“America! Fuck yeah!” Those are the words that were etched upon my mind after I got out of Captain America.
The entire film is a homage to the garish and colourful world of comic books; it cherishes the source material it heralds from, ignoring the trend of realistic and modernised updates. And for fans of comic book superheroes, there’s plenty of entertainment dotted throughout the film: for example, Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) encounters numerous shield incarnations, including a dustbin lid, before he ends up with the iconic emblem-bearing buckler, made from super-rare Vibranium and given to him by Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Iron Man’s dad. There’s also a brief Wilhelm Scream for those film geeks amongst us.
Rogers starts the film as a determined weakling, spirited but ineffectual. After German ex-patriot Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) recognises his potential he is conscripted into a small infantry division, headed up by the hardy Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). The ever-vibrant Tommy Lee Jones, who seems to have not aged in years barring his slowly melting facial features, puts in his best performance since No Country for Old Men, with the full extent of his onscreen presence coming to the fore. Hayley Atwell is also excellent as the protagonist’s love interest: Dominic Cooper, Sebastian Shan and Toby Jones round of the supporting cast proficiently.
Mention must of course go to Hugo Weaving, whose turn as Johann Schmidt — and later ‘the Red Skull’ — may seem over-the-top but fits perfectly into the film’s general backdrop.
One of the major areas Captain America falls down in are the numerous showcase scenes, particularly in the latter third of the movie. Visually they can be a bit ropey (a word which sums up large parts of the film), and they never have the buildup to make them exciting or enthralling. There’s certainly a disconnection between the events onscreen and the audience — we never really care for the characters, nor do we empathise with their plight. If Captain America had been fighting the nazis head on, even a British audience may have soaked up some of the all-American patriotism. However, in his quest against the fictional HYDRA, we are as distant from him as we are to Thor, a hero who emerges from another world entirely. The aforementioned heroes will of course be teaming up in the forthcoming Avengers movie — which you can catch a snippet of if you stay for the post-credits sequence — and that fact does shine through in both Captain America and Thor; they almost don’t quite feel like proper movies, more like a series of shorts that will build up to the final event.
That’s not to say they’re bad movies; on the contrary Captain America is another decent addition into this summer’s comic book releases. Personally, I’d put it just behind X-Men First Class and Thor respectively, but the margins are slim and opinions will differ. Regardless, Captain America is a decent evening at the cinema and contains enough self-awareness of its medium to please film fans.