Captain America: The First Avenger

I did the rant about 3D before, so won't waste words here. At least this film was more colourful than Harry Potter, so I could actually SEE the action sequences. Which was good, because they were extremely enjoyable. As was everything else.

There is absolutely nothing original in this film. Plot-points, characters, themes are all recognizable repeats from previous adventure, SF and war movies. What you get is more of them, and faster. Nazi scientists to laser guns to train heist to death scene to interrogation scene to motorbike-chase and so on.

Rarely have I seen a film go through the motions with such poise. Characters are as flat as cardboard, straight out of Hollywood history, but their lines are carefully balanced between sincere and arch, and are delivered with sharp timing. Not once did I wince, and I laughed quite a lot. Tommy Lee Jones seemed to be having a blast handing out deadpan putdowns to all and sundry, but he could also eat his words without having his authority undermined. Bucky was super suave as the playboy in the uniform, but his superior / inferior / ultimately loyal relationship with Steve Rodgers was also handled very well. Poor Peggy got stuck with the thankless romantic-interest role, but the film pushed the gushy stuff between the lines, so Hayley Atwell was allowed to be an adult and kick some ass as well as flirt and get jealous. Bit like Thor, tho, that kiss came out of nowhere (and at such a silly moment!). Better to have left it with arranging a date, but I'm guessing the film-makers lost that battle.

But really, Chris Evans carries this one on the back of his giant super-soldier shoulders. You couldn't have just got a smiling tank like Chris Hemsworth to play the role. Even when Cap acquires the bod, the face has to remain humble and honest. As a skinny, delusional glory-seeker, you still believe Rodgers has that quiet determination and bravery that would make him an inspiration. Chris Evans manages to convey a faith-in-oneself despite the failures and rejections life has brought, a faith born out of a simple but rigorous sense of what's right. When he speaks to Peggy, he is (or very quickly becomes) sure of himself, so you get the feeling that the reason he hasn't got the women before is because they haven't been listening. Bucky does shoot back the suggestion that Rodgers's ambition is fueled by a sense of inadequacy, but again, Evans's performance contradicts that reading. It's more simple than that. Rodgers wants to fight because he's the hero.

And Hugo Weaving wants to destroy the world because he's the villain ... pretty much. The thematic line being fed is the question of how to deal with power. The Red Skull is an Nietzschean strongman with the will to dominate all weaker forms of life. Hydra is the mindless, numberless force he assembles, and whose existence he defines and directs. On the other side there's Steve Rodgers, an ordinary kid given extraordinary abilities, and grateful for them, and with humility intact. He's been beaten up all his life, and now has the opportunity to fight the bullies back, on a global scale. The people he assembles around him aren't faceless, but diverse, and with personality streaming out of every pore. It's the free world against totalitarian terror. A time when things really were that simple.

But the film is also an extended origin story, because Cap wakes up in a new world where the bullies and the honest jons are much more difficult to tell apart. The opening and concluding scenes undermine the genre stereotypes and period fittings the film riffed on (much better than First Class did, btw), and hopefully set up a more complicated Captain America that we will see in The Avengers next year.

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