Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Year: 2011
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenplay: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on the comic book Capatin America created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neil McDonough, Derek Lake, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones
Running Time: 124 minutes
Genre: Superhero, action, fantasy, war

Summary: In the present day a team of researchers in the Arctic discover a strange craft buried in the ice. Investigating it they discover a circular metal object with a distinctive red, white and blue insignia.
New York, 1942: Steven Rogers (Evans) is a frail, sickly young man who is nonetheless desperate to sign up for the Army and fight in World War II, like his friend Bucky Barnes (Stan). Unable to back away from a fight, which results in him frequently being beaten up, Rogers persists on trying to join up, even though he constantly fails the medical. His perserverance and strong code of honour attracts the attention of Doctor Abraham Erskine (Tucci) who allows Steven to join up as part of an experiment run by the US Military's Special Scientific Reserve to create a "super soldier". The operation is being run by Colonel Chester Phillips (Jones) and British agent Peggy Carter (Atwell). Steven's bravery marks him out as the right person for the procedure, which consists of him being injected with a special serum and doused with "vita-rays". The experiment leaves Steven with superhuman strength, agility and speed.
Steven becomes a public hero after catching a murderous spy. As a publicity stunt for the war effort, Steven is sent to tour the US in the guise of costumed super-patriot "Captain America". The Captain America character is an instant hit and he soon becomes the star of movies and comic-books.
However, Steven Rogers was not the first person to try the "super-soldier serum". Johann Schmidt (Weaving), head of the sinister HYDRA organisation, underwent an imperfect, experimental version of the serum and suffered horrific side-effects which earned him the sobriquet of "Red Skull". Schmidt is searching for a mysterious tesseracht which is rumoured to contain vast supernatural powers.
Soon Steven Rogers is forced to become Captain America for real in order to save the world.

Opinions: This is an entertaining blend of superhero action and war movie. The World War II setting not only works for the character, who was originally created in 1941 and usually pitted against the Axis powers of World War II, but helps to set it apart from many of the current superhero movies. The film really goes back to basics with a storyline which harkens back to the early days of comic books and their roots in pulp fiction, and provides plenty of action.
In many ways this is a companion piece to Thor (2011), Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010) and The Incredible Hulk (2008), for example Dominic Cooper plays Howard Stark (father of Iron Man Tony Stark) and the object which the Red Skull seeks in this film references Thor. All the films also feature appearances by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Fury is scheduled to unite Captain America, Thor, the Hulk and Iron Man in The Avengers which is due for release in May 2012.
The Summer of 2011 has featured so many superhero movies that there is real danger of overkill. However, this one is still worth checking out. The film features some great performances from a very strong cast and the whole thing is played seriously enough to be dramatic while still maintaining a sense of playfulness and humour. It also features some spectacular action scenes.
The film suffers from being fairly predictable, and the contemporary bookends, while understandable from a narrative sense, feel slightly redundant.
By the way, stick around until the end of the closing credits for an additional scene and a trailer for The Avengers.

"Why someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power..."
Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) explains his choices in Captain America: The First Avenger

Chris Evans is Captain America: The First Avenger

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