Tuesday, 9 August 2011

REVIEW: Captain America: The First Avenger

Superman with lesser powers, am I right comic book nerds?

This summer up to this point has really soured me on Superhero movies. A genre that before was aging fast but still producing the odd good film here and there, has since May been infused with so much corporate, cynical mediocrity I don't know how a non die-hard can legitimately be excited about anything but the final Batman to be honest. Particularly marvel movies, which feel like such factory line pieces of 200 million dollar hackwork/shallow fan service that I'm so exhausted of, that I was actually delighted to see Green Lantern and see it was a piece of shit, because at least that's something distinctive. But I didn't hate Captain America. Because even though it was again just another piece of frustrating averageness, there was enough color around the edges and enough enjoyable performances that I found something to like, in spite of myself.

I think a lot of it was the WW2 setting, with the film wearing it's Indiana Jones influences on its sleeve and filling its cast with several capable performers with actual parts to play as opposed to just being there because it lends an undue weight to the material. It manages to give the likes of Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones and Toby Jones something to do, instead of just having A caliber actors playing D caliber roles as has been the usual Marvel way. But I'd like to talk about Chris Evans first, because he's an actor that's gone from seeming like a pretty disposable teen star to bona fide leading man, and I think Captain America for all it's ills will be the thing that solidifies this. Because from his terrific, underrated performance in Sunshine on down, Evans has shown there's a lot more to him than simply the guy to call when Ryan Reynolds is unavailable. He anchored what could have been a very silly role, particularly in the second half, and makes it pretty much believable but more importantly relatable. Evans nails the humble, selfless idealism of his character well enough to make the thing stick, and to be frank I thought there was no way I was going to be sold on a character called Captain America so, that's a victory. Credit too to Hayley Atwell, who does well in a surprisingly rounded love interest role.

As far as the villain goes, I liked Hugo Weaving's opening scene a lot and it looked like it was going to be a fun performance, but unfortunately he had to turn into a prosthetic-smothered monster which hampered both his performance and the effectiveness tenfold. Comic book movies, make sure you pick villains that have the capacity to be expressive, because putting Hugo Weaving under tons of make-up ruins the value of having Hugo Weaving. Similarly, it's kind of stupid, plot holes are everywhere, the traditional Avengers hype machine hijacks the final act, even as consequence of that contrivance leads to the ending playing pleasingly downbeat. People who've seen A Matter Of Life And Death will have quite the deja Vu feeling. But I enjoyed myself, and feel confident in saying this is probably the best Marvel movie of the year and roughly about as good as X-Men: First Class, in what has been a desperate year for comic book movies.

Rating: 6/10

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