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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER-13

"A weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power."
-- Dr. Abraham Erskine

Captain America: The First Avenger is a 2011 superhero action film directed by Joe Johnston that serves as the final singular film leading to the mega-Marvel mash-up, The Avengers, due out next summer. We open on Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a scrawny young man with a series of medical defects, as he tries to enlist in the Army to fight in World War II. Because of his size and stature, however, he is constantly denied by the military. One evening, however, a German scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who's working for the U.S. government, meets Rogers and finds him to be ideal for a special project on which he's working. He convinces Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) to try a procedure that will make Rogers into the first of a series of super-soldiers. The procedure succeeds flawlessly, but a Nazi agent deliberately destroys the lab, leaving Rogers as the only super-soldier to be created. Rather than being sent to the front lines, he's left in the States to help sell war bonds, but on a morale tour through Italy, he learns just how much of a joke he has become with the men in the ranks. While there, Rogers learns of the disappearance of a friend's battalion and elects to rescue them. With the help of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and a young Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Rogers is able to do just that, but he finds himself wrapped in an even deeper conspiracy involving one of the Nazi's leading men, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), who presents much more than meets the eye.

Now, I'd have to say that of the two Marvel films to be released this summer, Captain America was the one I was more excited to see (as evidenced by its inclusion on my 2011 Summer Movie Preview). While I correctly predicted that Thor would be a tad so-so, I had high hopes for this one after seeing Chris Evans steal the show in 2010's The Losers, a movie only watchable because of his presence. Add the fact that it seemed like most of the rest of the film community was also expecting Captain America to be the superhero film to beat this summer, and I felt justified in my expectations. After seeing it at midnight last night, can I say that it delivered on those expectations? Well, sorta.

The problems with the film don't necessarily start with the acting, which is solidly good throughout the entire film. I did expect a little bit more out of Evans, but he's definitely a legitimate presence on-screen, both physically and comically when the time calls for it. I can't think of any other actor today who could've done a much better job than he with the role, so I suppose he should be applauded for that. We get some good performances from the likes of Atwell and Cooper as well. Tucci is drastically under-used, but his moments on-screen are some of the funniest and, at times, the most heartfelt. Jones brings a level of comedy to the screen that I haven't seen him bring in quite some time, so it's a breath of fresh air to see him journeying down that path again. And I found Weaving to be a very convincing villain this time around, although I've never truly had any issue with Weaving's level of acting. He brings such a force to each of his characters that it's hard not to like him.

No, the real issue I had with the film involved the screenplay itself. Now, there's nothing wrong with the story. I found it to be engaging and inviting, and it kept me hooked and wondering until the very end. My problem was that it all seemed a little too fast-paced. Now, hear me out for a moment. I realize that it's a big-budget action film, and it needs to move quickly in order for it to remain exciting, and I'm probably criticizing the screenplay a tad too much, but there's only so much I can take with one particular film. My problem was that they tried to insert a bit of character development, but the filmmakers tried to rush it, so it all felt a little bit forced, almost as though they were trying to squeeze it in to distract from the constant acting scenes. I got the emotion they were trying to convey with certain characters, but I think the film would have benefited from slowing down for a few scenes here and there to emphasize that emotion. I'm not sure if that even begins to make sense, but I just wanted the film to slow a few times to expand on the character development. I guess we can't all have it our way, though.

Still, there's a lot to be admired about this particular comic book adaptation. Because we're getting a superhero from back in the 1940s, one of the challenges the filmmakers had to face was making it true to that particular era while still bringing a 21st-century liveliness to it all. In that regard, I think Captain America can be considered a smashing success. As Rottentomatoes.com, the online critical review aggregate, has surmised, Captain America presents a "pleasantly retro vibe" that conveys wonderfully across the screen. At the same time, we get a very good musical score from Alan Silvestri, although I thought I heard some moments that sounded eerily similar to a track from Star Wars, but I won't hold it against him.

All that being said, Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid superhero film that's definitely worth seeing as a popcorn-munching romp of fun. The performances are strong enough to keep you engaged with the characters, and the action sequences are spectacular enough to keep you sitting in awe. Is it changing the game? Of course not, but that doesn't mean it doesn't serve as wonderful summertime entertainment. Isn't that what seeing movies is all about?

Oh, and please don't forget to stay past the credits. I can assure you that you won't be disappointed!

Movie Review Summary:Grade: B
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