The unwavering spirit of ‘Captain America’

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, pictured with Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter) gets a hero's welcome in 'Captain America: First Avenger.'

After two Hulk films, two Iron Man films, and May’s release of Thor (And a Hawkeye cameo to boot), Marvel has saved its first Avenger for last: Captain America has stepped up to the plate, completing the circle of Earth’s mightiest heroes. But how mighty is the man in the red, white, and blue, exactly? Well, he’s not like the other Avengers we’ve seen–and that’s what makes him, and this film, very respectable.

In fact, Captain America looks and feels more like a tame yet one adrenaline rush of a PG-13 war movie–There are times you’d forget that you were watching a film based on a comic book character. Taking place in the midst of the WWII years, the sets, the costumes, and the characters will take you right there with them. It can feel a bit underdeveloped for a film that’s more about the action, but the camaraderie between the soldiers and the central romance brings a depth to the storyline, letting one experience the ups and downs of human emotions. Then there’s the fact that the titular character is a “super” soldier, fighting wars alongside his countrymen, which makes him seem more like the guy-next-door in contrast to the godly Thor or the mutants from the latest X-Men film. What’s bland to the naysayers is a misunderstood way of perceiving who Captain America really is–just a homegrown and noble hero for the people. His powers may not be as extravagant as others, but his fighting spirit and attitude is.

As for the film itself, director Joe Johnston (Responsible for old kiddie flicks like Jumanji and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) establishes a true-to-life period piece while attempting to show viewers the world and war (And its hypothetical hypertechnological advances for elements of fantasy) through the characters’ eyes. It’s a superb effort, though imperfect, mostly from a technical standpoint where editing could be tightened and montages could be transformed into full, drawn-out scenes. The first 10 to 15 minutes feels like ten minutes longer and raises some questions if it’ll get better–and it does, when skinny little Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) from New York is shown with other men in their underwear and his miniature stature and astonishing list of health problems gets him rejected from serving in the military. But despite his inabilities and frustrations, he continues to pursue his goal and when he has a chance meeting with Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), Steve’s aspirations are finally at his fingertips. Joining a squad at Camp Lehigh under Colonel Chester Phillips (A sharp-tongued and wonderfully hilarious Tommy Lee Jones) and SSR Officer Peggy Carter (Portrayed with classic beauty but with an immensely admirable physical and mental strength by Hayley Atwell), Steve is the one chosen to participate in an experiment to help him develop super strength. With the guidance of Dr. Erskine and operation assistance of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Steve emerges from a capsule, taller and muscular.

But instead of getting on the battlefield, Steve becomes a mascot for war bonds and military recruitment, performing in live shows, filming commercials and movies, and even getting his own comic book–basically his life imitating our art. This results in a rather feel-good but unexpected musical montage. However, when he finds out where his best friend Sgt. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) may be located at, Steve stumbles upon HYDRA, a terrorist group run by Nazi officer Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), later taking on the alter ego of Red Skull. So he suits up again and with further assistance from Stark, Steve Rogers receives patriotic weaponry and armor and adopts the title of Captain America.

From there, we see how much of a born leader Steve is. Developing super strength and gaining muscle doesn’t go to his head. He assembles the team to take down HYDRA, cooperates with Colonel Phillips and Peggy to develop strategy, and the soldiers look up to him, yet he’s kind to them and his superiors and seems as dignified as he was when he was small and skinny. His loyalty to and friendship with Bucky, as well as his blooming romance with Peggy, is touching, though they are overshadowed by lead-ups to the final battle. No-nose Red Skull is malicious and puts up quite a fight, but I felt like there should have been more of him in order for me to get a better or worse feeling about him.

Despite some action scenes not unleashing what they could and should have been, they’re still very well-choreographed and well-produced. Humorous moments and dialogue is plentiful and the 40s nostalgia should be of enjoyment to fans of that era. Though it’s shown in the trailer, the scene where Steve is injected with the serum injects with anxiety and anticipation. What they don’t show in the trailer is anything that happens in the end and keeping it spoiler-free, the last 10 to 15 minutes is the best 10 to 15 minutes of the entire film, though it’s also the most torturous. Perhaps the only thing better is seeing the segue into The Avengers after the credits, so do stick around and check it out.

It’s a fun and thrilling film for the summer season–that’s really all it is. But since I like to take the crap out of anything and study it under a microscope of values and lessons learned, if there’s anything to take away from Captain America, it’s the fact that his unfaltering strength and down-to-earth goodness really makes him the purest of heroes–serum and shield aside, of course. So consider it your patriotic duty to watch Evans immerse himself into a role that has him setting off the fireworks, and get inspired.

OVERALL: B+

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One response to “The unwavering spirit of ‘Captain America’

  1. Pingback: ‘The Avengers’: Earth’s mightiest heroes assemble for an absolutely unbeatable film « Karen On·

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