Archive for Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger – Thoughts (yeah, I loved it)

Posted in Comics, Entertainment, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2011 by Mike

[note: no real spoilers here at all]

When I came out of the theater after seeing Thor I immediately posted to a couple sites that Marvel nailed the hero and had made a fantastic movie – it was fun, spirited, and really established a hero that I didn’t know how well would translate into the universe that the Iron Man and Hulk movies had been creating for the past few years.

Now Captain America: The First Avenger has been released, and in interest of full disclosure I have to admit that Cap’s my favorite superhero – always has been and always will.  But after walking out of the midnight showing, I didn’t post anything to facebook or other sites as I had done with Thor, nor could I really respond very well to what seemed to be a legion of  my former students when they asked what I thought of the movie.  Walking back to my car and driving home (at 2:30 A.M),  and even as I was trying to fall asleep, I was trying to evaluate what I had seen fairly, and not allow my fanboy attitude about Cap to unduly influence my reaction. I mean, anyone who knows me would expect me to declare it the best superhero movie of all time, but it’s not.

It is, however, a near-perfect Captain America film. And I loved it.

The thing about Captain America that needs to be understood above all is that the character’s origin is utterly dependent on the setting, and this makes Cap unique among superheroes.  Without the backdrop of WWII, there is no Captain America.  Without the evils of Nazism and Hitler, and the patriotic fervor of America and our desire to end Germany’s quest for world domination, Joe Simon does not sketch out the star-spangled hero punching Hitler in the mouth.

No better first issue cover picture exists in comics.

With every other superhero, the setting doesn’t matter.  Gotham is not inherent to Batman’s origin – the murder of his parents is the key. Krypton is obviously fictional – the importance of Superman’s origin is that his home planet has been destroyed, and any Midwest small town (“Smallville”) could serve Siegel and Shuster’s purposes in creating their uber-man. Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider in a lab. Bruce Banner was bombarded by gamma rays – it doesn’t matter where it happened, or when. And so on.

But where and when, particularly when, is essential to Captain America – he could only have his origins in 1940s America. And that’s what director Joe Johnston clearly understands about the character and it’s the 1940s setting that makes The First Avenger so unique among superhero movies. Sure, you could raise the point about X-Men: First Class being set during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, but that was an artificial backdrop used merely to fit it in to the timeline established by the first two X-Men films. The 1960s were not necessary to the origin of the animosity between Xavier and Magneto (sure, the Civil Rights comparison is there, but the mutant conceit works for any minority that faces prejudice).

And as a result of the setting, there’s a different tone to Captain America than in other superhero movies.  Steve Rogers ends up being a superhero because he loves America and what it stands for, and that’s a far different reason than any other hero – hell, he wears the American flag as a uniform.  It could have easily descended into camp or hokey patriotism, but there’s an earnestness to Evans’ portrayal of Cap (and the film) that keeps it from doing so.  Cap is  a tough character to portray, I imagine, but I bought into it easily.  Chris Evans is now Captain America.

***

I think it’s unfair of reviewers to call this merely a set-up for The Avengers movie next year. There’s a lot of story in this film, and Johnston and crew spent a lot of time developing the characters.  It’s a shame, though, that this film couldn’t get into the Rogers as a “man out of time” story line which would add for more emotional impact – this film only provides the briefest of glimpses of that idea.  As far as the origin story, it nails it. Perfect, really. There are no questions about who Steve Rogers is or what his motivations are, and I’d argue that The First Avenger excels Thor and the Hulk (equal to Iron Man, though) in explaining its main character.

***

Hydra ends up taking the place of Nazis in the movie, by and large, and I wish that we got to see more Nazi-killing. It doesn’t mean that Nazis aren’t present, but it’s made clear that Hydra’s goals go far beyond Nazism and that’s actually in line with the comics. Still, Hydra soldiers in this film are Nazis, so I suppose that will have to suffice. The advanced weaponry seen in the film remind viewers that this is a comic book movie, not history, and I couldn’t help but want to see a little more “realistic” warfare (as seen in the concept art for the movie):

***

Cap in action on the screen might as well have been ripped from the pages of the comics. He punches Hydra goons, they go flying. Remember, the Super Soldier serum transformed him into a physically perfect human specimen, capable of some pretty outstanding feats (the wiki says he can bench press 1200 pounds, i.e., if  he hits/throws a regular person, that person will go flying). I wonder if The Avengers and future Cap movies will allow him to keep his pistol.  I don’t think he needs it, though in wartime it would be expected.  And his use of his iconic shield was perfect – never to the point of eye-rolling, for me.

***

Bottom line, though, is that I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. As a friend and I were saying as we were waiting in line, this was one we were waiting all our lives for. Now that it’s here, it’s everything a Captain America film needed to be. I’ll be seeing it again soon.

It’s the Revolutionary War all over again – Whose Side Are You On?

Posted in Comics, Entertainment with tags , , , , on July 14, 2011 by Mike

Tonight marks the opening night of the last chapter (part II) of Harry Potter.  You know, the movie based on the British author J.K Rowling’s books about British kids who find out they’re British wizards and go to Hogwarts, a British school of magic Rowling  modeled after the British school system.

Did I mention that they’re all British? (Okay, Rowling throws in some Scots and some French, too.  Same difference).

This movie is expected to shatter all records for opening weekends; tonight’s midnight showings – where attendees will dress in black robes, sacrifice black cats and summon Satan to enjoy some popcorn and Dots (so I’ve heard) – are sold out all across the nation in order that viewers can brag about being the first to see the finale of a film series they already know the  end to. It is also expected to be the top-grossing film of the year, and perhaps of all time.

This cannot stand.

Now, far be it from me to take away from the public’s apparent enjoyment of Anglophilic witchcraft, and I admit I will enjoy seeing Transformers 3′s opening weekend record be wiped from the books, but, dammit, we live in America, and this summer’s records should be held by an American film. No, not Michael Bay’s “movie” – America’s not about giant space robots who allow thousands of Americans to die to prove a point.  And America’s not about a Viking space alien, either, nor is it about a guy who gets his power from a green ring (do you see green on our flag?) or talking animals.

No, America’s about freedom. It’s  about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, individual achievement and responsibility to your fellow man.  It’s about sacrifice and it’s about loyalty to something greater than yourself. And it’s definitely not about witches. And there’s one movie out this summer that epitomizes America:

It's about America.

Captain America: The First Avenger is set during a time when the world faced the threat of an ego-maniacal genocidal madman bent on ruling the world.  If that sounds familiar, Potter fans, you’re right – Rowling plagiarized American history with her invention of Voldemort. Rowling, however, employs a bit of revisionism in her last novel by allowing the Brits to defeat their “Hitler” with no American support at all.  In fact, in Rowling’s fantasy world, America might as well not even exist (Rowling probably was worried American wizards would crowd out Harry). But Captain America might have actually happened: he’s fighting Nazis and Hitler, along with the forces of Hydra and the Red Skull. The movie’s practically a history lesson – I can envision high school coaches showing it to their American History classes in future years.

In fact, I think it could be proven that Rowling wanted Harry Potter to be the British Captain America. Think about it: both stories involve young men who come from humble beginnings and, because of who they are, are blessed with certain abilities and become heroes to all who meet them, all the while taking on the great evil of their time.  It’s a timeless story – I’m surprised Rowling was the first to crib it from Cap.

Look, I know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is going to have a most impressive showing at the box office this weekend. Hell, I’m going to be seeing it too – after all the losers who are going to dress up as Harry or Hermione or Snape have seen it their five times. But I think we would be remiss as a nation not to show the same…no, MORE support for a movie that celebrates the American spirit through such an iconic superhero.  So go see Harry Potter this weekend, but make plans to see The First Avenger next weekend (twice, even!), too, and help keep the box-office records attached to an American movie. It’s your patriotic duty.

I’ll be first in line in the Cap costume.

I don't think I'll take the shield to the theater.

Teaser Poster for Captain America: The First Avenger

Posted in Comics, Entertainment with tags , , , , , on February 4, 2011 by Mike

Go ahead and bask in its awesomeness first:

The Movie I've Been Waiting My Entire Life For

Marvel Studios nailed it.  I can’t imagine another image that would get me so anxious for this film, to be honest.  The word “AVENGE” across Evans’ chest is a subtle reminder of not only the title of the film but also Cap’s status as an Avenger and, hell, America’ desire for vengeance upon entry into WWII.  Just perfect.

Not only that, but it’s obvious (to me and probably to most Cap fans) that the designers of the teaser poster have been looking at images of Cap from the comics, and chose to model their poster on a cover from issue #4 of the current volume:

Cover art for Captain America #4

July 22nd can’t get here soon enough – I’ll be the one in the front of the line at Cinemark on July 20th.

Now I need to find a site that’s selling the poster…