While Cowboys & Aliens was fun and forgettable with some great lead performances, Captain America is spectacular and memorable with some great supporting performances.
Chris Evans gives a fine performance, but I honestly can’t say it was great. It did the job and it did it well, but it doesn’t stand out the way, say, Robert Downey Jr’s portray of Tony Stark does. I’m not saying it’s flat or flawed, it’s just understated and humble, as it should be. It doesn’t need to be more than what it is – especially given the character he’s playing.
Tommy Lee Jones is, well, Tommy Lee Jones, but that’s always fun to watch (and he has the best line in the movie in my opinion). Hugo Weaving does a great job as the Red Skull, and Hayley Atwell is solid as Agent Carter. There are other good supporting roles too, as well as numerous Marvel Universe cameos and supporting roles that help bring the universe together.
Captain America and Cowboys & Aliens has something in common, however. The mash-up of era-based technology and SF Super Technology. I’m amazed this movie handled it as well as they did. I always hate it when good guys fail to use super-bad-guy weapons against them and that doesn’t happen here, which is good (though I’d have had it happen more than they did, but then they want to keep it feeling WWII at the same time, not Star Wars).
Lately the Marvel movies have been doing a bang up job of making these things just WORK. Iron Man and Thor are two examples (Thor’s next on my list, but I’ve only heard good things about it – even if the Norse Mythology lover will cringe).
The problem with comic book movies is it’s hard to do well. Up until 2000 the only good one was Tim Burton’s Batman, and even that wasn’t perfect. Before that it was Christopher Reeve’s Superman, which is still a great movie but just a bit campy compared to this generation’s films. Still love it, though.
While X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 managed to do a respectable job of treating the comic book genre seriously, it was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was the game changer, in my opinion. Later you had Chris Nolan’s take on Batman Begins (which despite its problems, I enjoyed, and it allowed the remarkable The Dark Knight to be made). But even then, for every Spider-Man there was a Ghost Rider or Green Lantern lurking in the poop somewhere. Ugh. Comic book movies are hard to do right.
Anyway, Captain America does it right – big time. It captures the WWII era perfectly, incorporates super-technology believably (in comic book terms), and has Steve Roger’s origin story done really well. My brother complained about the idea of him being in the USO selling war bonds when he heard about it, but it works well for the arc he takes. Brilliantly plotted. I won’t say brilliantly written because this isn’t the kind of movie where you’re going to quote anyone other than Tommy Lee Jones. But the story and plotting are just great.
When it’s Cap’s time to shine it’s not just for one villain or one mission, but a campaign – which is exactly as it should be. Hydra feels like a proper threat unlike that (ugh) Nick Fury movie staring David Hasselhoff… (cringe!)
Complaints? I have a few. The sound seemed weird, like a lot of the voice acting was dubbed in afterwards. Maybe it was just the acoustics of my theatre but it stood out for me. The climax that ends with Cap being frozen in the arctic (not a spoiler – for one thing they reveal that at the start and for another if you didn’t know that about Captain America then read a damn comic book) seemed a little off to me. I just didn’t believe his only option was his only option. But meh, I give it a pass based on the rest of the awesomeness.
I saw it in 3D because I missed the 2D showing. Don’t bother seeing it in 3D unless it’s no extra charge. Not worth it. The only way that it might have helped the film at all is to help cement the pre-Cap America skinny Steve Rogers effects. Most impressive head transplant in cinematic history, and I suspect that in this one case the old ViewMaster 3D layering effect might have actually helped you not look for or notice any flaws. I dunno, have to watch it on a normal TV later.
After the end credits is a trailer for the Avengers movie – which based on Iron Man and reviews of Thor I have high hopes for. It will certainly be their biggest challenge yet, getting an ensemble story to work and not just fall apart like SpiderMan 3 did (too many damn villains). But, like Agent Carter in the film, I have faith.