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>> Friday, July 22, 2011

Finally, it arrives. After a small post-credits teaser following Iron Man three years ago, the last movie in the pre-Avengers line-up arrives. Other films in that line-up have included Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and the disappointing Thor. While The Avengers (scheduled to kick off Summer in May 2012) looks epic, is Captain America good enough to rally the troops and build up enough excitement to make The Avengers the success Marvel is hoping for? You bet it is, despite some of the imperfections.

A couple years back after Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk it was the hot topic to be speaking about 2011 in the series. People were wondering who was going to play Thor and Captain America and how the films would turn out. We all know the mess Thor was, but I have to say I'm pleased with the casting choices for Cap. I've always been a fan of Chris Evans (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Losers) so I'm glad to see him in a roll that seems to fit well. For a while, there was talk of The Office's John Krasinski getting the roll of the red, white and blue hero. I won't lie, I sort of rooted for him to take the lead at first. He's a charming guy and seems to have that 'rah! rah! sis boom bah!' American spirit that's needed for a roll like this. It only takes one viewing of Captain America though to recognize the movie would have been just ... weird with Krasinski in it.

In the opposing roll to Evans' hero, Hugo Weaving (Transformers, The Matrix) takes on yet another villain role as Red Skull - the Yin to Steve Rogers' Yang. Red Skull is said to be Hitler's right hand man, that is until he grows tired of Hitler's antics and decides to get really serious with the supernatural interest originally put in place by old Adolf himself. Red Skull uses a force he states was left by the Gods for man to find, also known as the cosmic cube (teased about in the Thor post-credits). His plans for the cube's energy are nothing less than that of taking over the world. Skull uses the energy to build tanks and guns, nothing completely unlike the futuristic weapons we would see in Iron Man. However, it seems the army is at its wit's end and doesn't know how to stop him. So, why not use Tony Stark's father, Howard Stark's (Dominic Cooper) genius and combine it with an experimental serum created by German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (played perfectly by Stanley Tucci). The result is Captain America.

While it seems a lot of comic book to movie translations fail (I really, really hated Thor), I don' t think anybody will be really disliking Captain America. While it lacks the certain finesse that made X-Men: First Class such a good film, it offers a lot to those who have experienced the older Captain America movies (via an awful Broadway costume) as well as those that dig the comics. You also get some great hints as to a potential plot for The Avengers movie (stay tuned post-credits as usual) as well as some wonderfully done action sequences (when they're piratically done) -despite a slight overdose of cheese. The only part that threw me off were some of the moments where it was clear there was too much CG to make anything look real. It was mostly purposeful, but I wanted the movie to have that nitty gritty forties feel we're used to seeing in movies from that era. Especially when Captain America is riding his bike out of a building as it explodes - reminded me a lot of Machete-type of effects, or something you would see in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Thankfully, we're not subjected to it over and over. I will have to say, however, I was super impressed by the CG look of Steve Rogers' pre-buff mode.

Ultimately, Captain America: The First Avenger gets an open door. Unfortunately, it was one of the summer blockbusters I was looking most forward too and it didn't fully live up to expectations. I think a movie that takes place in that era had an opportunity to be something really special (and not only because the forties is my favorite decade). It could have channeled a number of feelings from that decade including film noir, but it didn't. As a popcorn flick and something to get you excited about next year's Avengers, it doesn't disappoint. The performances are fine and the running time sufficient. There's also a decent amount of humour mixed in with a love story that make this a borderline date movie. But I triple dog dare you not to get the theme for Team America stuck in your head at least once during Captain America. It's almost damn near impossible. America, f**k yeah!

*Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures


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