Friday, May 04, 2012

Captain America: The First Avenger



Based on the Marvel comic by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Captain America: The First Avenger is the story of how a young man named Steve Rogers became Captain America through an experiment as he helps Americans during World War II to fight one of Adolf Hitler’s evil henchmen. Directed by Joe Johnston and screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley, the film is an origin story about Captain America and his rise to power as he’s played by Chris Evans. Also starring Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper, Derek Luke, Neal McDonough, Sebastian Stan, Toby Jones, and Tommy Lee Jones. Captain America: The First Avenger is a stylish yet exhilarating film from Joe Johnston.

A Nazi officer named Johan Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has arrived in a small Norwegian village with a group of soldiers to retrieve a mysterious tesseract that possesses unlimited power. Meanwhile, a young man named Steve Rogers has tried out to be in the military but is rejected due to his sickly physical appearances and other ailments. With his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) accompanying to an exhibition hosted by famed inventor Howard Stark (Hugo Weaving), Steve sees another recruitment office where he gets the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who admires Steve’s determination as he gets him enlisted. Despite Steve’s small appearance where Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), an act of self sacrifice does manage to impress British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

After Erskine reveals to Steve about an experiment that he collaborated with Schmidt that went out of control due to Schmidt’s power, he reminds Steve that it’s about being a good man that matters. With Steve taking part of the experiment led by Erskine and Stark, the success becomes a surprising success only for one of Schmidt’s assassins (Richard Armitage) to take a formula where Steve, in his new powers, manages to stop him from taking the formula. Though Phillips remains unsure of Steve, U.S. Senator Brandt (Michael Brandon) has Steve play the role of a costumed hero named Captain America for a tour to sell war bonds. During a stop in Italy, Steve learns that his friend Bucky is captured by some men of Schmidt along with many POWs. With Phillips refusing to help in order to avoid taking a risk, Carter and Stark decided to aid Steve in the secret mission that turns out to be a major success.

Though the mission has Steve meeting Schmidt for the first time under his real face, he also learns what Schmidt is doing. With a team that includes Bucky, Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke), Japanese-American Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), British soldier James Montgomery Falsworth (J.J. Feild), and French Resistance soldier Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci). Steve and his team manages to destroy Schmidt’s factories and bases as well as capturing his biochemist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) who reluctantly reveals information to Phillips. Realizing what Schmidt will do with the power of the tesseract, Steve decides to go ahead to create a mission that will stop him from destroying the world.

The film is essentially an origin story of how Steve Rogers became Captain America through an experiment back in the 1940s during World War II. Yet, it’s a very compelling story since Steve Rogers is just this young guy who doesn’t have a lot of physical strength and probably the last guy anyone would want in an army. Yet, he just wants to help out and is willing to do anything for his country where he would impress some people and later become this symbol of American patriotism. Of course, he would have to face this Nazi officer who sports a red skull due to a botched experiment as he’s obsessed with the occult and power that would make him far more powerful that Hitler.

The screenplay that Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley does play to a certain formula that is expected in an origin story based on superheroes. What makes it different is the fact that Steve Rogers isn’t like a lot of the people who would become superheroes. He’s a guy with an idea about what a hero should be and is from an era that was about doing what is right for the country. When he gets the power to be super-strong and be able to do things better than most humans. He becomes more confident but is grounded by Erskine’s words that to be a true soldier is to just simply be a good person. That is the opposite of a character like Schmidt who craves power but only to become more intent on destroying the world including the people he’s really working for.

Other characters such as Peggy Carter, Dr. Erskine, Colonel Phillips, Howard Stark, and Bucky Barnes are well-rounded supporting characters that surround themselves with Rogers. Dr. Erskine is a man who is intrigued by Rogers’ determination as he sees someone who is pure of heart. This may not impress the more no-nonsense Col. Phillips but Rogers’ determination and willingness to fight does eventually win him over. These characters including the charming Howard Stark and the supportive Bucky Barnes do flesh out more of Rogers character but it’s Peggy Carter that is really won over by Rogers. Notably as she sees him as a man that just wants to do his job while there’s also some romantic tension between the two as they’re both intent on winning the war.

Thanks to the film’s adventurous and character-driven screenplay, director Joe Johnston is able to create a film that is very entertaining as well as giving the audience a superhero to root for. With its gorgeous set pieces with some visual effects to play up the world that Rogers is in. With lots of amazing sequences involving a chase scene early in the film as well as some battles, Johnston always play up an element of suspense to see what might happen and how Captain America will succeed. Notably as it is to establish what Captain America is facing where he has to prove that he’s not just some lab rat used to promote war bonds.

The film also had Johnston take his time to allow Rogers to relax and be human where he is sort of awkward in the way he deals with women while is also a guy that likes to hang out with his buddies. The compositions that Johnston gives are quite simple but also engaging since it also involves some small moments of humor and drama. Notably the scene between Dr. Erskine and Rogers about the upcoming experiment and Schmidt’s origins as the Red Skull. Johnston knows how to balance action, drama, and humor while also including a wonderful musical montage where Steve has to play Captain America selling war bonds that is pretty cheesy but also entertaining. Overall, Johnston does an incredible job in creating a film that is exciting and also heartfelt in the way it portrays Captain America.

Cinematographer Shelly Johnson does excellent work with the film‘s very stylish cinematography that is filled with elements of sepia washes for some of the film‘s interior scenes along with more low-key blue-green shots for some of the film‘s battle scenes. Editors Robert Dalva and Jeffrey Ford do nice work with the editing in creating wonderful montages for the war bonds stuff and Captain America‘s battles against Schmidt‘s men that is intercut with Schmidt‘s own reaction. Production designer Rick Heinrichs and set decorator John Bush do fantastic work with the set pieces such as the design for Captain America’s shield, the expo held by Howard Starks, and other 1940s sets and things to play up that world that Rogers lives in.

Costume designer Anne B. Sheppard does wonderful work with the costumes to play up that period of the 1940s including the different versions of the Captain America outfit. Visual effects supervisor Christopher Townshend does superb work with the visual effects to play up the look of the Red Skull and some of the set pieces while some of the effects of Steve Rogers early in the film doesn‘t look that great in some spots though it was effective to display his character.. Sound designers Stephen Hunter Flick, Shannon Mills, Daniel Pagan, and Jason W. Jennings, along with sound editor Howell Gibbens, do terrific work with the sound from the atmosphere of the expo to the battle scenes to display the element of suspense and action that occurs.

The film’s score by Alan Silvestri is brilliant for its soaring orchestral touches with elements of big-band brass music to play up the 1940s period. Notably as it includes some themes that is very patriotic including an original song co-written with David Zippel called Star Spangled Man in the film’s musical montage that is quite fun to hear.

The casting by Sarah Finn, Randi Hiller, and Priscilla John is outstanding for the ensemble that is created as it includes a cameo appearance from Stan Lee as a war general along with small appearances from Natalie Dormer as Col. Phillips’ secretary, David Bradley as a Norwegian tower keeper, Richard Armitage as Schmidt’s assassin, and Michael Brandon as Senator Brandt. Other notable roles include Kenneth Choi, J.J. Feild, and Bruno Ricci as fellow soldiers of Captain America’s team, Toby Jones as Schmidt’s cautious assistant Arnim Zola, Neal McDonough as the bowler-sporting soldier Dum Dum Dugan, and Derek Luke as the intelligent yet crafty soldier Gabe Jones. Stanley Tucci is superb in a very warm yet mesmerizing performance as Dr. Erskine who gives Rogers the experimenting while giving him wisdom about what it takes to be a good man and a good soldier. Sebastian Stan is very good as Steve’s friend Bucky who wants to protect Steve from joining only to aid him in defeating Schmidt.

Dominic Cooper is terrific as the arrogant but witty Howard Stark who provides the tools that Rogers needs while Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as the no-nonsense Colonel Phillips who spouts out some very funny lines in the film. Hugo Weaving is wonderful as the villainous Johan Schmidt who is willing to try and attain a lot of power while being intimidating to those who oppose him including the people he’s working for. Hayley Atwell is phenomenal as Peggy Carter in the way she maintains her role as an agent while proving to be quite handy with a gun as she also has some amazing chemistry with the film’s star in Chris Evans. In the role of the titular character, Evans brings a real sense of the everyman in this character as well as someone who knows that he just want to do what is right. It’s a truly charismatic and very grounded performance that proves that Chris Evans is really an incredible actor who doesn’t get much notice.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a spectacular and thrilling film from Joe Johnston that features an outstanding performance from Chris Evans. Along with top-notch supporting work from Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s a film that does manage to create a superhero film with style and substance as well as a character to root for. Particularly as Joe Johnston is able to give the film a look and feel that feels true to the comic’s roots. In the end, Captain America: The First Avenger is a remarkable film from Joe Johnston.

Joe Johnston Films: (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) - (The Rocketeer) - (The Pagemaster) - (Jumanji) - (October Sky) - (Jurassic Park III) - (Hidalgo) - (The Wolfman (2010 film))

Marvel Phase One Films: Iron Man - Iron Man 2 - Hulk - (The Incredible Hulk) - Thor - The Avengers (2012 film)

Marvel Phase 2 Films: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) - (Guardians of the Galaxy)

© thevoid99 2012

3 comments:

dtmmr said...

I was surprised that this film actually worked out the way that it did. Definitely had a cool, retro style to it but also a lot more for its story than any of the other superheros. The sequel will definitely be cool to see with Cap running around present-day New York. Nice review Steve. Did you see The Avengers yet my man? It's freakin' awesome!

Sati. said...

I thought the film was so-so - it had great chemistry between all the actors apart from Weaving and good visuals but I was quite bored watching it and the whole intrigue wasn't very engaging.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-I'm going to see The Avengers this Sunday. I was really into it. I just liked the retro aspect of the film.

@Sati-I was into it. I'm a fan of Joe Johnston's work as I really felt The Rocketeer is a very underrated film. I was just surprised by the story as I had low expectations with this film.