Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011). Director: Joe Johnston.

The super-hero Captain America first appeared in comics during the golden age of the 1940's. He was brought back in the sixties with the explanation that he had been in suspended animation for decades. Captain America, The First Avenger takes the same tack, but decides to make the movie a long flashback to the forties, presumably hoping sequels and the upcoming Avengers movie will show Cap in action in the modern age. Steve Rogers is a short, skinny but brave and plucky young man who wants to serve his country but is judged 4-F. The character is so likable that you root for him to make it just as he is [the comics never delved too much into Roger's pre-Captain America life], although to be fair it is not his new physique [after he volunteers for an experiment] that wins him admiration, but his actions. For inexplicable reasons the script [by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and others]  includes a dumb middle section in which the new Cap is not sent into action but only used as a poster boy in war bonds advertisements, allowing other characters to call him "Tinkerbell" and "chorus girl." This has absolutely nothing to do with the comics. One intelligent change is that his boy partner, Bucky, has been turned into an adult, another soldier and good friend of Steve's [he never actually becomes a costumed partner, however].

Chris Evans is quite good as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Hayley Atwell is acceptable as Peggy Carter, who was a spy in the comics but here is a drill sergeant [not likely in the forties!]. Tommy Lee Jones, looking like the wreck of the Hesperus, plays an old warhorse colonel. Hugo Weaving is effective enough as Johann Schmidt, better known as the evil Red Skull, Cap's nemesis. [In this the Skull belongs to the evil organization Hydra.] The trouble with Captain America is that it doesn't have much of a story, the action scenes are all kind of blah and are poorly directed and edited for the most part, and it never catches the sheer colorful excitement of the comic book hero. Believe it or not, despite all the money spent on this production, it really isn't much better than that the low-budget Captain America with Matt Salinger. And it's never as thrilling or entertaining as the old cliffhanger serial, Captain America. It also at times has an old-fashioned sensibility that is not really explained away by the time period. NOTE: To read more of the sixties comic book adventures of Captain America, see The Silver Age of Comics.

Verdict: A major disappointment. **.

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