“I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.”
My review of Captain America: The First Avenger
As a kid I was never a big fan of Captain America. He wasn’t as cool as the X-Men or Spider-Man. He was a guy who ran around with a shield and was, well, boring.
Mr.-Always-Do-Right just wasn’t that cool. He didn’t seem to have the same edge as a Batman or James Bond. As a result I didn’t pay much attention to him. The thing was I didn’t understand the heart of Captain America.
Every other character’s story seems to be “I can do this thing, so I will.” Iron Man knows how to build an awesome suit of armor, so he does and uses it to beat up bad guys. The X-Men all have special powers to they use them, again, to beat up bad guys. You’ll see the same pattern over and over again throughout classic super hero stories. I can do this thing, so when a situation arises, I will.
The heart of Captain America is, “I can’t do anything, but I will anyway”. Steve Rogers was a hero before he ever had any powers. I saw that as a kid, but didn’t understand it. I’ve grown up in an increasingly cynical world. And I’m probably humanity’s representative when it comes to being cynical. There is no cynicism in Captain America, the character or the film. His focus is doing what is right and helping others. That’s tough to find these days.
The film, Captain America: The First Avenger, is a blast to watch with a crowd. What you’ll find is that Rogers is a hero you can root for from the very first frame. He starts as a scrawny kid who stands up for what’s right, even if that involves getting the crap kicked out of him, multiples times. The focus of the beginning of the movie is showing us his character. Honestly, with modern Hollywood in charge, and Chris Evans in the part, I assumed we’d have a wise-cracking full of himself Captain America. You know, a cynical smart aleck. That didn’t happen though. Evans does a masterful job of making us root for Rogers. He brings the character’s awkwardness but earnestness to life. I genuinely liked Evans in this. Even after his transformation he’s still the same scrawny but heroic kid inside. That’s no small feat. If I looked like Evans, I’d be full of myself. Heck, I’ve got the exact opposite look of Evans going on and I’m still full of myself. He plays the part perfectly and, I think, proves a lot of people wrong who doubted him (myself included).
The heartbeat of the film itself feels very much like Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’ll have to see it a few more times, but director Joe Johnston might have created a modern Raiders. Everything from the grand adventure story, peppered with humor, to the period setting and rousing score. This is old-school Hollywood and calls back to great adventure films.
I’m honestly not sure how this picture was ever released in today’s times. Who releases a super-hero movie set in World War II? I’m not sure I would have been as excited if the origin of Captain America was told in modern times. I’m not sure he’s a hero that could be born today. Always doing right. Utterly selfless and patriotic. That’s a tough sell. But coming from the 40s, it just works. I want my kids to enjoy a hero who is always looking out for others and does right because it’s right. He doesn’t have to go on some journey of self discovery to figure it out either. The body can be enhanced but Cap is who he is because of what’s in his heart.
I bought Alan Silverstri’s score for the film the day before seeing it. I listened to it once and then heard it during the movie. I can’t stop humming it, just from that little exposure. I buy a lot of film scores and this one is unlike most of what I’ve heard in the past few years. Again, most recent scores are dark and foreboding. The score for Captain America feels like it was written for a film forty years ago.
And sticking with the modern-movie-feeling-old theme, never once did I say, “wow that’s a dodgy CG scene.” The CG blended well and was used to perfect effect; enhancing the movie without letting me know it was there. That’s my biggest complaint with modern filmmakers—CG has become a crutch. So many shots are done in computers now that could be done practically and without looking so jarring (this was my main complaint with this summer’s X-Men film). Johnston and his team did an amazing job with this. The gist of Cap’s origin is he’s a scrawny kid who’s given a “super-soldier serum” that pushes his body to the limits of what the human body can be. Can he fly and pick up entire buildings? No. But he can run as fast as a car and if he hits you, you’ll feel it when you finally land. I was afraid on both of these points. Any time in the past a character in a film has been able to run fast, it has just looked crappy and fake. Somehow they made it look like he really could run fast. I’d have to go back and examine those scenes a few times to see the editing required, but they pulled it off. The first scene where he uses his power, we feel the same exhilaration he does.
My only complaint I could level at this film, is that it could use another half hour of running time. Like Thor earlier this summer, it’s clear that they were trying to tell a sweeping story with a limited budget. It just seemed like it could have used a little room to breath. I wanted to spend more time with these characters.
This film as is perfect as any I’ve seen in recent memory. I don’t normally get too caught up in what movies make at the box office (except wishing this particular film had died on release) but I hope Captain America makes a killing. I hope people take their kids to see it in droves. I hope grandparents and teenagers alike will line up to see this. It’s exciting to see a hero like this on screen. I wish my parents would see it. Neither of them are even close to liking super-hero movies, but I honestly think they would like this one. It’s that good.