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Captain America The First Avenger (movie review)

stars-fourThe fourth in a series of comic book movies to debut this year, Captain America The First Avenger stands just a little bit taller than the rest, and there are a ton of reasons why, but I’m not going to bother listing the short comings of Green Lantern, Thor or X-Men First Class again.  As the saying used to go, “Let’s rap with Cap!”

First off, as a life long Captain America fan, I’m still shocked anyone showed up to watch this movie.  Much to my surprise, people know who Captain America is!  I saw this at the local mall multiplex on Sunday night with a packed house, featuring many folks in Captain America t-shirts, including the ladies.  I never expected this, and it fascinated to the point where I almost asked folks if I could photograph them as this seemed to unlikely to be real.  But, I got it now:  people know who Captain America is – duly noted.  (Or, they are big fans of Dunkin Donuts.)

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Steve Rogers: “My metabolism burns four times faster than a normal persons, so I can eat this crap.”

As a big time Cap fan, you might say I’m biased toward liking this movie no matter what, but I would argue that I am uniquely positioned to hate this movie in a way that most people are not, but this Cap movie cannot be denied.  (This Cap movie is a star-spangled piece of ASS!)  Captain America is a solid movie with good flow, which is largely due to the efforts of Chris Evans as Cap, the rest of the actors in the movie, and (for the most part) quality story telling and editing.

spoiler alert

This movie is charming as hell.  I can’t remember the last time someone blended action and comedy together so well – and it’s not like this is a Lethal Weapon movie or something; there are no sax riffs to tell the audience “Hey!  That was a joke!”  But the real charm comes from the actors and the characters they play, especially the earnest manner in which Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers.

You know what this movie has a lot of?  Montages.  Now that’s not a bad thing – even Rocky had a montage.  But Captain America has one too many…  and they might have gotten away with that last one if it was a done a bit better – how hard is it to put together a montage of Captain America punching Nazis in the face?  Harder than I thought, I guess.  They could have replaced that last montage with this scene from the video game – its vastly superior.  But the USO montage was great, and so was the song that accompanied it.  And after that part of the movie was over and he was able to get out of the spandex, Captain America could declare with pride, “Don’t worry – I’ve knocked out Adolf Hitler over 200 times.”

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“I think the girls only know the one song… but I’ll see what I can do.”

Tommy Lee Jones is awesome in this movie.  That goes without saying – can you think of a movie he’s bad in?  “Batman Forever.”  Bullshit!  The movie might be campy and silly, but Tommy Lee Jones cannot be denied.  I thought he was going to be in the movie for five minutes, giving the speech we saw him give in the trailer, but it’s for real – Tommy Lee Jones is all over this flick – a nice surprise.

You know what this movie didn’t have that these movies almost always have?  A damsel in distress.  Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) didn’t need any saving – she was too busy shooting Nazi spies in the head!  After Thor, this was a refreshing change. and in many ways, Peggy is Steve’s equal.

I was very happy with Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of the Red Skull, except I thought they could have gone with a bit darker red – more maroon, less candy apple – but that’s just me.  Stanley Tucci was wonderful as Dr. Abraham Erskine, who joined Mr. Weaving in doing that great movie accent, the “I’m from a part of Europe where they don’t speak English but isn’t it easy to understand me?” sort of thing that people do in movies to convey that they’re not Americans.  Like Evans, Atwell and Jones, Tucci and Weaving really brought a lot to their roles and the movie as a whole.

The music in this movie is horrendous!  It defies explanation; in fact, I’ll go as far to say that the music was worse than the score from X-Men First Class.  This was a big movie and it need a big score, but what we got were boring, tired themes that just didn’t do anything for me upon the first hearing and then gradually got on my nerves until I wanted to scream.  It’s that bad.  I guess John Williams was unavailable.

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“That guy is only wearing underwear – in the snow!”

My biggest gripe with the movie was the first few minutes – starting in the present day was a total bummer.  Did they need to tell the audience what was going to happen at the end of the movie right at the beginning?  I assure you that we have the patience to wait two hours to find out what’s going to happen at the end of the movie!  (They did this in Thor, too, although that was just the beginning of the second act – but still, very annoying.)  Anyway, I really wanted to see Captain America frozen in ice… and I really wanted the Avengers to find him a the beginning of their movie, but I guess that meant we would have had to ask the audience to deal with an ending where Captain America is dead, and the producers didn’t want to do that.  Still, finding Steve Rogers after 70 years should be a bigger deal for everyone – including Steve.

The final battle could have been a bit more dramatic, and I think the audience probably had a hard time figuring out what the hell  happened to the Red Skull and why it happened…  I’m not sure myself.  Did he get sucked up into one of the nine realms?  Or is that the thing from Thor… the ice chest thingy…  or is it actually the Cosmic Cube, and he’s trapped inside?  I have no idea, but I’m betting we find out sooner or later.

For those of you with a full, active life, the biggest departure from Captain America lore was Bucky Barnes’ character, to where he’s from to how he dies (not to mention what he wears); the only thing they kept from the comics was his close relationship with Steve – but that’s OK.   I think shifting Bucky’s death to the second act was a necessary cinematic thing to bring Steve to his lowest point.  If they didn’t choose this route, they probably would have gone with a falling out with Peggy, and that could have been disastrous for this film – it would have given the romantic sub plot too much importance.  I’m all for love, but, you know…  winning World War II is probably more important than falling in love.

Captain America:  The First Avenger is the best action movie I can think of that has three montages, but hey, even Scarface has a montage.  This movie has something for everybody:  comedy, action, romance, adventure, fantasy and sci-fi – all rolled up into one Nazi punching, montaging, joke cracking good time of a movie.  I recommend you check it out!

My Rating: 4 out of 5

More Movie Reviews at creativejamie.com/category/movie-reviews/

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com and BomberBanter.com

Posted on July 26, 2011, in comic book reviews, movie reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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