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McCoy on Movies: Captain America: The First Avenger

McCoy on Movies: Captain America: The First Avenger
Chris Evans is back in costume as another of Marvel Comics’ best known superheroes. But is
Captain America: The First Avenger a great patriot or does he deserve a dishonorable discharge from your summer movie viewing?
"All righty ... What would the Human Torch do in a situation like this?!" Former weakling turned super soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finds himself in a rather sticky situation overseas on the front lines of World War II in a scene from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER.
Credit: Merrick Morton. © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Stanely Tucci, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Kenneth Choi ... And at least one other actor you'll recognize.

WRITER: Eric Eason (screenplay); Roger L. Simon (story)

DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston

WEB SITE: http://captainamerica.marvel.com/

THE PLOT: Set in the early days of the Marvel Universe in the 1940s, Captain America: The First Avenger stars Chris Evans - formerly seen as superhero Johnny Storm, the "Human Torch" in the two less-than-stellar Fantastic Four movies - as Steve Rogers. A self-described "kid from Brooklyn," Rogers has one desire in life: To serve his country and fight as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II. Unfortunately for Rogers, his long litany of health issues makes him unfit to serve. So, while his friend James Buchanan 'Bucky' Barnes (Sebastian Stan) gets to go off to war, he has to stay behind.

 

That all changes, however, when Rogers happens to run into an unassuming man by the name of Erskine (Stanley Tucci) at the "World of Tomorrow" expo featuring a presentation by weapons impresario Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper). Erksine tells Rogers he can give him a chance to serve his country via an experimental program, helping him get enlisted for basic training under the watch of the stern Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), an English special agent who is nearly as no-nonsense as her colleague.

 

Erskine reveals himself to be a scientist who defected from Germany to flee the tyrannical Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), the leader of HYDRA, the scientific research division of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party. You see, Erskine had developed a way to take an ordinary man and transform him into the ultimate version of himself physically. However, the serum also amplifies the personality of said person ... And in the case of Schmidt - who is looking for a mystical power source that Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) can help him use to turn himself into the good he believes himself to be.

 

Erskine's experiment turns out to be a rousing success, leaving Rogers transformed into a specimen of physical human perfection ... Which is what he will need if he is to help take on Schmidt, HYDRA and head into the fray on the frontlines of World War II as (cue title card)!

 

THE TAKE: Of the three Marvel Studio releases this summer, X-Men: First Class is by far the best of the bunch. However, of the two movies released this year – May's Thor and now Captain America - as a prelude to 2012's comic book fan boy orgy The Avengers, the tale of the skinny kid turned patriot is by far the better film. For while Thor featured an arguably better performance by the actor portraying its title character, Captain America is by far a better movie as whole.

 

One of Marvel's oldest properties, Captain America was literally born in a different era. And by era, I don't just mean century, I mean in terms of mentality. While I was not alive back then, watch 10 minutes of media coverage from World War II newsreels and the public's reaction back then versus today's coverage and attitudes and one will quickly discover just how different things are. Starting with the Nazi threat to the Cold War, Vietnam and the ongoing Middle East situation and things are simply not the same.

 

Captain America director Joe Johnston is smart in his approach to handling this facet of his film, performing a great balancing act in showing how military propaganda influenced and the public while paying respect to the motivations and dedications shown by the young men who valiantly signed up to serve. Evans is particular good at this task, leaving the humor to others without coming off as a robotic, muscle bound mess. Instead, you root for his portrayal of Steve Rogers from start to finish as his dedication and level-headedness keep him from becoming what, essentially, he actually is (at least in comic books) - a caricature of the idea of the perfect American patriot.

 

The film's cast likewise does a commendable job of making their characters fit the film's bare bones storyline; in fact, if there is a complaint about Captain America, it's that some of the film's supporting characters - particularly Bucky and the Schmidt (a.k.a. the "Red Skull") - are not as developed as they could be. While Bucky is more essential to the comic books, he feels like a forced inclusion in the film as opposed to a true sidekick nature. Likewise, the Red Skull's origin would be more effective if shown as opposed to told and the foreshadowing of all his evil intentions was not so easy to see coming. Neither situation spoils the fun enough to take away from the enjoyment of watching the film, especially given the way the last 20 minutes is handled.

 

PARTING SHOT: A film that celebrates the birth of the modern superhero while cleverly paying homage to both the golden age of comic books and patriotism with both tongue-in-cheek humor and respect, Captain America: The First Avenger will make for a great movie experience for wanna-be heroes both young and old all summer long.

 

RATING (OUT OF FOUR BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

Tabari McCoy -

Tabari McCoy is Cincy Chic's movie critic. You can check out more of his work on his blog at McCoyonMovies.BlogSpot.com and follow him on Twitter at @tabarimccoy

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