Saturday, July 30, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

As part of Marvel Studios' buildup to the Avengers movie in 2012, they have released their final prequel movie Captain America: The First Avenger. Having not read a single issue of the comic, but only knowing his origin from the series and a couple of his enemies, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Thankfully, Captain America as an origin story works heavily in its favor and leaves a great impression in the future of superhero movies.

A grand majority of the movie's run time is dedicated to showing us what Captain America was like in his original time period, the early 1940's. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has been turned down by the U.S. Army five times due to his array of health issues. He is physically weak and can't do much of anything when he is bullied by those who are stronger, but he does have plenty of courage and bravery. Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) manages to catch wind of this and gets him into a "super soldier" program, where one man will be selected for a special treatment. Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) is unconvinced by Erskine's choice, but is convinced otherwise when Steve throws himself onto a dummy grenade, displaying bravery where others would cower. Rogers ends up being picked and undergoes the treatment, becoming taller and more muscular. His enhanced physical abilities are displayed when he takes down a Nazi, thus earning him fame. Steve is now a national hero, touring the country as Captain America to boost morale. This doesn't last long, as he eventually goes on the front lines to take down the organization known as Hydra. Led by Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), they possess advanced technology powered by something known as the tesseract, which is said to contain power from the Norse gods.

The movie as a whole is executed masterfully, with a great script and superb acting. Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving pull of their characters in a way that makes them believable, although Red Skull doesn't get too much of a spotlight. While it may have been better to see more of him, it's also fair to say that enough was shown for the audience to know who he is and what he is up to. Compared to previous Marvel Studios movies like Thor, I was actually able to get more emotionally invested in the characters and wonder what was going to happen to them next. However the movie seems to move at a quicker pace within the latter half, but the action that unfolds is amazing to watch, coupled with a great score that matches the mood.

In order to portray the young Steve Rogers, the studio needed to digitally make Chris Evans' body smaller. This amazingly went undetectable, which shows a lot of dedication in the special effects department. Speaking of which, every other effect in the movie was shown off with the same amazing attention to detail. It all looked and felt surprisingly realistic, especially for the setting, and I look forward to seeing the same treatment in future movies.

Another aspect that deserves equal praise is how the movie makes homages to the comic book, mainly for the costume. This is probably the only thing I would immediately recognize from Captain America, and they injected the original costume plus an older shield realistically into the plot. I also appreciated how they introduced his more iconic circular shield, which I thought was really cool to see in action. As for the new costume, I can't really complain about the design. When it comes down to something like that I normally just go along with it. I think it looks good anyway, and it was fun to see how they still integrated the wings into the helmet design.

The scene after the credits is worth staying around for, as it helps to set up the eventual crossover flick. However, the real meat comes from what follows immediately after: the first ever trailer for the Avengers movie. Just like Back to the Future Part II did for Part III, we get a first look at footage from the next movie, except here we see every character in the Marvel Movie Universe, sans Hulk, in the same room and even interacting with each other. It's well worth waiting through the credits to see.

Captain America: The First Avenger is an excellent movie filled with a nice blend of action and drama, and even the occasional humor. Fans of the actual comic may get the most enjoyment out of this, especially those who can spot references to the source material. Non-readers will also walk out of the theater happy since it also serves as a great summer blockbuster on its own. Either way, you won't regret going to see it.

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