Upfront Impressions: Stellar performances from Chris Evans, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell, an uncluttered story line, no daddy issues, great action, and good pacing.
If you are up to date on your Avengers character movie collection, then I will assume you’ve seen Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton version), Iron Man II and Thor. The characters you’ve collected in your mind at this point are Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye (look real close in Thor…he’s the guy with the bow and arrow) and Thor. The last one to collect here is Captain America. All connected by one person and one organization, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Captain America: The First Avenger begins with young Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). A scrawny, malnutritioned, heart palpitated, asthmatic young man with a strong will and a positive outlook on life. Rogers tries several times, unsuccessfully, to join the military to fight in World War II. Until one day, when Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) witnesses the well mannered determined Rogers trying once again to join the military. Dr. Erskine gives Rogers a pass to join the military which will soon lead him to volunteer (more like chosen) for a top secret project that will turn him into “Captain America.”
The biggest difference between this film and the other “Avenger” character films, is the character development for Steve Rogers. He is easy to identify with and you know right up front the type of values he holds. He is genuine with his intentions, and does not have a mother or father who have messed with his head to get there. He’s not on the run from the military, he isn’t looking to reinvent himself, he isn’t looking for glory and he doesn’t take his powers for granted. He’s a true soldier who is willing to do whatever it takes to take down the bad guy, even if it means going it alone.
The performances in this film are top notch. Not to take anything away from the acting in the previous Marvel films. Hugo Weaving plays Johann Schmidt A.K.A. Red Skull (which should be self explanatory), the main bad guy in the film. Red Skull is the leader of HYDRA, a scientific extension of the Nazi regime. After acquiring and harnessing the power of the “Cosmic Cube,” Red Skull begins to amass weapons to take over the world. In the comics, Schmidt has daddy issues. Again, I am thankful they didn’t explore that side of him and kept all daddy issues away. Weaving has a knack for playing the perfect villain. Weaving channels a German accent, which he attributes to sounding like Werner Herzog. Weaving brings Red Skull to life with precision in his verbal delivery, since his facial expressions as Red Skull are menacing without having to try too hard.
Stanley Tucci, as Dr. Abraham Erskine, has some of the best comedic delivery and timing in the film. Tucci was a perfect addition to this film and brought a lot of comic relief to a film that wasn’t trying to take itself too seriously. Tommy Lee Jones plays Colonel Chester Phillips. Jones plays his part with a dead pan comedic style. It is similar to other roles he’s played, and it is a welcome addition here. Jones is also used as comic relief and bridge between the military and Captain America.
The tension between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) played out to perfection. Even as a scrawny and weak Rogers, Carter can see the charm in him. But, when Rogers emerges as the muscular and tall Captain America, she finds herself walking a thin line of being professional and a little bit smitten. Carter makes comment to Rogers a few times about not knowing how to talk to girls, trying to drop the hint that she is interested in him. Unfortunately, Steve Rogers definitely doesn’t know how to close the deal, which leaves a lot of flirtation between the two and also doesn’t spoil the film with unnecessary romantic scenes.
Which brings me to the action of the film. The action in this film is exciting. Some of the CGI was a little too polished and took me out of the film a couple times. But, overall any scene with Captain America throwing around his shield kept you on the edge of your seat. I won’t give too much away here, but there are two versions of Captain America (maybe three if you count the first time you see the buffed out Steve Rogers). By that I mean, two evolutions of Captain America. One where Captain America is not quite outfitted with the best equipment, and another where he emerges as the true Captain America with the iconic shield at his disposal. The thing that works best here is showing how Captain is a truly devoted soldier with or without his shield for protection or a weapon. It makes you want to cheer for him each step of the way.
The pacing of this film was fantastic. I didn’t even realize that two hours had passed. That is all thanks to Joe Johnston. Johnston is responsible for great films like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, The Rocketeer, Jumanji, and October Sky. He was also an art director/designer on the Star Wars films (Episode IV, V and VI). Captain America flows from one scene to the next almost effortlessly. There are no lulls in time, or constant pondering of events. From beginning to end, you are on the journey with Steve Rogers. Even the mesh between vintage 40′s attire, buildings and vehicles to the space age looking vehicles and weapons of HYDRA, it all works. It definitely reminded me a mix of Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Which makes sense given his background in film making.
Overall, a fantastic origin story of Captain America, great acting, and the right amount of action and storytelling. In my opinion, one of the best Marvel Avengers character stories to date. Stick around after the credits to get a glimpse of what you will expect in the upcoming Avengers film. It’s worth it. I won’t recommend 3D. I just don’t know what it would add except a shield flying at you. But, I would pay to see this in theaters now. I also think this will be a “buy” when it’s release on DVD/Blu-ray.