Saturday, 3 February 2018

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is the fifth instalment of the Marvel-A-Week challenge and the last solo film before The Avengers.
My enduring love of Chris Evans means that my excitement levels for Captain America: The First Avenger, way back in 2011, would have been at an all-time high.  My love of Chris Evans still burns bright, but my memories of The First Avenger have long faded, and it was with resignation rather than excitement that I sat down to watch it.   

PLOT:  Steve Rogers is a tiny little dude (played by the not so tiny Chris Evans) who has a myriad of health problems which renders him ineligible to enlist in the US army and fight with the allies in Nazi Germany.   Rogers’ heroic, but suicidal, attitude to teamwork catches the eye Dr Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who offers Steve the chance to be turned into a super soldier.  Thankfully for us all, it works and Steve and his washboard abs head off to defeat Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a Nazi scientist who has somehow discovered that the Tesseract, a magical blue cube, is being hidden on earth.  Schmidt wants to use its  people vaporising powers to create weapons, win the war and conquer earth.  Hail Hydra.  END PLOT

Captain America: The First Avenger works as an origin story as by the end of the film we know exactly who Steve Rogers is and where he came from.  This is all fine in theory and it holds up on its own merits as an reasonably enjoyable summer film, but, everything about The First Avenger flows like a really long prelude to further Marvel films and revelations.  The First Avenger sets up Steve Rogers in the modern day for The Avengers, it sets up Bucky’s (spoiler alert) return as The Winter Soldier and, if my Timeline of the Tesseract is correct (it probably isn't), it also reveals that at some point, Odin lost the glowing blue cube on earth and then, in true Odin style, decided to ignore the problem in the hope that it would simply go away.  Seriously, if Odin wasn’t such a complete fuck up, the road to Infinity War would be very different. I digress. #teamloki

There is a gaggle of fair haired thirty-somethings in Hollywood cursing Chris Evans’ name for accepting the role of Captain America.  The CGI rendering of Wee Steve is as horrific as I remembered and I still believe that Steve’s shrunken head changes size in every scene.  The effects didn’t look great in 2011 and they did not stand the test of time.  Thankfully, Steve levels up so that we can all enjoy and appreciate Captain America in his true form.  Evans is grand as Steve Rogers and his awkward stiffness becomes a welcome contrast to the larger than life personalities that inhabit the nine realms. 

I paid much more attention to Sebastian Stan’s Bucky this time around given that I know how interesting his character becomes in The Winter Soldier.  Stan is fine in the dutiful best friend role that never gets fleshed out beyond that. Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter is excellent and is sadly left behind in the 1940’s.  Evans and Atwell worked well together, and, the final line of the movie – ‘I had a date’ – was a touching end to a relationship that ended before it ever got started.   

Stanley Tucci will always be welcome when he pops up in any film and even though Tommy Lee Jones scowls around like a grumpy old grandpa whose prune juice hasn’t kicked in he is actually great fun as Colonel Philips. 

I know nothing about the Captain America comics, but I sense that (the?) Red Skull is a greater adversary for Captain America than the film makes him out to be.  Hugo Weaving tries to bring some acting gravitas to the film and, while it definitely would not have felt out of place in Thor, it just didn’t work in The First Avenger.  Red Skull used the Tesseract to create a few zappy sticks before he himself became zapped by the Tesseract.  He was quite the criminal mastermind.

My biggest problem with Captain America: The First Avenger is that it looked cheap.  I don’t know if it was filmed for 3D or just made on a relatively low budget, but the CGI backgrounds were awful and even scenes set in a relatively sparse forest or rubble filled bar looked badly cobbled together.  When compared to Iron Man and Thor, the effects in The First Avenger were flat.

I am enjoying the Marvel-A-Week challenge, but I am not going to lie, I was relieved when the closing credits rolled.  The running time was too long for a film in which very little seemed to happen.  I would have accepted Captain America being thawed out and introduced in The Avengers as easily as the Avengers themselves accepted Thor randomly rocking up from space and becoming one of the gang.  If Captain America: The First Avenger didn’t exist the Marvel universe wouldn’t suffer.  It gets 5/10.  The weakest offering so far, which is sad as Steve Rogers is such a strong and likeable character.

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