A reviewgitation with
Direcow, Kakita and Korgath
The ironically named Captain America: The First Avenger has finally hit our Singapore shores, and we at HereBeGeeks took the chance to view it as soon as we possibly could. Director Joe Johnston, chosen for his previous experience with period superhero The Rocketeer, helms this movie with ex-Fantastic Four member Chris Evans taking on the titular role. As the last of the slate of Marvel superhero movies before the huge Avengers movie next year, Captain America stands poised to whet the appetites of those waiting for the huge team up.
After Thor and X-Men: First Class, Captain America had big shoes to fill. Was it comparable to the rest of the Marvel Comics films this year? Definitely. Was it better? That’s a harder question to answer.
I think after some really good superhero movies this year fans are going to be spoilt for choice as to which movie is the best superhero movie for the year – and given the strong competition it’s sad to say that Captain America isn’t going to win.
I think of how this was supposed to have been the clincher for the superhero movie extravaganza that is 2011, with all the marketing hype doing its job in stoking your desire to see the film, only for it to never quite hit the mark. It seemed to be content with being a commendable superhero period piece, but one that was always less than the sum of its parts.
Personally, I don’t think the movie is that bad, but there are points in which one feels that there was just that extra spark missing. Coming after X-Men: First Class doesn’t help at all.
I think that the movie suffered from a bit of pacing (some bits seemed longer than it should have been), but overall it was a decent movie. I do however think that two big things push it to being less than hoped/expected.
Firstly, it has very tight parameters and requirements. It needed to set up Steve Rogers. It also needed to tie into continuity, with shoutouts to Thor (and the Tesseract) and Iron Man. To have to do all that, as well as establish his character and his relationships with Bucky Barnes and the Red Skull is a lot to have in a movie (oh and throw in that required romantic interest for the sake of drama), and perhaps they didn’t do it as well as they could have been. But that was a lot of eggs to juggle.
Secondly, check out Marvel’s contenders this year! Thor was an amazingly solid, funny movie, and X-Men: First Class knocked it out of the park! Captain America was a pretty darn good film, but pretty darn good doesn’t cut it this year.
They should have totally released this after X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Pacing was definitely a problem, hence why I felt as a whole it was a waste. There were definitely highlights in spades in many scenes, but other scenes just seemed to drag things down. It’s almost as if we were watching an extended director’s cut, rather than a tighter, seamless movie.
Agreed. Some bits in the middle seemed like they could’ve been shortened. But not only that, it feels like some niggly things could have been shifted around; like it seems that there could have been more drama with Bucky’s loss and the Red Skull’s reveal being later in the movie. Plus (like Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man) Hugo Weaving is one of those characters that is a lot scarier with his proper face on.
I think they really messed up Bucky’s storyline, given how they could have made a proper nod to how it happened in the comics – they had a huge chance to do it later on. I guess they did want to drive Steve forward with grief, but I don’t think he needed any to further reason to take out the Red Skull. The point where we lost Bucky? That was when it went flat for me. (One thing interesting: 3 guys took the flying fox down to the Hydra train, and you’d think the nameless African-American would be the red shirt. Except he’s not! Trick’s on you!)
Aye, poor Gabe Jones. Doesn’t get to be the red shirt, but doesn’t really get much screentime either. And well, Bucky’s loss left a strangely bitter taste in my mouth – mostly because I had hoped for a more heroic exit like the one in the comics.
The irony was that I actually enjoyed the sections of the movie I was ready to hate, while feeling dissatisfied by the sections of the movie I had come prepared to gush about.
First the good bits. When I first heard news that Cap was going to become part of some USO show I. WAS. HORRIFIED. That had never been alluded to in the comics for a second, and it was practically sacrilege to even consider. Yet, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it made complete sense – the costume was perfect, the scene with “Hitler” was right out of Captain America #1 (which also had its time in the limelight).
My irony is that my favourite parts of Captain America was when Steve Rogers wasn’t Captain America yet. Fighting back when you’re super strong and invulnerable is easy. Fighting back when you know you’re going to lose and standing up anyway because you know it’s the right thing to do- That’s what makes a true hero.
Also, the choice of borrowing from Ultimate Captain America (with Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch getting special mentions in the credits) in terms of appearance – a purist’s nightmare that somehow made sense on screen, and the subsequent action sequences that followed are my personal favourite fight scenes (yes! Even without the circular shield!)
Oh, but those fights scenes with the circular shield are pretty awesome too, don’t get me wrong.
You do have to ignore how much he’s a walking target, really. There’s is nothing stealthy about walking around with that on your back.
A point which has been often made in the comics, especially in Ed Brubaker’s run. The implication is that Cap is the equivalent of a Sherman tank, not the sniper rifle (that becomes Bucky’s role in Brubaker’s permanent legacy).
Which is nicely referred to in the movie, it seems. I do get Brubaker’s point, but there were too many scenes of Cap trying to be stealthy.
What amuses me more is that EVERYONE fires at his shield! It’s made out of invulnerablanium, shoot somewhere else! I guess the concentric circles and stars just make people instinctively shoot the ‘target’.
And that is why an eye-catching shield works so well – your sights get drawn to it first. Speaking of which, I know they mentioned the movie had tons of easter eggs.
1) Phineas T. Horton’s “The Synthetic Man” – none other than the android Human Torch (aka Jim Hammond) making a cameo appearance at…
Howard Stark’s World Expo! The same one that we saw glimpses of in Iron Man 2.
2) Arnim Zola’s first appearance in a distorted, zoomed-in image of his face, not unlike his comic book likeness.
YES, ARNIM ZOLA WAS GENIUS.
3) Dum Dum Dugan shouting his classic battle cry “Wa-Hoo!” as he speeds off in the acquired Hydra tank soon after their jailbreak.
4) Bucky holding the shield and a gun while fighting in the Hydra train, a definite nod to his recent run as the new Captain America in comics.
5) The SHIELD Agent at the end of the movie (whose appearance is almost uncannily like Hayley Atwell’s, and for good reason too!) who calls in a “Code 13” when Steve Rogers breaks out of the SHIELD base. Though it wasn’t specified, fans would immediately recognise the callsign of Sharon Carter, niece to Peggy Carter, also known as Agent 13.
Amanda Righetti, credited as Shield Agent in this movie, has officially been cast as Sharon Carter in The Avengers. Nice spot, Pete!
There was such a reverence and subtlety to all these references – easily missed by mainstream fans but totally relevant to fans of the source material, that it only made the movie even more disappointing when it just never did deliver on all its potential.
Wai’s mentioned some crucial boo-boos above already, but I think director Joe Johnston just got too caught up in the details that he lost sight of the big picture. A classic case of missing the forest for the trees. Having purchased “The Art of Captain America: The First Avenger”, it becomes all the more apparent how much effort went into creating the movie’s mythology, only for the movie itself to let it down.
Personally, I think aside from the pacing the biggest point I would make is the acting. Chris Evans was surprisingly good at playing an earnest Captain America (what with his previous Scott Pilgrim and Fantastic Four portfolio), but Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) seemed to only be there as a romance board. And as scary as Hugo Weaving was, it was pointed out to me that he emoted a LOT more behind a mask in V-for-Vendetta than behind his Red Skull prosthetic in this film.
Oh, and maybe it’s because of X-Men: First Class, but I think Steve and Bucky could’ve done with more bromance, haha.
I totally agree, and I think a lot of it had to do with Johnston’s direction. Evans proved his acting chops and his leading man material with this movie, never once resorting to the cheap humour of his earlier movie portrayals. Atwell really drummed up the romance subplot, but was strangely restrained elsewhere.
Maybe you’re right. Peggy Carter didn’t do it for me, but it could have been writing/directing, more than acting.
And our once-reliable Weaving seemed to be phoning in his portrayal of malice personified. Without trying to defend the actors too much – even though I believe they’ve more than acquitted themselves in this movie – I think Johnston’s just not a people person. He proved that much when his appearance at San Diego Comic-Con 2010 was strangely underwhelming, requiring his unedited film reel (featuring the opening Norway scene with Hugo Weaving) to speak the volumes that he himself could not.
Definitely no complaints about Evans from me – he was just perfect for this role, and they did good with the CGI for him too! Toby Jones as Arnim Zola was perfect – and rather wasted. Tommy Lee Jones too stole quite a few scenes, this is him reminding us of how watchable he can be.
I think Tommy Lee Jones was practicing for his Kay lines in MIB3 (coming soon!).
I’m torn about his casting, really. On the one hand – he’s definitely the real deal among all the relatively young cast, bringing the gravitas and professionalism needed to ground the film. On the other hand, he plays Chester Phillips who, while key to the origin story of Cap, is hardly a memorable enough character to have required so much face time at the expense of everyone else (like Neal McDonough’s pitch perfect portrayal of Dum Dum Dugan).
At the end of the day, Johnston’s real credit comes from creating the awesome “retro-future” that is Marvel’s World War II. It is a vision to behold, very telling of the hours of work and brainstorming to make it one cohesive environment. I would highly recommend “The Art of Captain America: The First Avenger” as a companion piece, to redeem the movie as more than just popcorn entertainment, but an experiment in creating an altogether new era that is both innovative and yet visibly dated.
He did win an Oscar before… but it is strange that Marvel turned to him because of the Rocketeer. Didn’t anybody remember it didn’t do well? Jon Favreau might have done well with Iron Man after Zathura, but sadly you’re not going to see the same effect after Jumanji.
I LOVE THE ROCKETEER!
After all, this is the man to whom the Boba Fett design is credited to, who undoubtedly paid tribute to the Stormtroopers with his Hydra soldier designs (I do hope it’ll catch on among the hardcore cosplayers), not to mention the chase scene in the forest that had me visualising Ewoks at every corner.
For a moment, I did think we were on Endor.
Seriously, I loved the Hydra soldier designs, especially the incredibly awesome (if slightly flawed) double flamethrower design. Also, so much Star Wars emanating from the bike chase scene.
Well, they were pretty much stormtroopers with their aiming abilities anyway.
At my end of the day, my opinion is that Captain America was handled well. It’s just that with so much needing to be squeezed into the movie, something would have been dropped along the way.
Unfortunately, in this case it was the proverbial ball that was dropped. Captain America could’ve done better with a tightened pace, a leaner plot, and a director who was more interested in telling a story than prettifying it.
It gets a solid 7 from me – “good” that never quite reached “great”.
This felt a little like Green Lantern for me – lots of fun stuff, mostly pleased, but the little details they missed just ruin the experience. Not to say it’s as good as Green Lantern of course – it’s actually much better.
Thank god. You actually almost made me have to come over and hit you.
The point is that with such rich source material and so many things going right for the movie it’s almost unbelievable that they just missed out that little bit of extra. If you were to appreciate the movie I think it stands strongest on Evan’s portrayal, the CGI work and the designs, together with little cherries like the easter eggs Peter mentioned. But if you’re here to watch a riveting tale about how a man overcame the odds to fight the Nazis and prevailed, well, that was the first half an hour.
A solid 7.3 for me.
Is this the third best Marvel movie this year? Probably (I think it’s only juuust under Thor myself). But you also have to realise that it might also be the third best geek movie so far (with the caveat that we haven’t watched Cowboys and Aliens). Yes. I think it’s better than The Deathly Hallows part two. Deal with it.
Average rating : 7.267/10 and third place among our reviewgitations this year, edging out The Green Hornet.
P.S. Can I just say that Avengers teaser/trailer at the end was worth the price of admission alone? Joss Whedon please don’t fail me now.
Chances are he’ll kill half the people you love. It’s ok though, it’s the comics… they’ll come back. 😉
Stay for the after credits. Even better, buy a second show, and come in realllly late! And take off your glasses for that scene if you’re in a 3D cinema, it’s fully in 2D.