Marvel comics

Captain America: The First Avenger

Year:2011
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Written By: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (screenplay) Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (comics)

RYAN’S REVIEW

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 Soldieror (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.

The Avengers

Amber and I just finished watching The Avengers and it was incredible.  I have been following the movie since they decided to do it a few years ago and it has more than exceeded all my expectations.  I had my doubts over the years because they were putting so many large personalities onto the screen at the same time but they made it look easy. This was easily one of the best films made after the Marvel characters and that is saying a lot with such great movies to compete with like X2 and the Spiderman franchise. I found myself disappointed with all the recent Marvel movies so this really was a pleasant surprise.  I did enjoy both Thor and Captain America but I had expected them to be better, and I all but hated Iron Man 2 and X-men First Class.  The Avengers simply couldn’t have been any better though.  It was action packed, all the stars were on point with their performances, and it was surprisingly funny.

I openly criticized the choice of Joss Whedon to direct this powerhouse when it was announced a couple years ago.  Clearly I grossly underestimated him and should have done my homework on him before jumping to conclusions.  He had an extended hand in the making of the film getting a writing credit to go along with his role as director.  He made a great movie and should be seeing a lot of doors opening up for him in his career now.  Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic and seemed to really shine in his role as Iron Man.  He is Tony Stark, and he is only getting better at playing the part.  I think Tom Hiddleston was awesome as Loki, really really great as the main antagonist of the film. He is so villainous yet such a joker all the same.  The whole movie he has that sinister smile on his face as if he is humored by a joke that only he knows and it is the entire world.  Samuel L. Jackson had to do little here but stand tall and look cool, but who better to do so?  This was the largest role Jackson has had as Nick Fury now and I think he is great at it.  Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson all did well reprising their roles as Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow.  I thought Jeremy Renner was really good playing the part of Hawkeye.  I didn’t know what good a guy with a bow and arrow would be against an army of aliens but I was really surprised by how much I liked the character.  I wish Ed Norton had returned as the Hulk but Mark Ruffalo wasn’t bad.  I really liked Norton’s The Incredible Hulk but he ended up battling with the studio over a writing credit after the movie came out and they ultimately decided not to bring him back for this.  Not to mention that The Incredible Hulk wasn’t exactly considered a successful film, I thought it was really good though.  I think this movie made great use of the Hulk, and Ruffalo did a good enough job playing Bruce Banner that it didn’t matter that the character was recast.

All of these actors had fantastic chemistry in this movie, and I am very hopeful they will all be able to come together to do it again in the future. They had great dialogue that really reflected their comic book roots with a lot of witty banter and goodhearted humor. Ruffalo and Downey Jr. particularly had good chemistry together, but you really get the feeling that all of these actors liked one another.  I was so surprised by how funny the movie actually was; I found myself laughing out loud from beginning to the very end. If you wait through the entire credits you see the movie end on a really funny final scene. The whole movie had such a casual and natural feeling to it, that surprised me too although it shouldn’t have.  This has been something like six films in the making with buildup coming in nearly every Marvel film since Iron Man came out in 2008. All the characters were well established before this movie even started production so they didn’t have to waste any time introducing every character. That allowed them to do so much more with the script and I think that made this an exceptional comic book film.

Amber and I both loved this movie, if we had the freedom to do so we would have gotten right back in line and watched it again. However we had a lot to talk about on the way back to pick up the kids, there was so much to like about the movie.  I hope everybody out there goes to see the movie because it is worth your time and money. Given the opportunity Amber and I might even go back to the theater and see it a second time on the big screen. We did not watch the film in 3D format, opting for the safer 2D choice.  The last two films we saw in 3D looked awful, but I cannot say how good or bad they might have been in this movie. If you saw it in 3D leave a comment and let me know how it looked.  If it looked good I might check it out the second time around.

UPDATE #1

Santa Claus was awesome this year and brought us a copy of this movie to add into the collection. I enjoyed this movie just as much the second time if not more.  It is a fun and exciting movie that couldn’t have been made any better.  I look forward to the next installment as there will undoubtedly be one, and can’t wait to find out who might be joining the team.  Until then I look forward to the next Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man movies that will be hitting screens this upcoming summer.