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Movie Reviews

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)



Released: 29th July 2011 (UK)

Director: Joe Johnston

Stars: Chris Evans, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan

Certificate: (12A)

Reviewer: Christian O’Toole


Captain America was my second favourite superhero when I was a kid. The other boy in blue, Superman, was always number one. I used to while away endless hours playing with my action figures. DC and Marvel characters would mix freely with Star Wars figures in my own little made-up universe. Solo was usually found giving smart-ass comments to Princess Leia but, sadly, when the cat’s away the mice will play; and play Leia did. While Solo was off helping to save the galaxy, Leia was putting herself about like some sort of intergalactic hooker. She had a torrid two-hour affair with Captain America and was seen on numerous occasions flying around the rabbit hutch with Superman. Don’t worry, Superman didn’t get her pregnant and then fuck off for five years. That’s just preposterous.

Also, rumours of a three-way between Leia, Bib Fortuna and a bald, one-legged Barbie doll are nothing more than vicious lies spread by a mouthy protocol droid. C-3PO’s shiny severed limbs were sent to the four corners of the garden as a warning to the rest of the little plastic bastards to keep their goddamn mouths shut. Anyway, I digress…

The first fifty minutes of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) are excellent. The look and feel of it all seems just right. We have skinny wee Steve Rogers, riddled with ailments, trying, continually failing and then finally succeeding enlisting in the army. We see him standing up to a bully, pulling a clever trick with the flag pole at army training, and in one act of immense bravery, jumping on a grenade. There’s the expo with the introduction of Howard Stark, where Rogers offers a girl sweets and is given the dirty look of a dirty mare that I’m quite sure would be only too eager to munch his sweets, and more, when he becomes Captain America. We also have what is, for me, the best part of the film when Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) is dying and he points at Steve Rogers’ heart. A genuinely touching moment that elevates the film, for a few seconds, to something more than it is. There’s also the scene with the Red Skull having his portrait done. Cleverly, we don’t get to see the Red Skull or the painting. The look of nervous horror on the artist’s face is all we need to see. Good quality filmmaking!

The dawning realisation when the Nazi’s realise the Red Skull’s maniacal plan is also done quite well. “Berlin is on this map!” says one of the henchmen as the Red Skull blasts them into oblivion with his laser-cannon. The shift from “Hail, Hitler!” to “Hail, Hydra!” is fairly momentous.

We also see Steve Rogers chasing down a Hydra agent, during which he is seen holding a taxicab door with a star on it. Nicely done. Instead of going off to fight, Steve Rogers is left with little choice but to join the campaign for Defence Bonds. Here we see a stirring montage with kids reading Captain America comics, Cap starring in black & white war propaganda movies, signing autographs and one moment where a beautiful woman smiles at him and he realises he’s no longer that skinny little kid that was bullied. The montage ends with rousing zeal, fireworks and then… Well, then, unfortunately, the shit hits the fan.

From now on the film is riddled with an endless barrage of shitty lines. I can’t be arsed going through them all so I’ll randomly list some of the ones that irked me in particular.

The Wall of Cheese:

Peggy, “You’re late.” This is said to Cap when he returns to camp with the four-hundred hostages, and is repeated later after Peggy morphs into T-X and rescues Cap from a bit of bother. Cap turns to her and says, “You’re late.” This old ‘reverse and repeat’ banjo trick is used more than once in the film (“the right partner”) and in the tired fashion of a couple of screenwriters that have, perhaps, spent a little too much time in Narnia.

“I’m a Captain.” – Reminded me of, “I am not an animal, I am a human being.” But not in a good way.

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” “I’m Captain America.” – Glad he told us. Up to that point I could have sworn he was the Human Torch.

“Wait. Do you know what you’re doing?” “I’ve knocked out Adolf Hitler over two hundred times.” – I knew that was coming. I fucking knew it! I still quivered in disgust, though, when it did come. Ugh.

Stan Lee, “I thought he’d be taller.” No need for this. Stan Lee’s cameo looks like it was crammed in as an afterthought. It’s done far better in X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and ,especially, X-Men, Iron Man (Hugh Hefner) and Iron Man 2 (Larry King).

“Let’s hear it for Captain America!” Nah, let’s not. Let’s just leave it, eh?

Bucky (Sebastian Stan), “You’re keeping the outfit, right?” Cap, “You know what? It’s kinda growin’ on me.” I think this could have been done a lot better. Cap – who is supposed to be a humble, unexpected hero – should have said something along the lines of being too embarrassed to wear the suit because it makes him different from everyone else; something about just wanting to fit in. Then Bucky (or someone else) could have given him a speech that convinced him to wear it, telling Cap that it’s inspirational and an icon of the cause. Actually, forget it. No doubt they’d have fucked that up, as well.

Cap, “I can do this all day.” Red Skull, “Of course you can but unfortunately I am on a tight schedule.” Cap, “So am I.” So am I? SO… AM… I?! Honestly, at this point I was just laughing in disbelief.

This next part is by far the worst part of the film. The Connect Four of corny bullshit; four pieces of shocking dialogue in a row!

Falsworth, “Let’s get going because they’re moving like the Devil.”

Cap, “We’ve only got about a ten second window. You miss that window… we’re bugs on a windshield.”

Falsworth, “Mind the gap.”

Dugan, “Better get moving, bugs.”

Shakespeare is alive and well, and scribing for Marvel.

Soon after that craptastic catastrophe, Cap and Bucky are hanging off the side of a speeding train and Cap shouts, “Hang on!” Now they’re just taking the piss, right? Why on earth would you include that? If in doubt, LEAVE IT OUT!

There’s one line where the Red Skull says to Cap, “Captain America. I’m a big fan of your films.” This is an acceptable level of comic-book style cheese, in my opinion, and also pretty damn funny. This is during the scene where Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) pushes a button that pulls the footbridge back with Cap and the Red Skull on either side. This whole segment was shaping up nicely ‘til the Red Skull pulled off his mask and Cap’s friend said, “You don’t have one of those, do you?” What the fuck are you even talking about?! Pointless. As they start to run away Cap says, “Let’s go.” Again, fuck off, no need whatsoever.

There’s a scene that’s supposed to be rousing and heroic with the returning hero marching into camp with the four-hundred hostages he’s just saved. It’s not rousing in the slightest. Part of the problem is the music, which is shit. The vast majority of the music in the film just doesn’t seem to fit with what’s on screen.

The scenes with Cap on the motorbike are done pretty well and are relatively exciting. The fight scenes, however, are a rickety and amateurish mess. The editing of the action sequences is, on the whole, dodgy as fuck. There are two or three cool action sequences, but these can be seen in the trailer. Once again a trailer shows some of the best parts of the film. Instead of sitting saying, “Wow! Check that out!” you’re left saying, “That bit was in the trailer.” There’s a deep-rooted problem in the production of movie trailers, but that’s for another day.

Chris Evans does as well as he can with what he’s given. Hugo Weaving does a fine job as Johann Schmidt as Werner Herzog as the Red Skull. Dominic Cooper is fine as Howard Stark. In fact, the whole cast seems to be fine. They’re all just let down, to varying degrees, by the script/screenplay; or lack thereof. My favourite performance in the film is undoubtedly Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine. He seems to have the only part that was written with any sort of love and care. Admittedly, he does have the advantage of dying just before the film begins to perish. There is one particularly bad bit of acting by Hayley Atwell, but I think, again, it’s probably more to do with the dialogue than Miss Atwell’s acting ability. Benefit of the doubt, and all that nonsense.

The part I’m referring to is near the end when Cap is moments away from taking the plane down and he says, “Peggy, I’m gonna need a rain check on that dance.” He’s sacrificing himself for the greater good. This should’ve been touching and epic but it just falls completely flat; due in no small part to Peggy’s response. “Steve. Steve. Steve,” she pathetically slevers. Just after this, Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) looks at her and then walks away with his head down. To be honest, I think Tommy had just had enough.

The Times Square scene at the end was looking promising, until this…

Nick Fury, “You gonna be ok?”

Cap, “Yeah. Yeah, I just. I had a date.”

Gimme a fuckin’ break.

All in all, it’s not a bad effort and, as I said, the first fifty minutes are, in my opinion, excellent. It’s just a shame that the seventy-four minutes after that are a disastrous deluge of diabolical dialogue.

“So, what made you so special?” “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.”


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