Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America - Heart of a Hero

Much like X-Men First Class, the main thing Captain America has going for it is heart. The story of the 90 pound weakling, who never gives up, getting to be a superhero is the epitome of geek fantasy. Steve Rogers is a symbol for everyone that was ever put down by forces he couldn't fight. It's old school comics in its purest form, and for this reason it's appropriate for the move to take place during War World II with clear lines drawn between good and evil. This was an origin tale done in proper context.

Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers just right. At no point do you feel sorry for the scrawny Steve, even as he is getting pounded in a back alley by some bully. The thing about Steve Rogers, no matter what size, is that he'll be alright. He can handle himself and he's not going to get all weepy and pitiful. No, he's going to pick himself up and try again. It would have been very easy for Evans to give us a depressive little guy, but he doesn't do it. You root for him, but you never feel sorry for him. He's already a hero before he's Captain America, and that's what Dr. Erskine, played brilliantly by Stanley Tucci, saw in him.

If Steve Rogers is a hero before he's Cap, then Johann Schmitt is the devil. Hugo Weaving proves here that he has been wasted in previous villain roles (I'm looking at you The Matrix!!)  The Red Skull is so evil, even Hitler has turned his back on him. And really, that's as it should be. This is not a character that should be ambiguous in any way. My only problem with the movie might be that, while Weaving's performance is right on, he's not really given enough to do to show just how evil he is. I feel like a punch or two was pulled here in order to make the movie more kid friendly, and that's a shame.

As will always be the case, there are a few changes to details of the story from the comics. And this instance really stands out as a prime example of why that has to happen, since 70 years is a long time to be frozen in ice. However, this brings up another nitpicky problem with the movie. By putting Howard Stark in there, I think the math might create some problems. How old, exactly, are the Starks during these movies? But, this is minor. The real problem with trying to connect the Marvel movies is that I think in this case, they robbed Captain America of a proper ending. Previous movies wrapped up the stories without making it feel like the movie had just been a prequel to The Avengers. In this case, the last 5 minutes should have been cut, or at least changed somehow. After everything we saw Steve go through, we should have had some kind of closure at the end of it, beyond just having him run through Times Square, only to very quickly accept what Samuel Jackson tells him.

All in all, I would put this up there with X-Men First Class for the year. I'm not sure which of the two is better as they cover different ground. But both have heart and that's important. I'm a little worried that The Avengers movie will be more in Iron Man 2 territory, lots of flash, not much else. But we'll see next year.

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