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Captain America: The First Avenger - Movie Review By A.D.Harris

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The Caps' first big budget outing is a real hard one to take. It has a lot going for it; the chief amongst them being the beautiful cinematography and visual effects which perfectly capture a 1940's America and Europe that feels real yet slides beautifully in the Marvel Universe which also feels slightly separate from our own world. It also has a cast that most superhero films could only dream of, with on-the-rise action star Chris Evans supporting by a cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving & Stanley Tucci to name but a few. The fact therefore that Captain America really doesn't hit the mark is even more disappointing; never has a comic-book hero felt so desperately close to being great yet then falling so drastically short of the mark. Its bitter sweet for certain, but it doesn't mean its all bad, and the future for the franchise is still as bright as it always was...

To begin with the 'origins' first third of the film is to highlight everything good and promising that the film has; its a beautiful and fun journey to watch Steve Rogers' path from the reluctant nobody to the deserving hero he always was inside. Chris Evans, whilst juggling some impressive CGI work that makes him appear thin, gaunt and unable to serve his country, is exceptional in this skin. He brings out all the empathy that the man trapped within the lesser body should be, and gets you rooting early on for the path we all know is coming. Its the most important job he had to do and he pulls it off effortlessly, getting the audience behind supporting the hero; something which the recent 'Green Lantern' failed to achieve.

Whilst Evans is firing on all cylinders, the rest of the creative team are also strong. A gruelling army training camp montage hits all the notes helped no end by the introduction of a wickedly fun Tommy Lee Jones and a gritty Stanley Tucci. Heroine Peggy Carter, as played by Hayley Atwell also gets the ball rolling with a bang, her British SSR officer packing more punch then we're used to seeing from the superhero love interest. It all builds up to the tense and butt-clenching moment where Rogers steps into the machine leading to his new bulky and muscular appearance, a scene which hits all the right notes and is followed by a frenetic action sequence that answers a lot of the 'non-comic-book-fan' questions that build up before that point.

Unfortunately, that point is where things slowly begin to unravel. The film never drops off the edge of a cliff into absurdity, it perhaps hurts even more that it slowly rolls downward from here into disappointment... The middle third is the start of this drop as it does what every non-American fan of the 'Marvel-Movie-Franchise' feared and rears too close to the cheesy American patriotism that a hero with America in his name could do. Admittedly, its all very important to finding and identifying the hero that the Cap becomes, but it went a little too far; there's only so much 'Star Spangled Banner' a movie should have. In fairness, it could have worked , but a huge sequence of Rogers touring America promoting War Bonds drags on and the soundtrack annoys with every passing minute.

As this goes on, all the other interesting characters we were introduced to disappear and it takes too long to get the Captain back with them and where he needs to be. Ultimately he needed to be fighting those Nazis and doing some superhero stuff at least twenty minutes earlier. The problem that follows unfortunately, is that when the plot and action kick into gear, they never manage to get going again leaving the final third feeling very disjointed with little resolution to any character in the entire movie.

There are some spectacular sequences that should have the action aficionado's jaw hitting the multiplex floor - a high-wire onto a moving train and an assault by the Captain single handedly on baddie Red Skull's villainous base the highlights. But it all feels like one action sequence after another with director Joe Johnson thinking we're happy with 'War' as a good enough excuse for what we're watching. Sadly though it isn't...

Speaking of Red Skull, the main villain of the piece follows a similar path to the film. Beginning with a wickedly awesome scene that ties into the recent 'Thor,' the Red Skull, originally known as Nazi Johann Schmidt, appears to be the next great super-villain following Ledger's Joker. Hugo Weaving mixes the German accent with his iconic twang to great effect, but as time passes the character becomes too poorly written and gets lines that are unintentionally laughed at for the wrong reasons. Also his evil plan is so poorly developed. The mysterious box he used to harness power is not explained at all, and as a result we don't really know what the heroes are fighting for. From what I understand, the box will be explained in next years' 'Avengers' but for now it leaves the grand plot of this film wafer thin.

All could be forgiven had the ending not so badly flopped; a second attack on Red Skull's base fails to deliver the quality of action that had gone before and leads to a ridiculous moment where the heroes have to use a rocket powered car to catch the Skull's jet before it flies away. Its been done before and its been done better. The final showdown between the Cap & Red Skull is slow, lacklustre and doesn't build to anything close to a crescendo; settling for setting up the next 'Captain America' adventure rather than wrapping this one up. Whether it was aiming for the bitter sweet feeling that 'Thor' had at its ending is a mystery, but it doesn't generate anywhere near the same level of emotion.

Instead, it leaves you angry that Marvel decided to give a two hour trailer for their 'masterpiece' next year. They may have been subtly doing so in 'Iron Man' & 'Thor' but in both those cases it was fun because it was secondary to creating the overall plot of the individual film. In this case it feels too blatent, and it hurts the film badly.

So it had promise and didn't reach the marks, but the good thing is that in Chris Evans they have found a Cap that the audience will root for, and in the post-credits sequence they remind everyone how awesome next summer could become...

I only hope that once 'The Avengers' have hit cinemas screens, Marvel sit back and look at this film and find a way to give all the great characters they created here some resolution and a movie deserving the title 'Captain America.'

After all, he's supposed to be the best America can offer... right?



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