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REVIEW: Captain America

Captain America ***

New York in 1942, America is recruiting heavily for war; determined to serve, young Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is deemed physically unfit for military service, yet again. He has applied 5 times in different boroughs and has been rejected in every one. He is finally accepted into a secret training facility by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci); after proving himself to be courageous, smart and compassionate, Steve is deemed the ideal candidate for Dr. Erskine’s  gene experiment. The process, which is run by Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), is a success and transforms Rogers’ weak body into the perfect human specimen. Almost immediately, Dr. Erskine is assassinated, by an agent of HYDRA, his equipment destroyed and with the loss of the final serum the experiment can never be repeated.

In Europe, Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), head of the HYDRA division is amassing his own private army. The Nazi party isn’t extreme enough for this guy, he wants to take over ‘everything’; and to do so, enlists the help of Dr. (Toby Jones) and some mystical, all-powerful, Norse god artefact.

Rogers is initially misused by the US Military as a propaganda tool to sell war bonds, grows frustrated and with the help of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark embarks on a one man raid on one of Schmidt’s munitions facilities, rescuing 200 allied prisoners. Captain America is born; with the help of a ‘conveniently evenly split along racial lines’ team he takes the war to Schmidt who has undergone his own transformation, into the Red Skull.

I was never a fan of Captain America in comic book form, and wasn’t particularly interested in seeing this movie version. My son wanted to see it so off we went, and I’m pleased we did. It’s a much better quality movie and a lot more fun than I expected.

The actors all deliver fairly solid performances for this kind of movie; Chris Evans is very likeable as Steve Rogers, as the Captain anyone could play him, but it is his performance as ‘skinny Steve’ that grounds the movie and gives us a character to like and cheer for. Hugo Weaving is hamming it up as Johann Schmidt, but that’s no bad thing, ditto solid support work from Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones delivering good performances without really trying.

As expected from a comic book blockbuster, there are a lot of massive CGI set pieces throughout, however it is the ‘Benjamin Button’ skinny Steve that is the best work; that apart, the special effects are a mixed bag. The 1940’s setting gives the movie a naturally classy look and it reminded me of the ‘Rocketeer’ from , which is a compliment to the design team. 

Captain America is a fun movie; sure it’s implausible, brash, loud and filled with clichés, and it’s also a suitable preview to the forthcoming ‘The Avengers’ which in the hands of comic nerd hero Joss Whedon should be a good story. However Whedon is not a proven director and that’s where Marvel has also slipped up here after setting the bar high with Thor which was a pleasant surprise. As with this, I wasn’t a fan of the comics, but in Kenneth Branagh they had a good director who knows how to play those familial problems and get the best out of his actors. In director Joe Johnson, Marvel have taken a safe bet, he’s done big budget effects laden movies before, however this movie doesn’t deliver the quality of characterisation set by Thor; or the fun of the Jon Favreau directed ‘Iron Man’ movies. In Whedon they seem to have given the fanboys what they want but at what cost?

Quality: 3 out of 5 stars

Any good: 3 out of 5 stars