Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger

**1/2

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

There's a scene in The Simpsons (bear with me) in which Homer raids the fridge at night and settles down in the kitchen to consume 64 slices of American cheese. What begins as an appetising prospect (to Homer) soon becomes more of an endurance challenge, slice after slice of bland, processed junk with no end to the monotony in sight. This is not what a summer blockbuster is supposed to feel like.

Captain America opens with a short scene set in the present day, in which the wreckage of a mysterious vehicle has been discovered buried in ice somewhere in the Arctic circle. Inside is Cap's iconic shield, and with this discovery we're thrown back to 1942 to find out where he came from.

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Enter Steve Rogers, played for the first half hour or so by a CGI-slimmed-down Chris Evans or possibly an emaciated Tim Roth. Steve's a good kid whose parents were killed by the Nazis. He's desperate to enlist in the army, but is repeatedly thwarted by the fact that he's a 90-pound asthmatic with a neck thinned to breaking point by computer graphics. This, however, catches the eye of one of the government’s top scientists who just happens to be hanging around, as not being a dick makes Steve somewhat unique amongst army candidates. So he's whisked off to become the first subject of the top secret super-soldier program, gets injected with a super-serum and is reborn as Buck Plankchest, Fist Rockbone, Big McLargehuge. Sadly, before the rest of the US populace can be similarly embuffened (it's a word) those naughty Nazis shoot the scientist and steal the serum. Only Flint Ironstag can save the day!

Since we're not yet halfway through the film, save it he does. It's then decided that he's too darn muscular to fight on the front lines, and that he'd serve his country better as a propaganda tool. If, like everyone else in the cinema, you came to see Cap smack up some bad guys, you'll just have to wait. Fast forward a year of Cap shilling war bonds by prancing around a stage in a silly costume, until he decides he's had enough. His chum's been captured by the Nazis, and the gruff Corporal, played by Michael Ironside, played by Tommy Lee Jones, isn't going to do anything to help. This is Smoke Manmuscle's time to shine. Assisted by Female Love Interest and Howard Stark (Tony “Iron Man” Stark's dad, here essentially playing the role of Q), Punt Speedchunk rescues his buddy and a load of other POWs from some sort of Nazi explosion factory. There's a good five minutes where a factory floor just keeps right on exploding, long after you would have thought anything there volatile enough to explode would have finished doing so. Have those dastardly Nazi scientists invented a Perpetual Explosion Device? No. It's never quite clear what they have invented, but it's all based off of some sort of space macguffin that comics geeks will recognise as a Cosmic Cube. Apparently it's really bad that the bad guys have this because it's ultra powerful and can be used to wreak unspecified forms of destruction on everything in the world. No, really.

So, Cap proves he's a hero, gets a much better costume, and settles down to kick bad-guy backside by lobbing a metal shield all over the shop. This is what the audience came to see, and it's somewhat unfortunately rendered as a montage. It feels like you're watching the trailer for the much better movie you wish they'd made. The next hour or so features a lot of Hugo Weaving chewing up the scenery as the Red Skull, some development of the relationship between Buff Hardback and Female Love Interest, and not really enough action to justify having sat through the first hour of the film. The interesting story would have been Steve Rogers in the 21st Century, but we're going to have to wait for the Avengers movie for that one.

There you have the main problem with Captain America: it only exists to set up the character for the big tie-in. The plot is split 50-50 between origin story and goodie fights baddie, world at stake, with so little time spent on the development of any character other than Cap that it's impossible to care about anything that happens. There are some good, witty lines, and Tommy Lee Jones' performance is excellent and effortless, but Evans simply doesn't have the charisma to carry this sort of film in the way that, say, Robert Downey Junior does. The post-credits trailer for The Avengers got a huge cheer at the end. The film itself got nothing. That says it all.

Reviewed on: 30 Jul 2011
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After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America's ideals.
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Director: Joe Johnston

Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby

Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Richard Armitage, Stanley Tucci, Samuel L. Jackson,

Year: 2011

Runtime: 125 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2013

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