Having successfully brought to the big screen Spider-Man and Iron Man, it was now the time for Marvel to unleash undoubtedly their most noble and patriotic super hero – Captain America. Sub-titled The First Avenger to fit into the Marvel overarching plan for The Avengers movie released this year, would the company be able to maintain or even improve on the standard?
This origin film is based in the Second World War where a scientific division of Hitler’s regime – Hydra – is pursuing a precious power source known as the Tesseract. The man at its head, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) was a part of the Nazi inner circle, but now his quest is for something larger – he is a man of science who knows that myth holds the secret to the power of the gods. He is also the first in an experiment to create the first super soldier due to a serum made, under duress, by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). He finds what he’s looking for in Norway and immediately begins using it to build Hydra as a force to conquer the world with the assistance of his underling Amim Zola (Toby Jones).
Meanwhile Erskine manages to escape and establish a life for himself working for the Allies and endeavours to develop the serum and use it on a specifically chosen volunteer in the US Army. Meanwhile the puny, sickly but determined Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) tries yet again to enlist to the army but is rejected for the umpteenth time because of his frail physical condition. His friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) meanwhile meets the requirements and says goodbye to his little chum at a vital time as Rogers outlines why he must go and help fight and sacrifice himself for the cause. It’s vital for as he talks his speech is overheard by Erskine who based on such earnest human characteristics manages to get Rogers onto the selection scheme to choose the right candidate for the serum project.
Rogers continues to prove himself in the selection process despite the misgivings of the army officer in charge Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). Whilst doing so he endears himself to the English officer responsible for for aspect of operations, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Overcoming all odds Rogers is suitable for the experiment and succeeds, with fatal consequences. Again needs to overcome odds, Rogers goes onto become Captain America a symbol of America’s quest to beat Nazi and a real soldier in the search for Schmidt aka The Red Skull.
At times this film is like an overt propaganda exercise for everything that’s good and right about America and the values of truth, justice and the rest of the stuff. That can be a bit annoying. The film is definitely true to the spirit of the comics that are the basis to the character. The themes it explores in the action are commendably presented whether it’s about overcoming odds (not sure you picked up on that), dealing with bullies or trusting people to come up with the goods.
This is an action film and does very well in the action department. One thing you are sure of is that the film does not let the mood slow down too much and there’s enough at stake to keep you interested from start to finish. The lead character of Captain America is a hard one to cast. The movie does tremendously well in contrasting the pre-experiment Rogers physically with the post-experiment Captain America. Yet this is not a body-building exercise, the role needs to embody those noble American values without being too ‘perfect’ in character. Chris Evans is a good choice, without being great. He handles the role well but doesn’t make the impact that the likes of Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Reeves as Superman.
Lee Jones plays the part of Col. Phillips with ease knowing the role fits him like a glove. He is the main source of any comic relief and some of his one=-liners still make me chuckle just thinking about it. Atwell as the love interest works fine. The real outstanding performance however belongs to Weaving as The Red Skull. It would be easy to play up the villain part as an extreme comical type or to over-act the part. Weaving invests the role with a sinister vein because he’s real as an obsessed type. He is not putting together an evil scheme, in his mind, he is achieving what he was destined to achieve. That level of realism makes a villain all the more dangerous and thus convincing. Also worth mentioning Toby Jones as Zola who is also superb in his role.
There is no doubt that this is a good movie. It has the composite parts that make for a good movie – good acting, good storytelling, good visual effects, good use of music, good pacing, good direction, good use of humour and even a good ending. It ticks the boxes in that sense. On its own merits it is good and well worth watching wherever possible. Comparatively, however, as to whether it goes beyond good to great as some other super hero films has reached and it doesn’t quite reach those high notes. There are no outstanding moments, there are no outstanding characterisations. It works well on a level of introducing us to the character and his importance in future movies.