Thursday, July 21, 2011

My No-Spoiler Review of Captain America

Pure. Win.

Well, maybe one spoiler. There is a movie, and it is called Captain America: The First Avenger.

As I start to type this, I walked out of the theater less than 45 minutes ago, so I'm going to jump in while it's still fresh. Let's tackle it by pinning down some typical criticisms of this sort of movie, and maybe draw parallels to some others, and see how this stacks up.

In short
It's great. Go see it. Twice. This is on par with Iron Man or Batman Begins. They totally nailed it. Do you remember that feeling you had after walking out of Spider-Man, where you felt like you felt like you had just seen the first real translation of a comic book to the big screen in a serious, legit, big-budget way (all due respect to X-Men, which as the true pioneer had to hold that little bit back)? That's how this feels to me.

This movie has too much setup for the sequel!
I'd say that this was probably true for many of Marvel's takes, such as Thor and Iron Man 2, and I've heard it stated against Captain America. That's bulsh. There aren't any weird caveats or side trips that don't belong in the context of the film. Yes, we see the end of Cap's WWII story and aren't left thinking that he died in his last act of heroism (SPOILER ALERT: Cap lives to see the modern world!!!!), so maybe you could say that the end explicitly "sets up" Avengers, but it really doesn't.

Too many extraneous characters were thrown in!
Green Lantern and, arguably, Thor, both suffered from including characters from their respective mythologies that, while fans expected to see them, didn't really do anything to advance the story, and the time spent on them left those outside the nerdstream wondering, "What was the point of that?" I think that First Class certainly had a touch of that, as did other X-films (in this case I call the phenomenon "too many mutants syndrome"). Cap doesn't suffer from that. Characters from his WWII days are around, but no time is spent on them beyond what is important to Cap, his mission, and the story. Bucky is important. Red Skull is important. Peggy Carter is important. Thus, they are given screen time both with and without Cap, something that the likes of Dum Dum Dugan and the rest of the Howling Commandoes don't get, because they aren't as important.

The origin took up the whole dang movie!
The origin of Cap is obviously a major part of the movie. In retrospect, I always think that Spider-Man (love it as I do) suffers from a dragging origin story. Sometimes you can't avoid it, but Cap's origin never drags and flows seamlessly into the meat of the picture. I'm sure we can discuss this later, but in short, this is because Cap doesn't go through the growing pains that most heroes do. In this film, he's pretty much always the same guy, both before and after Project Rebirth. He doesn't have to overcome personal demons to become a true hero, which is basically the whole point.

Too much fanservice!
There is no "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch" line in this movie. There are plenty of little nods here and there, but they're all either cleverly woven into the fabric of the story (Cap punching Hitler) or are so subtle and actually fit into the action that you wouldn't even know it if you weren't looking for it.

And my favorite thing about this movie is...
Honestly, it's the way the action was done. Superhero flicks put directors in a tough spot a lot of times. How do you demonstrate the effect of a super-strong person punching a normal person? How should it look when a character jumps 10x the distance a normal person should be able to jump? The wire stunts always distract and annoy me, but this film was pretty much free of all that. Part of the advantage is that Cap is really just that one notch better than the best normal human. He's fast, but he's not The Flash. He's strong, but he's not The Hulk. He can jump and climb and perform athletic feats, but he's not Spider-Man. That makes it easier on the director, I'm sure. When the big punch had to be delivered, or the long jump made, Johnston never forced the audience to watch an extended cut of the leap across the gorge, but cut it such that it conveyed the miraculous nature of the feat without having to show the whole thing.

I'm tired, so that's it for tonight. Just go see it. I promise you'll enjoy yourself.


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