Tuesday, July 26, 2011

REVIEW: Captain America

The old Marvel cartoons used to sing "When Captain America throws his mighty shield" followed by a big CLANG!

If this new movie had a theme song, it would sing "When Captain America throws his mighty shield" followed by a soft *clink*.

Notice that's *clink* and not CLUNK. Captain America is not a bad movie. It's actually fairly entertaining, but the ads seemed to promise more than fair entertainment, and the movie didn't deliver that. I expected better of director Joe Johnston.

Johnston doesn't have many truly great films under his belt, but he has turned out a lot of good, solid entrainment like Jurassic Park III, which actually bested the Steven Spielberg's sequel. And having helmed another period superhero movie, The Rocketeer, Johnson seemed the ideal choice for Captain America.

Unfortunately, the movie never takes off like it should. It actually starts fairly well, drawing a compelling portrait of the scrawny Steve Rogers, who seems willing to take on any challenge despite his lack of stature. During Army training, when he leaps on top of a grenade to shield it from his fellow troops, the moment is touching. Ya gotta admire the kid's pluck.

But then, the kid gets a dose of what amounts to concentrated steroids and turns into a muscle-bound jock. And after he does that, he's just not as interesting. The first sequence where he discovers his abilities is thrilling, but the movie settles down after that, becoming ordinary when it should be extraordinary.

Part of the problem is Chris Evans. He can be an engaging actor, but he's too vanilla for this part  - too much of an everyman, even after he gets his muscles. The movie might have been more interesting had Evans showed a little discomfort in his new skin, but Evans doesn't dig deep enough.

The villain and the heroine too, are underwhelming. Hugo Weaving shows initial promise as the Red Skull but eventually just becomes another megalomaniac who wants to rule the world. As the love interest, Hayley Atwell never becomes more than fetching arm candy. Betty Grable, she ain't.

The action sequences get the job done, but not with much flair. What can one say when the best scene after Captain America's arrival  is a Busby Berkeley style dance number, with a song by Alan Menken and David Zippel, the songwriters of Disney's Hercules?

It doesn't help at all that X-Men First Class already did the period superhero thing earlier this summer and did it with much more verve than Captain America. Cap's OK, and fun performances by character actors like Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci keep him going. But when Cap doesn't even stack up to Thor, something's missing.


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