Saturday, July 30, 2011

Captain America Review

When trying to think back on moments that I loved in Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger, not a whole lot comes to mind. In fact, the whole movie is something of a blur. The character certainly has a following and his presence in recent comic books like Civil War and The Ultimates has given him a great deal of depth. However, that does not translate over into this fairly bland film. In it, we merely see a good man, imbued with super strength and set against an evil foe. How many films of the genre could be described by that description? Although Captain America isn't a terrible movie, it sins in that it doesn't give Cap the origin he deserves.

There are some decent performances in Captain America. Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving attack their roles with serious gusto, with the former proving himself as a solid Steve Rogers. Their good vs. evil struggle throughout the film, lacks anything interesting behind it. Weaving's Red Skull has harnessed the power of the gods (in a Thor tie-in) and aims to blast the good guys with nondescript laser beams - Captain America is the only man tough enough to stop him.

I'm getting bored just writing about it. I've never bought into the superhero-movie fatigue that many critics have sited (especially in relation to this year's Summer lineup), but I'm beginning to understand. Every film released could be a comic-book adaptation and I would be fine with that, but the films need to be interesting. Many superheroes, at their core, are quite similar, and parading their origin stories in front of us only makes that more apparent. It's the captivating situations in which they find themselves that make these films worth making. Not every film in the genre is going to have an edge like Nolan's Batman films or even that of X-Men: First Class, but creative individuals (such as graphic novel writers) need to be on-hand to make these characters worth watching onscreen, otherwise the fact that Hollywood is cashing in on a fad for quick $ becomes real.

So what went wrong with Captain America? I have a few guesses. Primarily though, I'd throw the blame at director Joe Johnston's feet. How this guy got the gig to direct the film is a mystery to me - perhaps he's still riding the goodwill he earned by designing Boba Fett as one of George Lucas' underlings. Since October Sky over a decade ago, Johnston has helmed failure upon failure. Hildalgo was laughably bad and Jurassic Park III might have single-handedly marked the end of my childhood. Let's not forget that Johnston's last film previous to Cap was The Wolfman, both a critical and box-office bomb. Maybe it's just me, but aren't directors for huge properties usually chosen when coming off successes? Johnston is as bland, boring and cookie-cutter of a director as you're likely to find working in Hollywood. The guy doesn't even seem to have any passion for the craft anymore. In Captain America, he even fails to capture the same, fun, period-aesthetic that he did so many years ago in The Rocketeer.

I wouldn't really recommend that anyone see Captain America in theaters, but good god, if you must, do yourself a favor and see it in 2D. Part of what ruined my viewing experience of this film was the post-conversion 3D. The images in the film were blurry and way too dark. Was it really worth it to make the movie 3D just for a few shield throws? Most of the film's 3D accomplishes an 'enhanced' depth-of-field, which is something 2D film does just fine by itself. I couldn't decide whether it was better to watch the dark, blurry film with the glasses on, or watch the bright and occasionally blurry film with the glasses off. I'll admit that I think 3D as a whole is pretty stupid, but I'm aware of the potential there for image clarity at least when film's are shot in 3D to begin with. Converting to 3D in post-production is just lame though and an avenue for quick profit.

After the credits are done rolling, viewers are treated to an Avengers trailer. In it, you see the title characters all interacting for the first time, which is fun. I feel like the ambitious project would be biting off more than it can chew if Joss Whedon weren't directing. There's just so much to fit into one film, I don't believe any of the Marvel films' previous directors would be able to pull it off. Whedon has a close relationship with the comics, so he knows how to make these characters interesting. He's also adept at working with ensembles, which should help immensely here. The footage from The Avengers looks promising, but I can't help that my excitement was slightly stifled after having just seen Captain America.


1 comment:

The Schmoo said...

There was one laugh out loud moment during the film that I forgot to mention though and anyone who saw the film must know what I'm talking about even before I say it. I'm talking about the "It's okay, I can swim" kid.