[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B0089TNZ2E][/pullquote] 2011 will be remembered as a year of franchise comic book films. We saw The Green Lantern and Thor released to negative and positive reactions respectively and in late July, we were treated to Captain America: The First Avenger. This film along with Thor prove a major benchmark in Marvel Films’ build toward their big 2012 release, The Avengers. In an attempt to bring together the stars of each movie into one super-film, sacrifices were made and other films treated poorly (Iron Man 2) in the name of The Avengers. Thor escaped this issue, but Captain America wasn’t so lucky.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a young man with a small frame. Intent on joining the army to serve his country in World War II, he keeps trying to enlist, but is told that due to a variety of health related issues he is ineligible. That is until he is discovered by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who admires his bravery and courage and gives him a chance to fulfil his dream, by becoming a test patient in the Super Soldier Programme. Embued with enhanced physical attributes, Roger becomes a symbol for the allies against the rise of the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving doing his best Werner Herzog impression) and the insidious Hydra organisation.
Directed by Joe Johnston (Rocketeer), Captain America: The First Avenger takes place almost entirely in the 1940s and much like Rocketeer, has a genuine period quality to it. The camera has a slight soft-focus that gives the impression of watching old footage, which helps to create a nostalgic version of our past and really helps to engage the audience in the action. You can’t help but root for the underdog character given the power to stand-up to bullies when no one else will. In fact one of the stand-out scenes is the transformation from weedy kid to Men’s Health cover super soldier.
Captain America sees limited action in the first two thirds of the movie and plenty of time is given to flesh out Steve’s character, which is a nice change of pace from a lot of comic book films. The supporting cast is strong and Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones are filled with enough world-weary banter to lighten some of the darker portions. Weaving is cold, maniacal and slightly insane in his performance as the Red Skull, which is perfect. His lack of involvement in the main story is a little disappointing however and it is this that really hurts Captain America in the end.
With so much time spent creating interesting characters on the Allies side, very little time is given to Hydra, which means when we reach the finale it feels rushed and lacks any real peril. Add to that the horrible decision to fast forward to the future and you can’t help but feel that all the good work previously is completely wasted and Captain America runs out of steam and then just fizzles out. It’s a shame, because up until the train escapade the script and action was quick-paced, never boring and told a great story.
With one eye on the marquee The Avengers film, Captain America’s ending is annoyingly and fatally fumbled, undoing all of the character-driven antics beforehand. It is a shame that Cap’s big moment is stolen from him just to build-up to another film and I can’t help but feel that if it had come out a couple of years earlier that we wouldn’t have been subjected to this blatant extended trailer finish (speaking of which stay to the end of a quality stinger).