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Overall Rating
3.4

Awesome: 8.82%
Worth A Look: 26.47%
Just Average60.29%
Pretty Crappy: 4.41%
Sucks: 0%

7 reviews, 26 user ratings


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Captain America: The First Avenger
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by Erik Childress

"The First Gets The Last And He's More In The Middle"
3 stars

Joe Johnston, the former visual effects designer turned feature director, has had a rather remarkable unremarkable kind of career. Really all kinda just nice and good. With the exception of 1991's The Rocketeer, Johnston has specialized in a unique filmography of just fine work. Between Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, October Sky (his drama), Jurassic Park III and The Wolfman, I have emboldened him as Joe "Three Star" Johnston, a decent enough craftsman of FX-laden entertainment that has never quite achieved the next level of his revered contemporaries, but competent enough to be given more smiles and interest than your average hack. At the beginning of the 2011 summer with the uncertainty of Thor and Green Lantern's introductions and the recent inconsistencies of the X-Men series, a 3-star comic book flick sounded just about right and I gave Johnston the best chance of succeeding in this over-stuffed summer teaser for next year's big Avengers flick. And for the first hour he does. But as if egged on by some executive begging him to move the action along and wrap things up quickly, the second half puts a noose onto all its momentum and leaves us feeling more defeated than inspired.

Skinny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants nothing more than to do his part for the war effort in 1942. He has all the body strength of DJ Qualls but will stand up for what's right and, if necessary, take a beating from any bully (which is how he refers to the Nazis). His physical limitations have denied him a spot in the Army, but Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) recognizes his commitment and gives him a shot. Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) is not happy the doctor has provided him such a weakling for his special program of potential super soldiers, but he soon will notice that heart can mean more than brute strength. The key is to give Rogers both.

Due to a special serum designed by Erskine, Rogers is selected for an experiment that enhances his muscles and cause his metabolism to function at four times the normal rate. Even stoic Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) cannot wait to touch his new pecs once the experiment works. Meanwhile in the Fatherland, Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has found his own secret weapon while "the Fuhrer searches for trinkets in the desert" (wink, wink) and is planning on out-eviling Hitler for control of the world. Despite the imminent threat that is growing, Steve's powers are still untapped and he is instead used to sell the war effort as a more dashing Uncle Sam. That is until Steve discovers that his best friend from back home, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) has gone missing behind enemy lines. Now it is time to start kicking some ass. Or not.

There is some deserving appreciation of a comic book film that is not immediately obsessed with action over character. The best origin stories from Superman to Spider-Man to Batman Begins all carry this trait outfront, allowing us to get to know the eventual hero, his conflict and the growing evil they will have to confront. Captain America does this element just about right, not even reaching the experiment phase until 35 minutes into the film and then delaying his potential as a propaganda machine with just the right amount of humor and awareness of Rogers' unlimited bravado inside an insecure body and mind. Evans' work as Rogers is spot-on, tough but unsure and avoids the lapse into cockiness that was the staple of his turns (yet also the highlights) in the abysmal The Losers and Fantastic Four films. Yet this is not just him turning off the charm in favor of the serious tough guys of Sunshine and Street Kings. His Steve Rogers is a model of the best traits of the average American and it is that element of virginal audacity that equates him to the bright-eyed kids who read comic books and play sports with the dreams of someday being a hero. And maybe it is that middle-of-the-road treatment of the character that makes Joe Johnston the perfect director to handle this material. If he was actually allowed to handle it at all.

Ever since the post-credits coda of the first Iron Man, each new film in the Marvel universe has felt like a welcome placemat for 2012 when all their heroes would join forces in the wet dream fantasy of every comic book geek out there. I may not be one of those particular geeks, nerds or fanboy comicocks, but the thought of seeing Indiana Jones, Robocop, Mad Max and James Bond in the same movie would jerk something out of me too. But the quicker we seem to get to that launch date, the quicker our heroes are being forced into meeting the demands of a plotline a year or more down the road. Iron Man 2 suffered greatly because of this. Thor survived long enough by incorporating S.H.I.E.L.D. into the action rather than simply being a recruiting agency. Captain America hereby becomes the last chance to fully flesh out the ten-hour prequel and as third acts go, few rank as so wholly anticlimactic.

The final scene aside (which comes thankfully before the end credits rather than after), elements of the film's storyline are teased rather than provided the full exposition. Schmidt's acquirement of the glowing blue cube will mean more to those who understood what the post-credits coda of Thor actually implied. Reference to Odin aside, it makes for a handy blue laser gun. But the real problems begin once the film shifts into action gear. Simply put, these scenes are severely lacking in excitement and ingenuity as if the following conversation took place behind-the-scenes:

EXECUTIVE: "Joe, loved what you did with this first hour. Thanks for telling American moviegoers who this Captain guy is."

JOHNSTON: "Thanks, now wait until you see the ideas I've got for these action sequences."

EXECUTIVE: "Ooooooo yeah. Are you really going to have time for that though?"

JOHNSTON: "What do you mean?"

EXECUTIVE: "Well, we don't want to make this thing too long. How much time do you need?"

JOHNSTON: "Well, aside from the final fight and that whole Forever Young ending you guys want from me, I've got this whole rescue mission and this really cool train set piece I want to try."

EXECUTIVE (looking at his watch): "OK, but can you speed it up a little? You already have that really solid action scene in the first hour. How much more do you really need? Gotta run. Good luck."

And thus, the second half of Captain America plays out as such. The aforementioned rescue mission is the longest in the film, but is little more than hide, duck and punch, give the rescued some guns, watch them run and shoot and let the villain have the big reveal he has built up to. Never reaches a crescendo, but at least it has a build-up towards an objective. Subsequently, the film would love to own the title of a classic WWII adventure film complete with a cadre of mission partners (including Derek Luke and Neal McDonough) who are never properly introduced and may as well just be referred to as "Asian", "Big Brawn" and "Chocolate Mousse." A montage of accomplishments does not exactly scream a great escape from the guns of navarone across the river kwai. It is its own bridge just to get to bigger, more realized set pieces, right? Wrong. The film's one assured slam-bang set piece aboard a moving train through the mountains ends up calling more attention to its shoddy effects work (that look even worse in 3-D) than what is occurring within the actual mission and the feelings it stirs when its all over. The eventual mano-a-mano between the Captain and Schmidt feels even more anti-climactic as its Avengers initiative becomes clear and we are left wondering precisely what Captain America did at all for the war effort against Hitler. Hint: nothing.

Those who want to accentuate Captain America by referring to it as a blueprint for how comic book movies should be made, must footnote such hyperbolic statements with an asterisk referring to the first half. Christopher Nolan, Sam Raimi and Richard Donner showed us how the first two parts of a comic character adaptation should be done and to lump Johnston's rushed venture into their league is akin to propaganda without perspective; an area of this story that may have been explored into something really interesting if this was more than just a one-off set-up for a bigger movie. Steve Rogers' adventures through the wars and enemies of the 20th century could have made for a really fascinating series that still maintained a kind of newsreel serial approach reminiscent of the heroes of its days. Alas though, Paramount has more pressing business to attend to and while they know you'll stay for the actual movie, enjoy this extended trailer in the meantime. With The Rocketeer still in his pocket (and we'll just forget about Hidalgo altogether), Joe "Three Star" Johnston can still hold onto his nickname. We'll just remember that his resume score was seamlessly averaged out by the very average Captain America.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20586&reviewer=198
originally posted: 07/21/11 19:00:00
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
10/01/14 Horror Lover 3.5 stars. All around good but a game Weaving is underused some. Climax fight too short 4 stars
4/14/14 Richard Brandt Retro-future-WWII flick is best I'd seen in ages. Chris Evans' peformance is a revelation. 5 stars
10/28/13 Sissy Gifford Loved the characterization. I could have passed on the occultic subplot, but otherwise A+. 4 stars
1/31/13 Charles Tatum Good stuff, not the worst thing out there. 4 stars
11/01/12 JP Ward Joe "2.5 Star" Johnston 2 stars
8/03/12 Dr.Lao Earns a salute 4 stars
7/20/12 Sean Harrison Excellent lead in to the Avengers. 4 stars
1/09/12 KingNeutron Peggy Carter was miscast - otherwise just OK - to see before Avengers 3 stars
10/18/11 Magic If it only spent more time on Captain America, rather than setting up the Avengers cashcow. 4 stars
9/26/11 sake02mo little tired of super hero movies 3 stars
9/11/11 Captain00Kirk It ain't Thor, but it's still entertaining. www.youtube.com/Captain00Kirk 4 stars
8/12/11 Eric Ivins Maybe the best Super Hero movie this summer 4 stars
8/10/11 Jon Second favorite superhero of the summer, right behind X-men first class 5 stars
8/10/11 Quang Thịnh Simple. Bad movie. 2 stars
8/07/11 danielle heredia captain america was awesome..still like green lantern more though! 4 stars
8/07/11 Erica D. It definitely wasn't as good as I expected it to be. 3 stars
8/04/11 Robert Trebor Nice Period Work, Fine Acting 4 stars
8/02/11 mr.mike Good but not great superhero flick. 4 stars
7/31/11 Jizz Suffers from a terminal case of Implausibly Stupid Villains Syndrome. And plot holes. 3 stars
7/29/11 John Mehh, thought it was okay just after, but now liking it less and less. 2nd half = trash! 2 stars
7/27/11 The Big D The 1970s t.v. movie with Reb Brown was better. 3 stars
7/26/11 Aussie Lady Wonderful movie, in every way! We need more like it! 5 stars
7/25/11 J. Steckelberg Like Thor, Just a step below "great." Great actors like Jones and Tucci make it even better 5 stars
7/24/11 Darkstar Loved every second of it. 5 stars
7/22/11 Bruce Evans Love it.The best Superhero film since Iron Man.Chris Evans rocks! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Jul-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Oct-2011

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Jul-2011
  DVD: 25-Oct-2011




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