Monday, July 25, 2011

"Captain America" is summer's superhero

Captain America was my most anticipated film of this year, and I was seriously worried that it would fail to meet my expectations. However, after seeing the film, I think I have to say that this is the most satisfied I have been with a film since The Two Towers, and this movie was everything I hoped it would be.

Much of my excitement sprang from trailers that showed the film would be a combination of war film and superhero movie. Fortunately, director Joe Johnson pulled this off perfectly, incorporating classic war film elements (a mission behind enemy lines, a squad of elite commandos) with the superhero origin story in a way that felt natural.

So happily, this passes X-Men: First Class and Thor to become my #1 movie of the year and I can only say that if you are a fan of any of these movies, than don't forget to stay through the credits, because that's something you won't want to miss.

Chris Evans turns in a great performance as Steve Rogers, and the Joss Whedon influence can be seen in a character who is much less somber than the versions of Cap that I'm familiar with. Evans is backed by great performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci doing his best Albert Einstein impression and Dominic Cooper channeling Howard Hughes (the inspiration for Howard Stark).

Meanwhile, Hugo Weaving's Red Skull is a much more legitimate villain than other Marvel movies (apart from Thor) have presented, and Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter may be the strongest female character that Marvel has done so far. Finally, the Howling Commandos, who get only a few minutes of screen time, still manage to have their own defined and awesome characters.

The only character that felt underwritten was Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan, but I will say that having read Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America, I can only hope that this was done intentionally to set the character up for future movies.

Finally, listen closely for a Raiders of the Lost Ark reference. Johnson has cited Raiders as a major influence on Captain America and it shows, with a style that is reminiscent of the days when action films didn't depend solely on computer effects, but instead on the characters and meaning of the action they conveyed.

Captain America has more heart than the summers other tentpole films (Transformers, Green Lantern), and unlike Harry Potter doesn't threaten to drown itself by trying to do too much. Also, unlike Super 8, it doesn't get too caught up in its references. So what can I say? I loved this movie.

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