Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Steve Rogers wants nothing more than to be on the front lines of World War II, but with his small size, this goal is a difficult one to accomplish. When a government experiment transforms him into a stronger, faster man, however, he takes on the persona of the patriotic Captain America.

This is a movie that, even though it centers around a superhero oh-so-subtley named Captain America, you can enjoy whether you happen to live in the United States or not. Truth be told, I didn’t think this movie looked all that good before seeing it, even if I had been hearing very positive things about it from various people I know – and despite the fact that Chris Evans was the main actor. Because, let’s face it, even if a lot of his past films have sucked – Fantastic Four and Losers, I’m looking at you! – Evans himself has always shined in any role he’s played, no matter the movie. But his presence and the good reviews didn’t change my mind; I’m not the biggest fan of superhero-themed films (usually too light and cheesy for my tastes) and damn it, this one was going to be the same thing! IT’S IRON MAN ALL OVER AGAIN.

I can admit when I’m wrong, however (even if those times are rare. But I digress) so I’ll come right out and say it: Captain America was really enjoyable.

You’ll probably be surprised to hear that this isn’t your average superhero flick. No, Captain America isn’t the next Spiderman (though I don’t know how anything could possibly reach crotch-thrusting Peter Parker once again, but let’s move on from that image) but a film completely with its own unique style. It doesn’t rely on CGI or even action for the story to progress – those things take a backseat to the actual story and plot, which is much more character and emotion-driven than you would believe possible from such a corny-sounding comic book story. There’s certainly action to be found, yes, but I was actually surprised by just how little there was. Unless you go into this movie wanting nothing but shallow action and fighting, however (oh hai, Iron Man…. okay I’ll stop insulting that film now, no more hate mail please) this shouldn’t disappoint you, because it gives you a lot more substance than your average “Yay! SUPERHERO FTW!” flick. Granted, it’s certainly not Watchmen-level depth (but then again, what is?) but it’s still a major step in the right direction for the whole superhero genre.

The characters are part of this surprising amount of depth, with people – most notably the main character himself, Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America – being fleshed out and developed so well. True, there are some definite – and in some cases, plentiful – cliches to be found, but they’re… well, good cliches. You have the sexy but tough love interest who must overcome the sexism that surrounds her in the male-dominated military, the main hero who starts out as weak but gains strength from the goodness inside him (literally), the villain who wants nothing but UNLIMITED POOOOOOOOOOOWER (plus he has red skin and no nose. We know that red always means evil, but no nose? My god. It’s Voldemort’s father), and other characters that could certainly fit into some sort of cliché category, but I’m sure I don’t need to go on. For the setting and story, though, these things fit right in, especially considering how well they were all developed. Sure, they could be a tad generic sometimes, but with how they were done they felt unique, and that alone is impressive.

When the CGI does show itself, it’s never too flashy; a background full of fire (okay, maybe not the best example of “not flashy” I could have pointed out), or the final fight that almost needs some obligatory shiny CGI. The fact that this movie wasn’t injected with a large dose of CGI, however, makes things that much better in this case. Captain America himself has an actual costume rather than glowy CGI clothes – ahem. The most obvious use of CGI was definitely the digital manipulation of Chris Evans’ entire body and height for the first part of the movie. This was… interesting. The entire time I was watching this newly tiny man I had in my mind how he is in every other movie he’s ever been in that I’ve seen, and that is – well, not tiny. Quite muscular, in fact. What they were able to do with his appearance was pretty remarkable, but it wasn’t “OMGamazing” enough to make me completely forget that it wasn’t actually what he really looked like.

The story and setting were both very satisfying, but at times I found myself going, “Wait, what?” For example, Captain America himself. Without going into too very much detail, Steve Rogers goes through an experiment that transforms him into the superhero we all know and love now. First of all, it had to be proven to certain people prior to the test that Rogers was a good person – okay, I get that given the context and circumstances. One of the things that proves this to them, though, is when a dummy grenade is thrown and instead of running away from it like every other intelligent person present, he jumps on it. Okay… I think being courageous and brave is just as great as the next person, I really do. But was that necessary? I mean, everyone else was a safe distance away; he really didn’t have to do that. It wouldn’t have saved anyone. I think if he had maybe pushed someone out of the way to “sacrifice” himself for them it would have been a great scene, but no, they didn’t include anything like that. It was him just pointlessly jumping on the grenade like a dumbass. Which gets him into this experiment, of course (after which he’s apparently impervious to bullets … even though the experiment never did any such thing to him).

The ending is also another “eh” point for me. Did he time travel or go into a coma? And if he was in a coma that entire time, why didn’t he age? Did the experiment effect that part of his body, too? The world may never know.

For how many terrible, horrendous, ungodly superhero movies there are (I’m looking at you… ah… Okay, there are too many to pick from, I’m sure one came to your mind immediately anyway so I’ll leave the comparisons alone) Captain America was surprisingly good, with a solid cast (TOMMY LEE JONES), good characters, and an impressive amount of emotion, much more than what I initially expected from this movie. I didn’t plan on it, but I couldn’t help but really like Captain America, despite its occasional flaws.

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