Directed By: Joe Johnston
Written By: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (screenplay) Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (comics)
This was a film Amber and I actually ventured out into the theater to see a few years ago which has been a rarity since 2008 when our first child was born. We still get out to the theater as often as we can but are very selective on what we go see because opportunity is more limited now. This was an easy decision as I spent many years waiting on The Avengers and specifically made a point to see every film that led up to it. When we went to see this film we made the mistake of going to see it in 3D. After the phenomenal success of Avatar every film under the sun was “converting” to the 3D format whether it was a good idea or not. In this film it was not a good idea and so much of it was blurry on-screen as opposed to being three-dimensional, despite the fancy shot of Cap throwing his shield right at us. That experience initially gave me the impression that the movie was only so-so and because of that it was never added into our collection until now. In preparation for the sequel, which looks awesome by the way, I finally broke down and bought this film to give it another shot. I can attest now that my initial reaction to the movie was incorrect and I found the second viewing to be a drastic improvement over the first.
I did not like the casting of Chris Evans in the part of Steve Rodgers. It’s not that he isn’t right for the role because in fact I think he is but I think it was an awful decision to reuse an actor who had already been used in the Marvel film universe. Of course the big difference is that FOX owns the rights to The Fantastic Four while Marvel owns Captain America. Nevertheless I thought Chris Evans was great as Johnny Storm and one of the few highlights to an otherwise weak film in general. Using him again as a different character meant that we wouldn’t see his Johnny Storm again and despite how bad those movies were I still held out hope for a successful sequel in the future. It all matters little now as The Fantastic Four is in the process of being rebooted and Chris Evans is entrenched as the leader of the Avengers. As it goes with playing the part of Captain America Evans has everything required. He couldn’t look more all-American and he is a physical powerhouse. So while I wasn’t happy about the casting when the news first dropped years ago I feel much differently now. Evans has won me over and I look forward to seeing his next portrayal of the part in The Winter Soldier.
When you cast a bad guy for a movie you simply can’t go wrong when you choose Hugo Weaving for the part. I thought his portrayal of the Red Skull was awesome and he looked really villainous in the make-up, which was done perfectly. I have never been a big follower of Captain America but I have always been a fan of Marvel comics and you can’t be such without knowing a little bit about the Red Skull. As far as Marvel villains go he is one of the biggest and baddest so casting the part was a difficult thing to do. However, as I said, you just can’t go wrong using Agent Smith as a bad guy. I always like a movie that utilizes Nazis as bad guys because nobody is easier to root against. These guys aren’t just Nazis either, but a much worse off shoot of them in HYDRA. I absolutely love the scene in which Cap chases down the HYDRA assassin only for him to lick one of his front teeth out and kill himself with it. I have seen examples of bad guys killing themselves in this fashion before by crunching a planted poison caplet in their mouth but never quite like that and I thought it was awesome.
I miss the days when Tommy Lee Jones was a bankable star that appeared in many films on a regular basis. So I was really happy to see him cast in a significant role for this film and I really liked what he brought to it. He has made a bit of a comeback in recent years from the time when I thought everything was going downhill for him. When he made Space Cowboys in 2000 I took it as a sign that he had already resigned himself to the “old man parts” that his co-stars in the film already had locked down and I thought it was too soon for him. I think Jones is awesome and consider it unfortunate that we won’t be seeing him again in any Captain America sequels. Speaking of the sequel I do look forward to seeing Sebastian Stan in The Winter Soldier, or (brace yourself for a possible spoiler) I suppose I should say as the Winter Soldier. For those who don’t know, Bucky survives the fall we see in this movie and is systematically brainwashed over the years by bad guys to be a bad version of Captain America so to speak. I’m sure we are in for an emotional and troubling scene for Cap in the sequel when he realizes the bad guy he faces is his long-lost friend Bucky, who probably for some reason blames Cap for what happened to him.
The rest of this cast all did well but it was a one time deal as they all played characters in a timeline we won’t be seeing again. Stanley Tucci is a relentless worker who appears in nearly everything these days, and he was good as the wise doctor who created Captain America. Toby Jones was good his role as the Red Skull’s sidekick Arnim Zola. I am a fan of Neal McDonough because he was phenomenal in the season three of Justified and while his role in this movie was small I think it was good. Dominic Cooper was good at acting like Robert Downey Jr while playing Tony Stark’s father but I wish they has used John Slattery again for the part as the did in Iron Man 2. Not only for continuity reasons but because I specifically like Slattery. Hayley Atwell did nothing wrong in her performance but I don’t give it much thought because she is just filling in that role of “necessary love interest.” These comic heroes always have to have some woman they are in love with whether there are practical reasons for that love or not. In this film Atwell was simple the pretty face who got called when one was needed.
I do think this movie could have been a bit better but overall I think it was a great beginning to something that can be much greater. I think the preview for the coming sequel looks awesome, so awesome in fact I felt I had to buy this movie simply to have the right reference in place for it. The sequel has a different set of directors in Anthony and Joe Russo. While I am not familiar with their work I feel like they have to be better than Joe Johnston. Nothing against Johnston, he has made a few films I thought were good but I think he was over his head with a film of this magnitude. He doesn’t have the longest track record and nothing else he has done has been as big as the first film in a franchise that is something as big as Marvel has going on now. Still, he made a good film and he does deserve credit for it.
I use to rate comic book movies against one another and tell people which were the best in my opinion. Now there are so many of them that I couldn’t even begin to consider where they stacked up against one another. These days the big budgets go to the films about super heroes. It become so dominating in the movie industry that the dust can’t even settle on a specific character before he is thrust (“rebooted”) out there again. The immediate examples being Spiderman, The Hulk, and Superman. They are not alone though because we already have a new Fantastic Four on the way and it’s only a matter of time before Ben Affleck takes his Batman into solo features. Yes it is a comic book movie world we are living in but I’m not complaining. I comic book guy at heart and I can never get enough of them. I would say this film is exactly what I have come to expect from the growing genre. The movie is fun, exciting, and interesting. I wouldn’t call it better or worse than what I think is a standard for a great group of movies. This film did exactly what it was supposed to do and it gave us more to look forward to. I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie again and I cannot wait to see the next one. This movie is definitely worth your time and you should probably see it before Winter Soldier comes out this summer.