Captain America: The First Avenger

Reviewed By Adrian Starland
Posted 08/03/11 13:58:41

"Cap"... and Trade"
3 stars (Just Average)

Is it just the old 1980s "former fanboy" in me that is being too "nitpicky" over the handling of the plethora of "superhero" fare assaulting us on the Big Screen? ...Or does it really come down to the suspicion that hardly anybody in Hollywood knows how to properly "handle" such complex characters and/or their legends?

Alright... so let me state immediately, all in the interest of "fair disclosure" I've never liked "Captain America" as a comic book character. I'd always found the character... well... too pretentious somehow (...sez the man who was a minor "Green Lantern" fanboy back in the ["Crisis-Era"] day). Perhaps it all came down to those helmet wings (which was also a silly touch, though with an at least somewhat "plausible" understanding in its usage, on the helmet of "The Flash"), and that big gaudy letter-A on his forehead, and that visually loud shield which always had the magical ability to "return to its master" no matter how & where he threw it and which would never give him so much as a hand-sting whenever he caught it, no matter how hard he threw it. Sure, I've always been able to "suspend disbelief" for utterly nonsense superheroes/supervillains such as "SHAZAM" ("Captain Marvel"), "Cloak" (of "Cloak and Dagger"), and "Killer Croc" (of "Batman" fame), to name just a few... but there's just something about ol' Cap that just doesn't ring "true" to me.

So with clear & unhidden bias going into the thing, I was barely half-stoked to find out how they tried to translate this character to screen THIS time: having been given poor treatment on television in the 1970s, then a less-poor and halfway watchable treatment in his first feature film project a couple of decades later. (Then there were the old matinee cliffhanger serials of our nation's bygone era, which by all indications did not seem all that bad but still clearly managing to stray quite a distance from the source material whether that was a plus or a minus is left to individual interpretation.)

But surprisingly enough to say, while settling my mind into this 21st century interpretation of the character I'd found myself really getting into the spirit of the story as it progressed.

We're introduced to "Hometown Hero" Steve Rogers, former scrawny weakling transformed into the first of what was supposed to have been a long line of "Super Soldiers" for the Good Ol' U.S. of A., who apprehends a Nazi spy who destroys any plans the U.S. may have had for assembling an army of supergrunts beyond their sole successful prototype. Since he's immediately declared "obsolete" by the Secret Ops arm of the military complex responsible for his creation, on account of the fact that he will no longer be able to have any similarly juiced-up compatriots to run with on the battlefield, Rogers is awarded a "consolation prize" by being promoted to the real, albeit honorary, rank of "captain" and is relegated to (and subsequently becomes best known for) pitching & selling America's World War II efforts overseas in the country's "Buy War Bonds" drive, playing off of his superheroic "spy smashing" celebrity. Thus, "Captain America" is born to the nation's collective consciousness.

This was all entertaining and intriguing UNTIL Capt. Rogers leaves the United States (as part of a USO-type "entertain the troops in the field" tour) and decides to use his newly minted "superpowers"-- wearing a beefed-up & hardened (both 'visually' and 'functionally') variation of the "Capt. America sez, Buy War Bonds" costume gimmick --to take on a rogue branch of Nazi military R&D known as "Hydra," which is headed by a power-greedy mastermind known as "The Red Skull" -- himself a "supersoldier" in his own right. (Seems ol' Cap got his "supers" by way of a German defector whose initial works were being recruited & sanctioned by the Nazis, and we are led to understand that the "Red Skull" was one of the defecting scientist's early relatively successful achievements of that research.)

Sadly, it's all a "downhill" ride from there. Everything feels completely out-of-place: timewise and stylewise: the movie at this point seems to immediately forget that it is a story set circa early-1940s and seems to throw that "minute inconvenience" out the window. Scenes become too loud, too stylized, and too (if I'm permitted to say this) science-fictiony. It begins feeling less like a superhero rehash and more like a lost episode of "TERMINATOR: The Sarah Conner Chronicles."

Not a terrible movie, and quite entertaining for an "origin story" up to a point, but one which is definitely lacking a certain "something" to make it a "passable" or well-received entry into the realm of "superhero" franchises.

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