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Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Captain America: The First Avenger

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: Christopher Markus
Stephen McFeeley

Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Starring: Chris Evans
Tommy Lee Jones
Hugo Weaving
Hayley Atwell
Sebastian Stan
Dominic Cooper
Neal McDonough
Derek Luke
Stanley Tucci
Toby Jones

Music by: Alan Silvestri

Cinematography by: Shelly Johnson

Editing by: Robert Dalva
Jeffrey Ford

Studio: Marvel Studios

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): July 19, 2011 (World Premiere)
July 22, 2011 (United States)
July 29, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 124 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $140 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $262, 037, 277

Right gang, alo alo alo! Watched Videodrome last night again and thought it was awesome once again. There aren't many eighty minute movies out there that can pack as much content into to one movie and still make you want more from it. I would sincerely recommend that everyone should take a look at this great movie. Also, unfortunately today I missed the opportunity to see any new movies, but on the plus side I was off shooting some cracking scenes for my friend's birthday present/film/sequel to last year's epic Lauce, Camera, Action!, LCA2.0!. And while I'm at it, hello to Lauce, you fucking legend!

Anyway, this is not about birthday shout-outs and what have you (though that does seem to be the route of sorts for the introductory bullshit paragraph), but about the new film Captain America: The First Avenger. It is worth noting that contrary to critical opinion/memory, there has been a previous adaptation of Captain America. I too was unaware of the 1990 version starring Matt Salinger (son of J.D.) and Ronny Cox, but I think that one should really do their research before they make bold statements like '...the first film adaptation of a much-loved superhero...'. Nevertheless, this is the first major, big-budget studio adaptation of the character, and is the last in line of Marvel's superheroes to be introduced before next year's The Avengers, which is to be followed by Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, so the Marvel 'Avengers' Universe is well in motion and features at present five films. In Captain America, present-day scientists discover a circular object with a red, white and blue motif. We are then thrust back into 1942, where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is rejected due to health problems in his attempts to enlist in the U.S. army. However, upon overhearing Rogers' motivation for wanting to help the war, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) allows Rogers' to enlist under the agreement that he become subject for a 'super-soldier' experiment, under he, Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). The experiment works, and local politicians and senator's have Steve Rogers tour the U.S. as 'Captain America.'

To start off with what is good about the film, thumbs-up to Marvel for casting Chris Evans as Captain America. Evans is a terrific actor who has starred in a lot of supporting roles but hasn't quite had the big role that deserves yet. He is a fine screen presence and is completely believable and credible as Captain America/Steve Rogers. Also, well-done to the special/visual effects/make-up crews for making Chris Evans believable both as Steve Rogers, both pre and post-experiment. It is always great to see such convincing effects that do not look at all hoky. The film also has a very clean and distinct visual style that is down to the fact that the movie is both well-shot and well-lit. Production design too for the film is of a quality to be expected of a production such as this. 1940's New York is recreated in a completely believable manner and the costumes are also great. In the case of war-torn Italy, it too looks well, and the stunt team have done a very fine job. Also, it helps that the film packs some strong actors. Hugo Weaving plays a nefarious villain with a German accent in Johann Schmidt/Red Skull and Toby Jones plays Arnim Zola, Schmidt's lackey and a biochemist in the Nazi Party. The strongest of the supporting cast though is Tommy Lee Jones, who is perfectly cast as Colonel Phillips. A rough and uncouth Colonel who disapproves of a lot of things is perhaps not a stretch for Jones, but it is his damn sure entertaining. His interview scene with Toby Jones and his delivery of dialogue makes for some of the film's best moments, providing at least one big belly laugh from this critic. Finally, it is for the most part a very well structured film that, whilst by no means is challenging, does what is needed to tell the origin story of Captain America.

That said, while Captain America: The First Avenger has a lot going for it (including a Wilhelm scream), I think that equally it has as much problems that detract it from being as enjoyable a film as it should have been. As is usually the problem with a lot of films, they fail to address the problems at their basest level, the screenplay. For starters, the film is very 'chop-chop' and bounces all over the place, cutting from protagonist to villain to secondary characters to bit-parts/extras and back again in different combinations and orders. Alfred Hitchcock always used to say how it was more interesting shooting a film from one side of the story and leaving the audience in the dark as to what was happening on the other side. This also makes for some silly and pointless shots of a cutaway to a character looking pensive, nervous, angry etc. You can imagine the re-takes for these shots: "Toby, can you look a little more nervous. Action! (Looks nervous) Cut! Toby, this time would you be able to look a bit more thoughtful, as though to say 'this is interesting.' Can you do that for me? Alright, cheers. And, action!" It highlights a certain absurdity and does not make you want to believe in the acting. Also, the film is far too long and gets big for it's boots, and as a result you simply lose interest. The plot moves in directions that are rather obvious predictable and throughout the picture I seemed to be like Bobby Fischer predicting the moves of the opponent in front of me. Guys, I read your Poker Face, hello Lady Gaga. Finally, some of the dialogue is absolutely terrible. It is dialogue such as "You've gotta be somewhere in thirty minutes""Yes, I do" (with added emphasis) that makes the film seem like a bit of a joke with too much an air of self-importance. Outside of the screenplay, the film also teeters too much on the side of overt. It has a very bombastic and pushy score by Alan Silvestri, a composer whose work I like, that just doesn't work here and detracts and distracts from the film. Also, subtlety does not exist in this film's language, and it has a distinctly propagandist feel about it in the way that it pushes it's moral code down our throat, and I'm not talking about the Captain America war-propaganda, I liked that stuff. The film's moral code also reeks of hypocrisy when you have your lead character being told not to forget 'it's about heart, it's about what's on the inside that counts' by his mentor figure whenever women are throwing himself at him after his post-experiment makeover. I do think that film's can't be digested from a moral stance, but it does bother when a film changes it's moralities and philosophies with the turn of the tide, that is where the problems come. It is the hypocrisy and the back-pedelling that bothers me.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a highly admirable film. It is also an equally condemnable film. It is frankly astonishing how a movie can be nearly equally as good as it is bad, or vice verse. My ultimate feelings following the film's conclusion was that it merely exists to set up Marvel for The Avengers release in May 2012. Unlike the first Iron Man, a thoroughly entertaining film, it feels like a story of exposition and not it's own self-contained film. This is Marvel's way of spending $140 million to get movie audiences up to speed with the comic-book audience so that everyone knows the shit that's going on. Frankly, although I think The Avengers will do great box-office, I wouldn't go so far as to predict it breaks the $1 billion mark and I think it will suffer, like the X-Men film's, from having too many characters. Nevertheless, Captain America: The First Avenger is a decent blockbuster that is strides above recent offerings such as Green Lantern.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - In need (of the bog!)

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