Saturday, 17 March 2012

Captain America (2011)

My main concern with anything called Captain America was that the film would be too much Team America "Hell Yeah". Actually the only parts that could be taken to be all-American are the publicity drives to garner support for the war effort, which help explain the genesis of "Cap". Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a small skinny guy who repeatedly tries to sign up to the army to do his duty for his country in World War 2, but his stature always goes against him. That is until Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) overhears his desperation and manages to get Rogers into an experimental program (watch out for the science) which involves injecting him with muscle regenerators and then exposing him to "Vita Rays".

                                                          Vita-Rays courtesy of Stark senior

Steve is transformed into a muscular Adonis, who is immediately called into action because an agent of the mysterious Nazi Hydra cult has infiltrated the experimental facility, and manages to kill Dr Erskine before escaping. Steve chases after him and apprehends him; a heroic feat that catapults him into the public domain and makes him an ideal candidate for USO fund-raising drives. While in occupied Europe he tries to rescue his old friend who has been captured, the mission goes wrong, and Steve is determined to track down and destroy the mysterious Red Skull: head of the Hydra cult. A hero is born.

I liked the way that the film just starts. Strange thing to say I know, but there are no credits what-so-ever. No "A Joe Jonhston film", no "Captain America: The First Avenger", it just starts. Nothing amazing I know, I just thought it was quite noticeable. I also liked the way that some Allies were featured. A lot of planning happens in the British war rooms, and there is a Brit and a French guy in Cap's immediate entourage. This may be quite insignificant, but the Allies are usually largely forgotten about in these kind of films e.g. Saving Private Ryan. Aside from all this, the film had two different feels. All of the Red Skull laboratory sections had a very vibrant feel, there is a lot of shiny metallic equipment on show, all very modern, the blue glow of the power source adding to the bright photography.

Compare this with much of the war-torn exterior shots which are all very muted and sepia.

The film is played straight down the middle. It could have been very campy if the titular character had spent the movie in a red, white and blue lycra costume; but as Bryan Singer managed with X-Men, the film is well-grounded. Apart from the time spent on USO fund-raisers, Cap's costume is fairly understated, and though clearly not your usual uniform, doesn't stand out that much; it's not like he has a big target painted on his chest. Oh, wait, that's on his shield! Not to worry though, because he uses his shield as a very effective weapon, and it looks very cool as he does.

All of the cast work well. Chris Evans plays the skinny kid who wants to make something of himself convincingly, Tommy Lee Jones is very likeable as the curmudgeonly army general, but Hayley Atwell's character is just an attempt at eye candy to give Steve a bit of a female emotional investiture. Stanley Tucci's role is over far too briefly which is a shame, and Toby Jones plays the exploited and unwilling scientist well, but again doesn't have the screen time to really shine. Of course Hugo Weaving is a great Red Skull, whether he is wondering at the power he has discovered, gleefully vaporising fellow Nazis, or simply standing imposingly in front of his window on to the Alps. Of course Samuel L Jackson is Samuel L Jackson, but with an eye patch, and with the improbably cool name of Nick Fury! Nice cameo from Argus Filch as well.

Overall a very enjoyable and accessible film, no over-complicated exposition. Indeed probably the most enjoyable part of the film was the initial genesis, seeing how Steve becomes this amazing fearless warrior. Good cast, great visuals, and now I'm really looking forward to The Avengers this summer.  Come on Joss, don't let us down!