Edited 7/25 917, 949, 950, 951
If you’re looking for a Captain America whose roots drink heavily of the 1940’s, you’re in the wrong movie. If you’re looking for nostalgic entertainment of a time that’s in the vein of Indiana Jones, you’re found it.
Karina Longworth, of The Village Voice, criticizes Marvel Studios’ “Captain America: The First Avenger” primarily on the basis of being historically inaccurate.
Admittedly the character was created in the 1940’s, during World War II, though I doubt that anyone is seeing the film looking for an exact interpretation of history during the period–and let’s be clear–the film isn’t very accurate, except in broad strokes.
To approach it otherwise makes little sense because this is a film that is going to be marketed all over the world. To make a jingoistic film–no matter how accurate that would have been–is nothing short of ridiculous because the last time that I checked, the purpose of making movies is to make a profit, and to make a film in the manner that Mrs. Longworth suggests would be essentially throwing away $140 million dollars.
After all, the movie, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is based upon a comic book, which may in some ways mirror what’s going on in contemporary society, but should by no means be expected to accurately reflect that society.
Then there’s the fact that I have seen very few films, never mind comic books, of any genre that accurately reflect what’s going on in this country with the nuance and sophistication necessary to do so successfully.
Besides, I get enough of jingoism as it is. I don’t want to see movies exhibiting what I think of as a pox on the American character unless there’s a reason to do so, or there’s something to be learned.
That being said, I suspect that a more literal interpretation of “Captain America: The First Avenger” would have been an interesting one, though ironically enough, not realistic, especially from a financial perspective.
Which is the one that matters (for better or for worse).
Now on to my review.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting in that it is an attractive interpretation of a time that existed in a very real sense for some, but was by no means inclusive of everyone that makes up the rich tapestry of this country.
Joe Johnston said that Indiana Jones was an inspiration for his version of Captain America, and you can see that in every shot. It’s a beautiful, well-acted period piece (except for the beginning and end, which take place in modern times) that takes itself seriously, yet visually reminds me of old time radio shows, with swashbuckling heroes, and women that aren’t afraid to face men on their own terms.
There’s action, but it’s not like that which tends to populate movies like the Transformers film, in that it is studied–in fact almost leisurely–and generally of a smaller scale. It’s a very thoughtful film, and like other Marvel Studios productions, filled with humor that comes from the interactions between individuals, as opposed to the forced–and often infantile–variety.
What’s most surprising is how the special effect of turning Chris Evans into a 100lb weakling is so well done (for the most part), and ends up easy to accept, unlike a similar effect done in Tron: Legacy not nearly as successfully.
Speaking of Chris Evans, he displays a range of subtle behaviors beyond anything that I have seen in him up to this point.
Bucky, in the comics was Captain America’s sidekick, here, played by Sabastian Stan (who surprisingly was also in “Hot Tub Time Machine,” and gave no indication that he has the range he displayed here), is edgier and seems to better understand that war is a brutal, violent enterprise in a way that Captain America does not.
Halley Atwell, as Agent Carter , is beautiful and carries herself admirably, and ends up being more than just a (very) pretty face.
Tommy Lee Jones isn’t comic relief in the film, but ends up with some of the best lines as a crusty colonel that doubts Steve Rogers, till he proves himself.
As the good guys are very good, the bad guys are very bad. Hugo Weaving plays Johann Schmidt, who will come to be known as The Red Skull–for very obvious reasons–who is so evil that even the Hitler wants nothing to do with him. Toby Jones plays Arnim Zola, who doesn’t look like he does in the comics, but there is an extremely clever foreshadowing scene that perhaps shows what he will become if he appears in any Captain America sequels.
Speaking of which, there are other clever foreshadowing scenes, such as when non-enhanced Steve Rogers grabs a shield to protect himself from a bully.
The film is clever in other ways, demonstrated by the its commentary on the treatment of various people of color, which is done in an oblique fashion, though oftentimes events are implied as being more complex than was being shown.
Everyone in the film plays their roles admirably, and for a film titled “Captain America: The First Avenger” there is a minimum of flag waving, and lots of enjoyment to be had.