Thursday, July 28, 2011


I passed fairly lengthy judgement on the new film Captain America: The First Avenger elsewhere on an online forum. So to save time I'm going to paste that diatribe in here:

"I was disappointed by the movie. But I had unreasonably high hopes.

Too much CG for a character that screams practical effects only. Was done for Indiana Jones and every early Jackie Chan movie. So here you have the ultimate human combatant in a story set in the 1940s. Seems like as solid and non-tech as you could get it would be the way to go. They were already pushing things with all the Hydra gear.

I also think they missed some essential things that make the character great. I enjoyed the first act while he was skinny Steve and actually liked the handling of the experiment's saboteur a lot... it was better than most comic re-tellings. The cast were all fine, mostly correctly pitched as the simple pulpy characters they needed to be.

But after that origin section Cap never gets beyond 'kid from Brooklyn with big heart'. I realise this is 'Cap's early times' and all that, but by the time he was 'removed' from the war, his training, experiences, and exposure to all facets of humanity had made hime the embodiment of many American ideals (as opposed to propaganda, which is what he started as). When he awakens in modern times in the comics, he is a master tactician, incredibly adaptable, in full understanding of the limits of the super-soldier serum, and probably the Marvel Universe's foremost close combat specialist. The Avengers, Shield, and everyone else grossly underestimated him because they thought of him just as a beefy out-of-his-time-and-depth relic.

The film doesn't really get him past that. They give you glimpses... ie, memorising Hydra's goal map in about four seconds... but he just didn't become the Cap I always picture. Different people emphasize different things, so I'm grateful he got a picture good enough to erase memories of the old TV specials. I think as a movie it is better than Thor or the Edward Norton Hulk film... but I think all the other Avengers movies so far have nailed the essence of their heroes better.

....and him hitting a heavy bag for twelve seconds after the credits is no substitute for months and months of physical combat training he had prior to even being sent out on his first mission. He should, in a lot of ways be treated like the Batman. Not dark and scary, but unswerving, dedicated, and extremely well-trained.

Cap's comics are frequently at their most fun when modern characters act like Cap is literally old or from a more ignorant time. And then they not only find he is lightning quick and mentally adapatable but his supposedly out-of-date viewpoint is highly relevant to modern situations. Its like when Clint Eastwood cranks out a powerful filmic statement on racism. Old two-fisted Clint seems like the last guy that would make anything sensitive (if you buy into liberal establishment stereotypes) but there he goes making Invictus and El Torino, the crazy old bastard. People have more to them than just some checklist based on age or background.

The new Captain America film just keeps the character like he's a kid more-or-less. The Cap I know doesn't still have a lot to learn on-the-job by the time he wakes up with the Avengers."

Now. I realize my view, what I wanted out of the movie and the portrayal, comes from an extremely fanboyish/slavering comic nerd perspective. I'm pushing at little nodules of dislike that most viewers, even a lot of Marvel comic fans are never going to notice or care about. But I care. It is possible that the filmmakers can recapture lost ground with me in subsequent movies. But as it stands, Captain America: The First Avenger, despite my applause at the idea of a big-budget treatment, didn't do it for me.

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