If watching Captain America is high on your to-do list, then it has to be time that you re-evaluated your life. There are certainly far more productive and entertaining ways to pass your time. Even twiddling your thumbs beats out watching two hours of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) run and throw his shield around.
Rogers starts out as the epitome of the proverbial 90-pounds weakling. He is desperate to enlist in the army to serve in the Second World War, but he is mocked by all the other recruits because he is too small, too weak, too asthmatic and otherwise too much of everything that a soldier shouldn’t be. That is, except for the fact that he is brave and smart, hates bullies, and he never, ever gives up.
He is the ultimate underdog, and doesn’t everybody just love to root for the little guy? In this case, the little guy soon becomes the ultimate big guy, thanks to Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), the German-born scientist who has figured out a way to make super-soldiers out of regular fellows. He offers the scrawny but plucky Rogers a chance to join the Strategic Scientific Reserve and become the first of a new breed of fighting machines.
What happens next is about 90 minutes of quality shut-eye time. Yes, it takes about half an hour before the runt even becomes Captain America. The rest of the time you wonder what the point of it all is. His nemesis is Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), the power-hungry German officer who stole a mysterious object from a Norwegian castle and is using it to fuel a new age of Nazi weaponry under the auspices of a separate terrorist network called HYDRA.
Oh, and it turns out that Schmidt was Erskine’s first experimental super-soldier, except that the test went awry, leaving the ne’er-do-well permanently disfigured. People started calling him Red Skull for a good reason. Don’t bring nightmare-prone children to this comic book flick.
Sure, the underdog story (with patriotic overtones as thick as heavy syrup) will likely please a lot of folks south of the border, but at least they should have made the whole enterprise interesting. You can put as many solid character actors in bit parts as you want but that doesn’t negate the fact that Evans has precious little personality here. He was cheeky and fun in the Fantastic Four movies, but now he’s as plain and awful as white bread.
Tucci always improves whatever movie he’s in. His characterizations are always brilliant and he is as much a master of voices and dialects as Meryl Streep.
With these types of movies, the villain is usually the most enjoyable character, but only when properly cast. Hugo Weaving is just fine as the Schmidt/Red Skull, but only just. He really only displays about a tenth of the menace from when he was Agent Smith in the Matrix movies, and about a tenth of the makeup from when he was Tick in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
It’s too bad that director Joe Johnston put forth such an inept and banal effort. What a boring show. The audience was kept waiting for something interesting to happen, but it never really did. There really isn’t much that you can do with the character except add in a British love interest (Hayley Atwell as SSR officer Peggy Carter), the army buddy who always sticks up for his friends (Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes) and a gruff commanding officer (Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips).
It’s all smarmy patriotism and formulaic writing, meant to add to Marvel Studios’ growing retinue of superheroes on film. This is the final prelude to the all-star The Avengers next year, an event movie meant to be the be-all-end-all of the genre. One can only hope.
As for this movie, it would have been better if it were just a long, protracted montage series of plot points and action moments. Keep in mind that nothing really happens for most of the first 80 minutes, so it really could have easily been condensed into a 40-minute short feature and would have been at least twice as enjoyable. Maybe three times.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Kenneth Choi and Samuel L. Jackson
Now playing at: Grandin Theatres, Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatre