hundreds of evil soldiers (wielding their lasers) with nothing but a pistol and his special shield. Even Red Skull, who has been injected with the same super serum as Cap’, poses little challenge, other than having a very red head.

I can’t stress it enough that the real purpose of this movie, like the others, is simply as a vehicle to build for The Avengers (and make a gazillion dollars). On the bright side, the acting was pretty good all around, including Stanley Tucci as the nice old German scientist. Plus, even though half the movie exploded, I didn’t feel as if my senses had been assaulted. Though, I was forced to watch this screening in 3-D, proving once again that 3-D is, indeed, expensive. I just wish the filmmakers would have tried a little harder to make the movie mean something rather than simply handing us another stepping stone dressed in WWII allies gear and lasers.

Rating: Ask for five dollars back. It’s better than Thor, but worse than Ironman, and I’m not sure how much more we can take.

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