‘Captain America’ keeps the summer sizzling

Posted by · 12:00 am · July 20th, 2011

So, “Captain America: The First Avenger” wraps up the summer’s superhero slate this week. Yes, we have “Cowboys & Aliens” on the way to keep the general comic book flow going, but Marvel’s other bookend to the summer hits Friday, and, well, I thought it was just (yankee doodle) dandy.

“Robust” is the word that kept coming to mind while watching the film. You get a lot of bang for your buck here, with action set pieces galore, beefy production values (which might as well include Chris Evans’s physique) and a generous splash of pulp 40s fun to keep it unique throughout.

I always thought Joe Johnston was the most interesting choice of Marvel’s stable of directors leading up to “The Avengers” next summer. He’s kept an even genre keel all of his career and “The Rocketeer” (20 years old and getting the anniversary treatment soon) is probably the nostalgia hook that really cinched it as a nice call.

Hugo Weaving is delicious as Red Skull. Tommy Lee Jones may have even cracked a smile and had some fun here. Some of the supporting players had less dimension than a cardboard cut-out and the love story rang flat (even if leaning on the longing was a bold choice), but it’s a rousing take on the legend Ed Brubaker revitalized on the page recently, and a great final build to next year’s epic assemblage.

I think the art direction — from master craftsman Rick Heinrichs — could find its way through the awards season this year. It’s certainly deserving, and for my money, a better realization of another time than “X-Men: First Class” and its confused period trappings. Also, Alan Menken could finally even the score with Randy Newman by nailing down his 20th Oscar nomination for the original song “Star Spangled Man” (more here). And Anna B. Shappard’s threads are another feather in her cap. (Can anyone do World War II better?)

Oh, and the visual effects of the film’s first act will be a definite talking point. The believability factor of a scrawny Evans gets major brownie points. However, effects in other areas of the film were flimsy and felt a little cheap (though maybe that works in a retro kind of way or something).

Whatever the case, I count this as the best Marvel film since “Iron Man,” and perhaps better. It conjures the most endearing character of the build thus far, a well-defined leader who will certainly leave audiences ready to follow him into Marvel’s next ambitious project.

And I must say, though I’ve been critical of more than my share, this summer has been, on the whole, quite a rewarding one. Even the discussions I’ve wanted to engage in around films that missed for me have been worth having. A lovely mixture of indie and blockbuster fare. I have a good feeling about the rest of the year.

So that’s that. A nice send-off as I head on down to San Diego Wednesday morning for the annual Comic-Con International. More from the ground there throughout the week, but for now, consider it a big thumbs up for Cap. Well worth the look this weekend.

[Photo: Paramount Pictures]

→ 16 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily · Reviews

16 responses so far

  • 1 7-20-2011 at 1:53 am

    Moviehobbyist said...

    “I count this as the best Marvel film since “Iron Man,” and perhaps better.”

    That can’t be too difficult, IMO.

  • 2 7-20-2011 at 2:23 am

    red_wine said...

    The period art and costumes seem to me like Inglorious Bastards, even the lensing to a certain extent. And Bastards failed to land either Art Direction or Costume Design.

    How is Haylet Atwell? She looks like something to behold on the big screen, a swaggering beauty.

  • 3 7-20-2011 at 5:04 am

    Mark said...

    I’ll trust your judgment over Anne’s on this one Kris. Thompson said she wished Captain America had been more a “madcap romp” like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Temple of Doom is a madcap romp but Raiders sure isn’t.

  • 4 7-20-2011 at 6:27 am

    Mike_M said...

    Looking forward to this one, seems like it will be fun.

  • 5 7-20-2011 at 7:43 am

    RyanT said...

    Good to hear. After Iron Man 2, I started wavering on the Avengers as a whole, but Thor was great fun and you’re saying Captain America is better than that. So I’m looking forward to this.

  • 6 7-20-2011 at 8:03 am

    JJ1 said...

    With this endorsement, I fear that it won’t live up to my expectations – primarily because I normally agree with Kris, yet haven’t all Summer, haha.

  • 7 7-20-2011 at 8:26 am

    James said...

    Can’t wait. I’ve been waiting for a less moany superhero for awhile.

  • 8 7-20-2011 at 9:06 am

    Sawyer said...

    When I saw the summer of superheroes on the horizon, this is the one I desparately wanted to be done well.

    There were a lot of blockbusters packed into this summer, but for my money, the best was still the first – Thor.

  • 9 7-20-2011 at 10:09 am

    JJ1 said...

    My rankings of this year’s biggees, thus far:

    1 – Bridesmaids
    2 – X-Men: First Class
    3 – Harry 7:2
    4 – Thor
    5 – Horrible Bosses
    6 – Super 8
    7 – Kung Fu Panda
    8 – Pirates 4
    9 – Transformers 3
    10 – Green Hornet
    11 – Green Lantern

    I really hope Captain America is in one of my top 2 tiers.

  • 10 7-20-2011 at 10:20 am

    Tony Ruggio said...

    50% on RT. “Middle of the road” seems to be the consensus forming.

  • 11 7-20-2011 at 11:12 am

    Speaking English said...

    You were keen on “Green Lantern” too, though…

  • 12 7-20-2011 at 3:20 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Oooooooooooh! BURN! YOU GOT ME, ENGLISH! WOW!

  • 13 7-20-2011 at 7:24 pm

    Joe7827 said...

    Kris was getting all sentimental and pleasant there and… nope, Touchy Kris is back again.

  • 14 7-20-2011 at 9:19 pm

    Loyal said...

    I really enjoyed Capt America, it’s up there with Iron Man as my favorite Marvel Studio film. I loved the look and design of the film (very Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow which is either a good or bad thing depending on your aesthetic ). Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, and Toby Jones all turned in interesting performance. I also really enjoyed Howard Stark, Tony is very much his son. I even liked Chris Evans, which was a huge surprise.

    The film tied into the Marvel universe without going overboard (I’m looking at you Iron Man 2 and Thor). Lots of nods to Joe Johnston’s work on Indiana Jones, including one brilliant line of dialogue about a certain ark.

    I will add this, my audience didn’t like it. No applause at the end or noticeable reactions throughout the film. I think the look is jarring, the mixture of laser beams, odd visual effects, and old school jingoism does not endear Captain America to the audience. But to hell with the audience, the film is fun.

    PS. No Avengers trailer. While the audience was lackluster in response to the film, they finally showed some spirit by booing loudly in the theatre when the lights came up and no Avengers trailer played. Ouch!

  • 15 7-22-2011 at 4:58 pm

    Ben M. said...

    I really liked this movie; loved the period detail, enjoyed the performances, and even found the love story decent when it usually is a complete waste in films of this genre. I would say it is the best comic book movie since Iron Man 1 and Hellboy 2 (not that it is has been a great lot post Dark Knight).

    The only thing that sorta felt like a letdown is how any sequel would take place in modern times, I know the ending was needed to set up The Avengers and it was a heroic finale, but I would have also liked the see more of the WW2 setting and the non-Cap characters the film introduced. Also, there was an Avengers trailer at the end, I’m pretty sure they purposefully removed it from preview prints to avoid a leak.