Joe Johnston hasn’t had a good run of late, but even the hotchpotch Wolfman had more glimmers of hope than this Marvel dud.
There are two things that Captain America does right. The first is the treatment of its lead character. Steve Rogers is an asthmatic, skinny runt trying hopelessly over and over to enlist in order to aid his country in the Second World War. We quickly learn that his purity of heart cannot be equalled and that he is clearly a hero in the making. I appreciate that this is a nice change from the flawed heroes of the last two decades or so. His innocence means he willingly takes up the role of spokesperson for cheesy American war propaganda – simply because it’s the only way he can help. Chris Evans’ portrayal is achingly sincere and totally without irony – something else that I appreciated.
Of course, Steve Rogers is inducted into the secretive Strategic Scientific Reserve program and soon becomes the super soldier that most of us are familiar with. This angle (and that of the Nazis’ obsession with the supernatural) is something which I also enjoyed. It’s all very Wolfenstein/Indiana Jones, but I, for one, can’t get enough of the stuff. The film has a particular visual style also, something which the Marvel films had been missing up until Thor. Also, we need more period comic book movies, and this fits that bill perfectly.
So what’s wrong with the film? Pretty much everything else. First and foremost, this is an action movie without any good action scenes. In fact, aside from the wonderfully retro and evocative first act, the film feels like the result of multiple reshoots and re-edits. At one point we have an action montage of completely unrelated shots, all of which look rushed and/or awful. I understand that action isn’t the be-all and end-all of comic books, but come on. Captain America runs a lot, and throws his shield. That’s it. Jason Bourne had more interesting action scenes than this, and he wasn’t even superhuman.
And he runs in front of a greenscreen for the most part, also. Awful, awful greenscreen which is splattered with awful, awful CGI. I can’t begin to explain how shoddy it looks – I mean, the TV-budget effects in ‘Warehouse 13’ look better than this. It’s not quite as bad as G.I. Joe, insofar as there’s actually a distinct artistic style present here, but it’s pretty darn bad. If you’re going to make a special-effects laden film, you’ve got to make sure the special effects are at least halfway decent. Failing that, fill your movie with practical effects (which would have been a perfect fit in this situation, actually).
Next up, we have a story that isn’t particularly interesting. Hugo Weaving plays Johann Schmidt, a Nazi whose fascination with the occult surpasses that of Hitler himself, and he wants to destroy the world… or something. I’m not sure why, actually, other than “because he can”. Weaving is solid in the villain role, but doesn’t really make that much of an impression.
Steve Rogers is surrounded by a bunch of supporting characters. Tommy Lee Jones’ appears to be the only one having fun, however, as Colonel Chester Phillips. Rogers’ best friend, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) doesn’t have much to work with, and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is charismatic, though we’re never told why she holds such a high-ranking position in the army during the super-sexist 40s. I’m not looking for realism here, but at least some kind of explanation as to why she gets the respect that the other women miss out on would have been nice. Rogers gets his own armed posse after a while, including Neal McDonough (forever playing soldiers in supporting roles), but we are not given the time or chance to feel anything for them.
When it comes to contributing to the growing Avengers mythos, Captain America joins all the right dots – it’s just completely lacking in joy or emotion. The film puts in some decent, solemn character-building work in the first act but the rest of the film is one long fizzle with no bang.Rating: