83. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

All muscle and no depth, Captain America comes in with a crash landing

Captain America doesn’t do justice to a highly anticipated character

Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Samuel L. Jackson

We’ve often rolled our eyes at the great Western super power that is America for deciding to be the hero in every conflict that goes on in the world. And while the first Avenger seems inherently tied to the black and white of all-American good versus authoritarian evils, Captain America is a guy who stands up to bullies regardless of where they come from. Or at least that’s what Captain America: The First Avenger tries very hard to get across.

One of the ways in which the film does this is by incorporating a nice multicultural group of comrades who help out Captain America in his montage of fighting Nazis. Their names are irrelevant, they don’t have any real defining characteristics other than their ethnicities and what the Captain stands for soon loses the complexity and depth of character that was so tantalisingly promoted through the trailer.

Steve Rogers (Evans) is a scrawny kid with a list of physical inadequacies that stop him from signing up for the army. Determined to do his part for his country, Steve goes to multiple registration offices using various aliases and trying to talk his way into being a part of the Second World War, only to be rejected time and time again. His stubborness, however, is rewarded when a Dr. Erskine (Tucci) takes him on as the right man for his science experiment to create a super-soldier – boosting all the favourable qualities of Steve, with a ripped body as a bonus. The driving message being that regardless of the bigger pecs, stay a good man.

Unfortunately, the moving heroism and originality of this character’s beginnings are lost in the special effects montage that completely simplifies and smooths over the earlier concepts of what it takes to be a hero, and what it takes to be a good film. For example, one of the most interesting sequences is a propaganda sequence in which Captain America is an all-smiling model for encouraging support for the war-effort and keeping the morale up and high for the people at home. Cut to the disillusioned soldiers on the warfront and the film had the start of a potentially interesting and thought-provoking comment on the realities of war, and an opportunity to show how Captain America rises as a hero from this stark contrast between idealised heroism and real, proactive action.

With enough explosives, a lack of convincing strategies in infiltrating the Nazi camp and a serious absence of tension between the rivalling hero and villain, Captain America fails to do justice to a story and character that promised a lot more than simply bigger CGI and swanky weaponry. Getting lost in how great Captain America looks, rather than focusing on strong ideas and themes about good, evil, heroism and anti-war sentiments, it seems like Dr. Erskine’s advice on being good in terms of content rather than simple muscle-power flew over the moviemakers’ heads with the sound of planes and gunfire.


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