Friday, July 22, 2011

TGD Movie Review: Captain America

I went into a nice cool movie theater honestly expecting to be disappointed today. The hope that my favorite superhero’s origin story would be tastefully done rested on the slim chances that Hollywood could resist the urge to over stylize Captain America and make him hokey and cartoonish. The embodiment of my fears would have looked something like an elephant balancing on a toothpick.

There were all sorts of ways I thought this production would go south. I feared that the military theme would adopt a done before, ad nausea tone the way Battle: Los Angeles did, with soldiers telling their brothers in their dying breaths that they have to be the hero they were always meant to be or that they had to promise to tell their sweethearts that they loved them. I feared the reds, whites and blues of Steve Rogers’ uniform would blind me. I even feared Chris Evans did not look blond enough in a rare “stick to the comic book” geek moment (I’m usually not that way, honest).

What I watched unfold before me on the big screen was a classy, inspiring , artfully told story of a man (albeit a fictional man) who makes you want to strive to be better than you are. It captured the sense of what Captain America means to this country and the values he truly represents. Below you will find my glowing review.

The Plus Side: The first thing I noticed about Captain America: The First Avenger was the color. I expected bright blues and reds. Instead, I saw muted tones and authentic WWII era style. To its credit, it looked more like an episode of M*A*S*H than it did the previous Marvel films. With the setting being one of the bloodiest wars of all time, vivid colors and celebratory themes were not appropriate. The brightest red in the movie came from the exposed face of the Red Skull.

The story behind Steve Rogers is what makes Captain America special. Cap has always been a hero due to his virtue and his strength in mind and spirit. His enhanced physical abilities merely make him better able to use those gifts for good. The movie stayed true to this. Steve Rogers was portrayed as a man with a load on his shoulders that he accepted.

The performances were outstanding. Chris Evans was, surprisingly, an excellent Steve Rogers. The audience watched him go from scrawny service reject to hopeful recruit to science experiment to celebrity to true leader and hero. Each step took its appropriate amount of time. The movie never seemed to dwell too long or brush over any part of Steve’s maturation process too quickly. The result was a well told, engaging story. You hoped for Steve, you trusted Dr. Erskine (played well by Stanley Tucci) and you feared Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull.

There was also plenty of action. Tanks, planes, guns, specialized weaponry and, of course, the shield. It was intense and gripping without being overly comic book like. The subdued colors worked well as Cap bounced his shield off the side of a tank to take out one bad guy while “Dum Dum” Dugan and the gang pushed their way through the enemy, firing in all directions.

The Down Side: While the story was expertly told, there were some slight flaws as with any movie. We were never told who the men fighting alongside Cap were. Sure, this avoided a cheesy introduction scene, but cheese sometimes has its place: on a good burger and in WWII combat films. There is no shame in taking a minute to introduce each character (“Meet Johnny ‘Boom Boom’ McTavish, explosives specialist”) so that the audience identifies with them just a little more. If you didn’t know who “Dum Dum” Dugan was prior to this film, you still wouldn’t have by the end.

Also, for all the well-done action sequences, there were a few moments that made you roll your eyes. Cap jumps just a little too high or too far. He out-swims a submarine. He sneaks too easily around behind enemy lines with a red, white and blue shield shining on his back.

On top of this, the action, while within PG-13 guidelines, involved a lot of shooting. This was nothing my sons could not handle, but I know some parents might cringe at this thought. While the bad guys were masked and anonymous enough to dilute some of the violence, there were American servicemen being shot and evaporated by HYDRA weapons. I could see some younger kids being upset by this and perhaps even seeing the Red Skull’s face in their nightmares.

The Wrap-Up: Overall, this was a great movie, one that you and any of your children who can handle mild military combat scenes are sure to enjoy. Of the Marvel films since the first Spider-Man, I think it is by far the best but also the least kid-friendly. You’ll laugh at the humor at times, be on the edge of your seat for the action and maybe get choked up. I know I did. Captain America: The First Avenger hits the mark, which is impressive because I personally set it awfully high.

TGD Rating: I admittedly have been leery to give deservedly low ratings to movies (See my Green Lantern review). I’m trying to break that habit, but I am so incredibly excited about how this film played out that the best I can do is keep myself form giving it a perfect rating of a full star. Instead, Transformer Generation Dad bestows on Captain America: The First Avenger nineteen twentieths of a star and also unveils the new rating icon. You can see that parents will like it, kids may or may not, and the rating all in one quick glance. Congratulations are in order for those of you who cannot be bothered to read an entire blog post.

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