*Review contains HEAVY spoilers*
What went on in the movie: (Set during World War II) When puny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) gets his shot to train for the army, he surprises everyone by demonstrating his lack of fear during a training exercise. He then is selected for a scientific experiment that will enhance his cellular structure when injected him with a “super soldier serum.” Rogers comes out of the experiment significantly stronger, taller, and faster than he once was. Immediately passed over for war by being put as a star in a USO show, Rogers hears news that his friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) may be dead, but he goes to search for him anyway as well as the rest of a captured band of soldiers. When he finds the missing soldiers, he encounters Johann Schmidt/ Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who is planning to take over the world to demonstrate his power. Once back on base, Rogers enlists the help of Bucky and gathers his own army to take down the Red Skull and his followers, a group known as HYDRA.
What I Thought: With all the major superheroes except for Captain America explained for next summer’s The Avengers, Steve Rogers is now given his time to shine. While Captain America is for the most part an entertaining film and a fun ride, it suffers in a few areas.
To look at the film as a whole, the set up of Rogers becoming a hero is well paced. We meet Steve in his smaller, less brawny state, and he’s a 90 pound man who just wants to help. He shows that size doesn’t matter, and he gets his chance to help out by being chosen for the serum. Once buffed up he as nowhere to go, as he is selected to perform in USO shows around the U.S. But when he learns of Bucky, he makes an effort to come to his friend’s aide, encountering HYDRA and the Red Skull. As soon as he mentions to Howard Stark (Tony Stark/Iron Man’s father, played by Dominic Cooper) about a new costume opposed to his USO show wardrobe, the movie races to the finish, demonstrating Captain America’s strength in a weak montage that was meant to show time elapsed for our hero and how much he is doing, but really, I found it to be kind of a cop out. Now yes, The Red Skull has built several bases for him and his crew, and we couldn’t really show all of them getting their fair due in being destroyed, so a montage would make the most sense. However, most of these brief clips were shown in trailers and tv spots, so ultimately it’s not now, and it takes away from Captain America showing off his full range of strength. In most scenes the action the Cap is performing is very quick, and while I did go into geek mode while Rogers was tossing his shield around like a boomerang, the action is over all too quickly, and the same goes for the end confrontation between Captain America and the Red Skull. Before you know it, Schmidt is gone (not dead, mind you), and Rogers is leading Red Skull’s potential dangerous aircraft into an icy abyss. Overall, I felt like the movie was racing to get Steve frozen to set everything up for the Avengers.
There is also a love interest angle here that didn’t work for me. Pre experiment, Steve meets agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), who develops a soft side for Steve. The two interact quite a bit, which is great, but once again, the time elapsed doesn’t work in the film for the characters. At one point post experiment Steve has a locket of Peggy and the showing of said locket was very weird. Along with the pace of the film, this romance stuff felt very rushed and did not sit well with me.
So what did work? Well first of all the special effects were awesome, notably in the stuff where Evans head was on a 90 pound frame; that element of the film was straight up SEAMLESS. Amazing job done there. Whatever action did take place, while quick, looked amazing and there was a lot of shots put into slow motion to enhance the sequences, most of which never went into “OH MY GOD ANOTHER SLOW MOTION SHOT” territory.
The film is based around an actual historical event, which was different, but good. Another term for this would be that the film was a “period piece” so it was cool to a) see a comic book movie with that atmosphere and b) take in the attention to detail. Seeing the streets of Brooklyn set in the 40s, the uniforms, cars, etc, was all really neat. I really dig those aspects in film, and this one is no different.
While the movie moves quick, the actors do get time to shine. Atwell is beautiful and I really enjoyed her character; she has a tough exterior but a soft one inside and she makes Carter likeable. Tommy Lee Jones also lends a hand as Colonel Chester Phillips, and Jones goes for a “rough around the edges” play on the role, but adds a bit of humor here and there. Stanley Tucci is the most quotable as Dr. Abraham Erksine, and he was one of the characters I liked the most. Hugo Weaving just seems to be loving his time as the villainous Red Skull, and while they never really gave him the time to demonstrate how serious of a threat he was (more exposition would’ve been nice, but we’ll see him in The Avengers, I’m sure), Weaving was a great choice for the antagonist.
And of course, there is Evans, who many people wrote off to play Steve Rogers/Captain America when his casting was first announced. Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I really thought he did a great job as the titular character, as he played both small and big Steve with a true passion for the character-and the fans, for he wanted to please them the most. This guy should get more roles after this I hope, as he’s becoming one of my favorites to watch after loving his turns in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Losers. Evans can play dramatic, funny, charming, and sympathetic, as he demonstrated all of those chops in this film. Great job, sir.
With all that said, Captain America isn’t one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen, but it isn’t the worst. It pales in comparison to its Marvel Studios brother (Thor) this season, but it’s a fun time. It’s entertaining for sure, and it definitely gets the geek in me excited for what’s to assemble next summer.
Final note-stay past the credits for this one, true believers!