Sam Shin: Staff Illustrator
Marvel blew us away this year with the God of Thunder and a team of mutants. Now they give us a star-spangled soldier to take down the Nazis. Captain America: The First Avenger is directed by Joe Johnston (October Sky and Jurassic Park III). The film stars Chris Evans, Haley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones. Does this Marvel superhero live up to the ranks of Thor or X-Men: First Class? Yes; as a matter of fact, it’s even better than the previous Marvel films released this year.
Set during the 1940’s at the brink of WWII, Steve Rogers (Evans) is a 90-pound, sickly young man who wishes to serve his country. He is given the opportunity by Dr. Erskine (Tucci) who convinces Steve to volunteer for a top secret military project. He is then enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States war effort.
With his allies Bucky Barnes (Stan) and Peggy Carter (Atwell), along with his team of soldiers, their assignment is to battle against the Nazis and a terrorist group known as HYDRA, led by former Nazi Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. The Red Skull (Weaving), who seeks a powerful cube-shaped object known as the Tesseract. The Red Skull plans to use the artifact to create massive weapons and to unlock the cube’s potential to alter reality.
Joe Johnston is no stranger to period pieces, like The Rocketeer and October Sky, and in the case of Captain America: The First Avenger Johnston delivers everything promised in the trailers. Johnston is able to capture that patriotic spirit that permeated the U.S. during WWII. The movie almost becomes like one of the military recruitment ads it showcases. The film has an authentic feel to it and combines elements from films like Indiana Jones mixed in with Saving Private Ryan and 007. The set is as fantastic as the film and though shot entirely in London, the film crew successfully disguised the city as 1940s New York.
The supporting cast was excellent. Tommy Lee Jones (General Chester Phillips) and Stanley Tucci (Dr. Erksine) steal every scene they’re in. Sebastian Stan provides a strong supporting role as Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s longtime friend and tough sidekick. Dominic Cooper brings humor to the table as Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad). Hugo Weaving has a natural talent for playing villains, and he dominates the film with his portray of the Red Skull.
However, the heart and soul in this movie rests on Chris Evans’s performance as the titular hero. Evans gives the story the right amount of energy in every scene, downplaying the flashiness he demonstrated as Human Torch in the Fantastic 4 series. Haley Atwell plays a believable and lovable ally/love interest. She brings depth to her character and the dynamic chemistry between Atwell and Evans creates Marvel’s most solid and satisfying romance on screen to date.
The only weak spots in this film were Johnston’s very calculated and sometimes soulless action sequences and the Red Skull’s lack of development. Hugo Weaving gives a good performance, but his character spends most of his time building his plane and reminding us that he’s evil, rather than emerging as a worthwhile threat.
Captain America: The First Avenger is a rare summer movie that brings everything it promised. The film contains a complex storyline, solid performances, has many humorous moments, and sends a good message about courage without getting too preachy about it. This is one film that will have audiences intrigued, as it is a fireworks display of entertainment.
This is the last prequel to the upcoming and highly anticipated superhero film The Avengers. It hits theaters May 4, 2012 and will assemble a group of superheroes including Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and Captain America. There is an after-credits scene that will surely cause the fanboys to geek out, so be sure to stay after the credits.