Monday, July 25, 2011

The First Avenger

Saw "Captain America: The First Avenger" last night. I was a little doubtful going in, because while I have found Joe Johnston's films enjoyable in the past, he's never struck me as a particularly strong director. And I had been underwhelmed by the last couple of big budget superhero movies I saw ("Thor" and "Green Lantern").

And to tell the truth, Cap has never struck me as an interesting character. I've always loved his design; Kirby really did himself proud designing that costume. But the comics I've read never did much that was interesting with the character of Steve Rogers. Even the writers would regularly get bored with the guy and have him quit for a while, or, you know, shoot him in the head.

But I seriously loved the movie. The pacing is good, the action scenes much more intense than I expected (the later scenes really capture the frantic mass action Kirby would often evoke with Cap, leaping over the heads of dozens of Nazis while flinging his shield), and the Marvel mythos is worked in abundantly without being too intrusive. Bucky is reworked into an interesting and vital character, which I never expected. The art direction, special effects and period details shine.

But best of all is that this really is a movie about Steve Rogers. In the comics (see Hero Go Home on Saturday for a look at Cap's first appearance), Steve Rogers is a 4-F rejectee given a second chance to enlist via a special serum that makes him into a super-soldier. But once he becomes Cap, the comic never really looks back. Captain America becomes sort of iconic, and his commanding presence is such that even gods accept his orders without question. Which is cool and heroic, but also kind of boring.

But the movie never lets you forget that big Captain America grew up as little Steve Rogers, and Chris Evans really sells the character's heart and courage in a way that I never imagined he could from the previous projects I've seen him in.

It's not perfect. The movie does start to feel kind of long after a while, and if you're an old-school Marvel fan, there is a momentary bit of dislocation you have to work through when they introduce Sergeant Fury's Howling Commandos (never named as such) and you realize there will be no Sergeant Fury to lead them, because he's Samuel L. Jackson and in the movie-verse, he hasn't been born yet.

Bu overall, the movie kicks all kinds of ass. This is definitely one I'll add to my library when it comes out on disc.

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