Movies

Movie Review – Captain America: The First Avenger

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Red, white and blue.  Marvel makes its patriotic entry as the last superhero flick this summer.

There is nothing more that scrawny, sickly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) would like to do than serve his country on the front lines in WWII.  Time and time again he applied to join the army and was rejected every time.  A chance encounter with a German scientist, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) at a recruitment center, affords him the opportunity.  Dr. Erskine witnesses a glimpse of Steve’s goodness in his interaction with his good buddy, ‘Bucky’ Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who’s readying for deployment.

Upon acceptance, Steve experiences the rigors of bootcamp. As expected, he falls behind due the physical nature of the exercises. However, he surprisingly excels in a couple of tests involving a flag and a grenade.  These are the shining examples that showcase his smarts, brave and noble nature.

Dr. Erskine could see that Steve needs a purpose in his life.  Having been a weakling, he would value strength and has compassion if transformed into something greater.  Steve agrees to participate in a top secret government program where he’s injected by an experimental serum, turning him into a super soldier.

While the new Steve doesn’t have a unique superhero power, because he’s inherently good, he turns into the very best version of a human he can naturally be.  While the government had hoped for an army of superhumans, complications arise and Steve is all they have.  Steve’s pursuit of evil on the streets displays the wonders of the strength, speed, agility, durability and healing capacity of a superhuman.

On the other side, if the same super serum were to be given to the wrong character, it would end disastrously.  Earlier Dr. Erskine was forced to give the serum to Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), who runs the deep science division of the Nazis.  With evil, world domination intentions, it deforms Johann’s face and turns him into Red Skull.  Red Skull is aided by an inventor, Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).  Arnim develops advanced weapons for Hydra.  When Red Skull discovers and harnesses the power of cosmic cube, its blue energy source allows Hydra’s weapons to disintegrate targets instantly.

We’re also introduced to Peggy Carter, an American agent with military training (Hayley Atwell), and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).  Both are instrumental characters in Steve’s life.  It’s refreshing to see a love interest who’s an equal partner and strong in her own rights.  If the name Howard Stark sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the father of Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) and founder of Stark Industries.  It’s easy to see how Tony Stark gets his brilliance and charm.

The army colonel, Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), doesn’t initially allow Steve to be in a soldiering capacity.  Steve ends up being a stage performer.  Along with singers and dancers, he performs on stage to inspire the patriotic spirit all across the country.  “Captain America,” complete with its costume, was born.  I liked that they explain how the Cap’s costume comes about.

Discouraging news about his buddy on the warfront propels Steve to embark on a rescue mission.  It is then he becomes Captain America for real.  After a successful rescue, he leads the next mission to storm Hydra’s base and abolish his armed forces.  Cap is equipped with an indestructible shield made out of “vibranium,” weighing a third less than steel, and can absorb vibration and energy.  There’s a very cool scene where  soldiers zip-line to a speeding locomotive in a snowy mountain range.  With Red Skull escaping to the air, Steve latches on and struggles for control of the stealth-winged plane.  In the end, Steve makes an honorable choice and becomes the ultimate patriot.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” has a retro-futuristic look.  WWII  and flag-waving public keep the story squarely rooted in reality, but the fantasy element keeps it interesting.  Unfortunately, Evans is frankly as bland as he was in “Fantastic Four” and Weaving is just not as chilling as he should be.  Overall, it’s a pretty solid fare with a straightforward story.  I’d rank this third – considerably below “X-Men: First Class,”  underneath “Thor,” but above “Green Lantern.”

“Captain America: The First Avenger” is the last flick leading into next summer’s “The Avengers.”  I found the last scene, set in modern Manhattan, most curious.  Once again, sit through the credit and catch a sneak peek of the most ambitious superhero movie ever made.  “The Avengers” premiers on May 4, 2012.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com. Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (http://themoviemaven.posterous.com

"Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com."

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