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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) **** January 7, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , trackback

There’s something refreshing about an old-fashioned superhero caper. Ever since Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Tim Burton’s Batman, there has been a tendency to over-think superheroes, to put them into the ‘real world’ and even examine the villains to the extent that they are no longer just ‘bad’, rather misunderstood or victims of ill fate. Even Superman Returns, which deliberately referenced the simple pleasures of Richard Donner’s two Superman films, couldn’t resist interpreting Superman as a Christ figure with plenty of religious allegory.

So yes, there was something wonderful in the simple pleasure of Captain America’s four-colour, simple patriotic fervour. Having been familiar with the history of the character from reading the comics back in the ’seventies I was also surprised and encouraged by how faithful the film treated the character’s backstory. It isn’t the finest movie based on a comicbook (I think I’d raise Donner’s Superman:The Movie for that award) but it is fun- a word you can’t always use describing some of the comicbook movies we’ve seen over the years. I’m not knocking Nolan’s Dark Knight films, treatments like that are fine but not the be-all and end-all of the genre, I just think there should be plenty of films that just encompass the fun and simplicity of their source material. Not every superhero has the pathos of a Shakespeare, you know? (I’m pointing at Miller’s unforgivable The Spirit movie, that turned one of comicdoms greatest, truest works of art into a b&w nightmare).

So Captain America is great fun. Chris Evans is a great hero, and with Hugo Weaving chewing up the scenery with his badass manic Red Skull the film has a great villain with ambitions to be more evil than Hitler. You don’t need much else in a comicbook movie, although Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell are great in supporting roles.

The film also has a great sense of period, harking back to the simple joys of Johnston’s earlier The Rocketeer that was set in the same era- maybe that’s part of the trick with these kinds of superhero movies, remembering the context of the times in which they were created. Superman was a Depression-era hero, Captain America a War hero. I have always thought that the Spiderman films should be set in the early ’sixties, looking like a superhero Mad Men kind of thing, give it that ‘look’ and cool style. I know that could never happen with a Hollywood blockbuster today, but whenever I think about Spidey, I think of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko-era originals. Putting Spidey and his villians into the modern-day world just isn’t the same.

But whatever they do with Captain America in future movies (and The Avengersis looking pretty unmissable at present), at least they got the first one right.  And I must say, Cap’s shield looks so cool and iconic it put shivers up my spine seeing it in action. Great movie. Seems last years summer blockbuster season was pretty good after-all.


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