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By ERIC HARRIS, Film Reviewer
The summer of superheroes is nearly over, but “Captain America: The First Avenger” has been one of the most anticipated films of the season. If you’re not suffering from comic book burnout at this point, “Captain America” makes for a fun, entertaining summer film that is a bit different than other movies of the genre because of the time period it takes place in. The film may not feature any largely memorable moments and doesn’t really have much in the way of style, but it is definitely worth a watch.
“Captain America” is an origin story that takes place during World War II. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny, sickly man who just wants to fight for his country but can’t get a doctor to let him in. Enter Stanley Tucci as a German doctor with a special serum that can create a super soldier and Steve Rogers becomes Captain America.
That’s enough for a synopsis because as an origin story the whole movie is about Rogers’ transformation, so to explain it further would ruin a bit of the movie. As for acting, Evans makes a likable and believable hero and Tucci has a few good scenes as a mentor-type. There are many more characters in the film that deserve a mention, especially because the cast of this film is so strong. Hugo Weaving stands out as Red Skull, the Nazi villain of the film. Weaving tweaks his voice to the point that it sounds eerily similar to Willem Dafoe and it fits the character quite well. Toby Jones was a nice addition as Red Skull’s scientist. Hayley Atwell works fine as Rogers’ handler-love interest. But it’s Tommy Lee Jones who steals the show as the cranky colonel. Every scene he was in was entertaining because of his presence.
There are a few other actors and characters that could be mentioned but that would just be exhausting to read and that is part of the problem with “Captain America.” Some characters take a backseat because of the bloated cast. Take, for instance, Captain America’s team of soldiers. Some of them are portrayed by very good actors like Derek Luke and Neal McDonough but they get almost nothing to do. If this were a sequel rather than an origin story there could have been much more time devoted to that crew, who instead only get small moments usually played for laughs.
“Captain America” provides quite a few laughs, actually. The best gags involve the reference to Captain America as a character in the movie itself. This gives the filmmakers the opportunity to play with the original uniform and the iconic image from the first comic book of Captain America punching out Adolf Hitler. The film actually works best in these moments because they serve to build the character of Captain America, though they take up a bit too much of the runtime.
Another problem with Captain America is that it takes so long for him to actually become a superhero, and even then he’s kind of a vague hero. This is just the problem of an origin story since you have to spend so much time building up to the character that you, the audience member, already know he will become. It can get a little boring. As for the vagueness, it’s never really explained what makes Captain America all that special. He’s a bit stronger and a bit faster than a normal human, but when compared to other superheroes he comes off as a bit plain and even weak. But we’ll see how he really compares to them when he shows up in next year’s “The Avengers.”
Captain America can be kind of a plain, straightforward hero so it’s fitting that the action of this film is straightforward as well.
There isn’t much in the way of style in “Captain America” but it does feature plenty of action and it’s the kind of action that is easy to follow. The film is also in 3-D and while it makes a few scenes look decent because of explosions and debris, it is largely useless, just as 3-D has been in nearly all of its live-action incarnations.
The film actually looked great overall, largely due to the time period it takes place in. The World War II setting sets this film apart, in a good way. The visual effects were impressive as well, mainly the scrawny version of star Chris Evans. He looks realistic as a 90-pound weakling, but they kept his voice the same, which made it unintentionally funny every time he spoke. But that’s not a deal breaker or anything for this movie.
Overall “Captain America” is a fine summer film that should appeal to many people. It may be a bit anti-climactic and it might be a little plain, but it’s still entertaining and funny enough to watch. You can skip the 3-D, though.
A Cannelton resident, Harris is a movie buff and blogger who posts reviews of films at www.canneltoncritic.com.