Here is the truth ladies and gentlemen: I’m tired. No, not just physically tired (give it a few hours) but absolutely worn down by the superhero genre. With Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011 has now produced FOUR films that would be considered “superhero” pictures. Sadly, they have also delivered ZERO films that would even remotely be called super or heroic.
While Joe Johnston’s Captain America may be better than this year’s predecessors, it’s still a chaotic and middling comic book adaptation that simply makes us long for the days when these films were of actual quality. Now, it would appear that every Hollywood executive has taken the famous lines of Gordon Gecko to heart and followed the path of greed. And boy, for the audience, this isn’t such a good thing.
Set in the 1940s during World War II, Captain America follows the dedicated and scrawny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). He desperately wants to join the army, fight for his country, and see to it that World War II is brought to a suitable conclusion. However, after several rejections due to his serious lack of both strength and height, kind scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci hamming it up with some German accent that is so ridiculous it makes Transformers: Dark of the Moon appear coherent) approaches him and proposes a scientific solution to his lack of, well, just about everything.
Rogers enthusiastically accepts and is injected with an experimental serum that causes his muscles to grow tremendously. The end result of this top-secret research project is Rogers transforming into Captain America: a now enhanced and powerful soldier who is dedicated to defending both Americans and their ideals.
Captain America is helped by its supporting cast. We have Tommy Lee Jones as a cranky officer who doubts Rogers at first, Hugo Weaving transforming his character from evil German lieutenant Johann Schmidt to the powerful Red Skull, Dominic Cooper playing a young Howard Stark, Sebastian Stan as Roger’s best friend who’s captured by the Germans Toby Jones as an evil scientist assisting Johannand relative newcomer Hayley Atwell as a sexy British spy who knows her way around the battlefield.
Just about everyone in the film is more compelling than the hunky (so says every screaming teenage girl) Chris Evans. He has the inherent charisma but perhaps it’s the character of Captain America that is just a bit of a bore on screen. Unfortunately, the character isn’t as conflicted and morally complex as Batman, nor is he as reckless and satirical as Tony Stark, he is just kind of bland.
Another disappointment here is how dull the film looks. Especially when wearing those atrocious 3D glasses that don’t enhance, but dim the film-going experience. Beyond the look of the picture, the rest of the film’s shortcomings lie within the story. Like every other superhero film to come out this year, Captain America: The First Avenger feels forced and inconsequential. In particular, the first 30 minutes of this film are so exceedingly boring – infusing clichéd dialogue and overly predictable character developments in order to dramatize Roger’s big change from minuscule underdog to heroic superhero.
When it comes right down to it, Captain America: The First Avenger is entertaining and has this surprisingly old-fashioned atmosphere to it. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that it’s a somewhat underwhelming film which, along with Thor, Green Lantern, and The Green Hornet, feel as if it was made on an assembly line. None of these pictures seem to attempt to step out of their enclosed, contained plots. The films merely feel like mere distractions until The Avengers is set to hit theaters next year.
I’d like to just keep blaming the studios for continuously producing such uninspired efforts. But at what point do we take the blame? We are the consumers and we keep buying tickets. Which, in the grand scheme of things, I suspect is the problem. These movies no longer feel like art, but are in fact products that are likely to give you a jolt of energy and dazzle, then, in the nip of time fade in your memory. At this point the only thing I’m surprised about is that we haven’t been given a happy-meal toy as we leave the theater.
2.5 Stars out 4
Notes: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, 125 minutes.
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