Film review: No flags waving for 'Captain America: The First Avenger'

July 25, 2011|By BOB GARVER
  • Chris Evans is shown in a scene from the film "Captain America: The First Avenger."
AP Photo/Paramount Pictures

Another week, another superhero. Ho-hum.  

2011 has been so cram-packed with comic-book movies that I've lost count and I've definitely lost interest. I know tickets to superhero movies sell like hotcakes, but "Captain America" could have used some more time to cook.  

The film stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a kid in 1940s Brooklyn with dreams of going overseas and fighting some no-good Nazis. The problem is that the Army won't take him because his body is alarmingly underdeveloped (not to be confused with most of the film's characters, whose personalities are underdeveloped).  

He's short, he's skinny and he has a laundry list of medical problems. I'll say this much for the film — it does a good job of making the fit Evans look wimpy in the early scenes. Then again I should probably be giving the credit to Evans for playing a wimp so well.  

Steve catches the attention of a scientist (Stanley Tucci) who wants a feeble young man for an experimental procedure. He goes to boot camp in preparation for the procedure, where he is scoffed at by the gruff Col. Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) and barely given the time of day by the beautiful Peggy (Hayley Atwell).  

For the procedure, he is given a series of injections that make him bigger, stronger and with enhanced physical abilities. I'm sure there are many Captain America fans out there who will be eager to explain how this treatment is different from steroids.  

Following the procedure, the previously disciplined Peggy practically throws herself at Steve and his impressive new physique, while Col. Philips remains gruff as only a Tommy Lee Jones character can.  

Although Steve is decidedly improved, the government decides that someone as buff as him shouldn't be wasted on combat. He is dubbed "Captain America," given a silly costume, and paraded around the country as a spokesman for war bonds. Most superhero franchises have to wait a few movies to do a "shameless sellout" storyline, but I'll forgive it this time since I'd be happy without any more Captain America movies.  

Captain America quickly makes an enemy, a German megalomaniac named Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). Schmidt breaks ties with the Nazis after learning that they don't share his vision of a world ruled by Johann Schmidt.

Schmidt underwent an unsuccessful version of the same experiment that turned Steve into Captain America, so the two are bonded in a way. He now considers himself superhuman and all other humans expendable.

Weaving plays Schmidt with a constant piercing glare, his facial expressions showing less range than when he wore sunglasses all the way through the "Matrix" trilogy or when he wore a mask for the entirety of "V for Vendetta".  

Captain America can't stay the showman forever, as Schmidt's campaign of evil soon forces him into action. Forgoing a traditional weapon, Captain America instead arms himself with a shield, a symbol of his nonviolent nature. The shield is designed by Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), who yes, is the father of Tony Stark aka Iron Man. It wouldn't be a Marvel comic-book movie without throwing in a reference to a fellow Avenger and a plug for the upcoming "Avengers" movie.  

Actually, the upcoming "Avengers" movie is the only reason for "Captain America" to exist. Marvel wants to introduce us to as many characters as possible before the film comes out in 2012. Perhaps it would take too long to make so many movies with the tender loving care they require, so "Captain America" was fast-tracked and released for the sake of getting released.  

It would certainly explain why "Captain America: The First Avenger" feels like one of the more poorly thought-out comic-book movies in a season where we're already sick of comic- book movies.  

One and a half Stars out of Five.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.  Its running time is 125 minutes.

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