2011-07-22

Captain America: The First Avenger – Cap’s Good, But Not Good Enough

by Yo Snyder

Marvel has perfected their formula for comic book movies, and what
better way to demonstrate than by making a movie about the perfect
soldier; Steve Rogers aka Captain America. This is the third Marvel
movie this summer, and it’s arguably the best one yet. It’s light,
breezy, comic book fun that doesn’t demand too much from its audience as
it entertains. While Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are in no danger
of being unseated as the epitome of a serious study of super heroes on
the big screen, Captain America demonstrates that a lighter touch with just a smidgen of campy cheesiness can be a whole lot of fun.

Of
course a large part of the enjoyment in any movie like this is the cast
and whether or not they properly capture the spirit of their
characters. Chris Evans does a fine job with Steve Rogers, making him a
straight arrow, all-around good guy with tons of heart. In truth, he can
come off as a little bland at times, but he’s likable enough, and I
kind of wish the script would have allowed his character to grow a bit.
It’s the supporting cast that really shines here; from Stanley Tucci’s
Dr. Erskine (who I wish was in the movie more) to Tommy Lee Jone’s
curmudgeon of a Colonel Philips to Hugo Weaving’s sinister Red Skull
(who quite frankly doesn’t have enough to do and isn’t developed enough
to make it feel like anything’s really at stake, he’s a good villain but
not a great one) and Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter, the cast is
uniformly superb and make the movie as much fun as it is.

It’s
interesting to me that one of the things mentioned in the movie the the
super soldier serum’s (that’s the stuff that makes scrawny Rogers into
burly Cap) ability to not only enhance physical attributes, but the
character of a person as well. We’re told that what happened with Red
Skull is the serum took his inner evil and made it even worse, whereas
with someone like Steve Rogers, it will take his innate goodness and
make him even better. I think the reason characters like Captain America
inspire and resonate with us is because we see something in them that
we wish we had more of. We like the characteristics of honor, dignity,
integrity, courage and selflessness, but so often they are lacking in
us. Well take heart, the Bible says we’re all in the same boat. In fact,
it says there’s no one good, not even one (not even Captain America).
When it comes to trying to be good, we will always fall far short of
what God defines as “good”, and truth be told we don’t have innate
goodness in us, but rather a nature of sin. But we are not without hope.
God has offered us a “super serum” of sorts as well; his son Jesus
Christ. His death and resurrection not only paid the price for our sin,
but made it possible to discover just how good we can really be. Freed
from sin, we are given the option to pursue righteousness and goodness
without worrying about measuring up to God’s standard because in Christ,
we already do. All of those heroic qualities we admire in guys like
Captain America can shine through in you as well, with a little help
from a God who loves you.

I mentioned the cast makes the movie
fun, and that’s part of it, but he rest of the fun is up to director Joe
Johnston to balance the campy fun with big action set pieces and the
smaller character moments, he does this very efficiently. Almost too
efficiently at times as things happen on-screen just as they’re supposed
to, but there’s little emotional resonance. Still, there’s a vaguely Raiders of the Lost Ark
feel to this adventure, which is only enhanced by the wise choice to
make it a period piece. Indeed, the only way I think this movie could
have been more fun would have been to see more of Cap’s crew of fellow
soldiers in action. Despite getting very little screen time, they’re all
fun characters and I would have enjoyed a whole movie based on their
exploits and adventures with Cap. As it is, we only get a very brief but
very cool montage of them in action. After all, this is Captain
America’s movie on the way to joining the Avengers, and not a movie
about the Howling Commandos; too bad.

Aside from that, there’s
not much else to say about this movie. It would have perhaps been better
had it truly been a stand alone adventure instead of the final stepping
stone to The Avengers. There are a lot final ties to that much
anticipated film, but I think some of the efforts to get there hampered
this film from really excelling the way it could have. Nevertheless,
it’s good summer-time movie fluff fun. Not much will stick with you
after you step out of theater (but do stick around for an Avengers
tease at the very end), but you’ll leave with a smile on your face; and
more than anything else, when I go to see comic book heroes on the big
screen in the summer, that’s what I really want.