Predictable joke: America, Fuck yeah.
Director: Joe Johnston (2011)
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones
Find it: IMDB
Another Avengers trailer, this time a World War II period piece with Chris Evans as Captain America. Weakling war reject Steve Rogers (Evans) is selected for experimentation by the paedophile from Lovely Bones, who hopes to transform the little fella into a Super Soldier. Angry Nazi Johann Shmidt/The Red Skull (Weaving) has plans of his own, working to win the war and reshape the world in his own image. Nobody punches Hitler though, at least, not directly.
Captain America, unlike Iron Man and Thor, is perhaps the hardest sell of all the Avengers movies. It's also the one I was feeling the most dubious about. In our modern times, it's difficult to pull off patriotism. Especially without offending or alienating your audience, or coming across like Michael Bay. The uniform, too, looks terrible. There's no way to make Captain America's costume look anything but stupid on film; all primary colours and a dodgy mask, it's never far off a jokey Kick-Ass type thing. And then I was skeptical about Chris Evans too.
Predictable joke II
But Captain America sidelines most of the inherent problems with its setting and a little healthy acknowledgement of its own goofiness. The outfit looks bad, but it's stressed that Cap is supposed to be an icon - an inspirational figure for his country and fellow troops - he wears his uniform not to disguise or protect himself, but because it's just that - his uniform. Captain America is the story of a man doing his bit for his country. A Michael Bay sense of patriotism (not necessarily a criticism) is circumvented by making the bad guys Nazis. Everyone hates the Nazis. And Chris Evans is a lot better in the role than I thought he'd be. There's no wisecracking, his Captain America is as earnest and faintly bland as Captain America should be.
Joe Johnston, director of the highly underrated Rocketeer, straddles that line between earnest and goofy wonderfully. Just as the humour kept Thor's fantastical elements grounded, it serves here to save Captain America from its own silliness. But when the action scenes do come about, they're very well handled too. I was grinning from stupid ear to stupid ear as Cap beat his way through swathes of Nazis, and punching the air during the dust-ups between him and The Red Skull. The Skull is maybe my favourite Marvel villain so far. None of Iron Man's baddies have ever really felt threatening and Thor's Loki was the weakest link in that movie. Weaving is a brilliantly curt, insane Skull, and I'd liked to have seen more time devoted to his and Cap's showdown. Hopefully in a future instalment. Oh, and just so's you don't forget that The Avengers is next year, there are nods to the other Marvel movies (Dominic Cooper as Tony Stark's dad is nicely done) and an obligatory cameo from Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury.
What stops it from being as good as the first Iron Man is its slow pace and predictability. I've not read a lot of Captain America comics (only really The Ultimates and Winter Soldier) but saw each beat of the story coming a mile off. Its pre-opening sequence completely gives away the ending and everything inbetween is easily guessed. As it is, Captain America isn't as good as Iron Man, about the same as Thor and better than Iron Man 2. I would like somebody to have punched Hitler though.