Friday, October 28, 2011

Captain Amerokay

In an effort to keep this blog from turning into a non-stop scream-fest from me, (as my foot hurts that much of late), I've decided to review another movie. As usual, it will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen Captain America, stop reading.

It's really quite simply. If it's about a superhero, I'm probably going to buy the DVD. I didn't rush out to theaters to see Captain America, but I'd been interested in see it. Over the years in the comics, Cap went from being something of a "grand American thug" to a fighter who brought an acrobatic style to his fighting. Spider-Man had a similar style, but was exceedingly acrobatic, almost to the point of being virtually inhuman. But Cap would bounce around in a fight, landing punches and kicks, slinging that shield, and practically spewing American propaganda every time a speech bubble appeared to be coming from his mouth.

So Becky and I, seeing money was tight, decided to buy the movie anyway. I wanted to see this American icon brought to the silver screen...or at least the small flat-screen in our living/bed/computer room. (It's a two room apartment. Stop judging me!) We loaded it up, started watching, and I found myself entertained, right up until the singing and dancing.

Yes, singing and dancing. Captain American, the character in the film, is initially used as nothing more than a means of selling war bonds. That's it. And it's done it what appears to be traditional 1940s style. It wasn't a bad little stage production, but...I mean, I just couldn't buy into the product of "Operation: Rebirth" to be relegated to stage and film work for the great American war machine.

They do a decent job of sticking to the character created back in the 1940s. Steve Rogers is a little guy, with a good heart and big ideals. He's a patriotic American who wants to do his part in the war effort, but can't get past the physical to enter the Army. He's too small, too weak. But General Chester Phillips sees the potential in Rogers and offers him the chance to serve his country in a top secret experiment, "Operation: Rebirth." The years have been a little wishy-washy on what the procedure entailed. It was a shot. Then it was a drink. Then it was a drink AND a shot. And, because superheroes aren't made with just a shot and/or a drink, Steve Rogers was bombarded with "vita-rays." (Vita-rays: with more vitamins than gamma rays, and half the calories!)

Out pops Captain America, who immediately faces a saboteur in the lab. The lead scientist, Abraham Erskine, who has the super soldier formula memorized, (because writing important data like that down was always a bad idea, right?), is killed. Thus, Rogers is the only man to successfully undergo the super soldier procedure successfully...back then. (Variations on the theme have since been duplicated.)

The comic book...the movie...they are almost in synch until this point. And then, because Steve Rogers is such a valuable asset, Chester Phillips, a mere colonel in the movie, decides the test subject should be kept safe inside a lab. Senator Brandt, who was one of the politicians helping to fund the super soldier project, decides the best use of the successful experiment is to sell war bonds.

Enter the song and dance number.

So we, the audience, get about 40 minutes of solid movie, with a decent plot and characters who have real potential. Then it all goes to hell. The story on the hero's side of things loses focus. The part where Captain America feels compelled to take real action feels forcibly shoehorned into the film.

I can't say the acting was bad; it was pretty good, I guess. But, oh, how the script needed work! I was reminded of a scene in the movie Starship Troopers, which was infinitely inferior to the book. The troopers are picked up after a terrible fight. The character of Dizzy, who was mysteriously made into a woman and actually had speaking lines for the film, is fatally wounded. The main character, Johnny Rico, holds her in his arms, and she actually says, "I'm dying, Johnny." There was so much cheese in that one moment of film that there could never be a cracker big enough for it.

Captain America came across like that entirely too many times. Mind you, it wasn't AS bad as the above example. I mean, they had decent talent delivering the tripe of the script. And I don't think a script doctor - heck, even a team of script surgeons - could help.

The movie was also in too much of a rush to cram the career of a superhero that spanned over six decades into two hours. The fight scenes tended to be very short, and none-too-spectacular, including the climactic confrontation of the Red Skull and Cap. Here we had two men made as close to perfection via science that humanity can possibly achieve, and they slugged it out like a couple of brawlers in a back alley. It was disappointing.

Speaking of disappointing, I'm a great fan of Hugo Weaving. I have always been amazed at what he was able to accomplish in V for Vendetta without ever being permitted to see his face. An actor's face is where most of his skills come into play. I absolutely loved Weaving's ability to convey all he needed to with body language and vocal tone. But along comes this movie, and they didn't utilize this incredible actor's skill set. "Throw some prosthetic makeup on him and give him mediocre lines, and wish him luck." For G-d's sake, they had a character that started out as a Nazi and then went rogue against THEM, and he came across as "an un-nice man."

The movie isn't without hope. The other Marvel films meant to lead into the Avengers movie are tied in well enough, with specific regards to Thor. That they have Howard Stark as a character only loosely connects Iron Man to this film. My favorite moment is when the colonel, trying to prove who the best candidate is, throws a grenade into the midst of those being co0nsidered for the program, and Only Rogers steps up...That was a good one.

But overall, Captain America was an unambitious attempt to get a character introduced before their big ensemble movie. I suspect a good deal of the $140,000,000 spent to make this film was spent making Chris Evans look like the literal 90 lbs. weakling. It's filler, and if you expect to watch The Avengers next year, I suspect you'll want to watch this movie, if only to get some pertinent information. Beyond that...is was okay at its best.

Be well, and DFTBA.

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