A review, in bullet-points
Before I headed into the theatre, the only thing I knew about Captain America was that there would be trouble when Captain America throws his mighty shield. I didn't know exactly what that trouble was, but anyone who throws a shield at me is going to get me to yield rather quickly. I'm a little late to the party where this movie is concerned, but since it was directed by Joe Johnston, who also directed The Rocketeer, I was on board for some old-fashioned action adventure fun. And I didn't know how right I would be!
Things I loved:
- The action. The action sequences were amazing. They were realistic (for the most part), exciting, and seeing Cap throw his shield was worth the price of admission. The first sequence after he becomes the super soldier is incredible, and he's not even wearing the uniform yet.
- Chris Evans. I wasn't sure that Evans was a good choice for Cap, but he won me over almost immediately. I quickly forgot that I was watching the star of other films, and I only saw him as Captain America. The haircut and the overall styling helped a lot as well. The computer effects to make him smaller were mostly convincing, too, and although it sometimes looked like a strange bobblehead, it always felt like the same character.
- The script. For the most part, the pacing of this movie was dead-on. There was enough character development that made it clear why Steve becomes Captain America, and there were good comedy beats exactly where we needed them. And perhaps most importantly, there were no characters that existed only to be ciphers and provide backstory or plot development. Very well structured, very well written.
- The old-fashioned style of film-making. Aside from the visual effects, this film felt like it could have been made twenty-years ago. There is no shaky-cam, no lens-flare, no quick-cuts, all elements of modern cinema that drive me crazy. Instead, Johnston uses long tracking shots, wide pans, giving the film the feeling of a much older, more "classic" Hollywood. Not only does it mirror the 1940s setting, but it makes it that much more exciting for me.
Things I liked less than I expected:
- The costume. When the first few photos of the movie costume came out, I was really excited. I thought it was really cool. I liked how it combined the comic book design with the reality of WWII-era uniforms. But unfortunately, it didn't look as good in motion due to bizarrely padded shoulders and a strange helmet that didn't look as good as his USO look.
- Hugo Weaving as Red Skull. In the opening scenes of the movie, Weaving is understated, subtle, and truly creepy. But as the the film continues, not only does his performance become downright mustache-twirling, but his accent starts approaching "moose and squirrel" territory. Maybe it was the Halloween mask they made him wear.
The less-would-have-been-more file:
- Montage, times two. It's strange to see a montage in a film these days. And this movie has two of them. Both of them fit the story, do a good job of showing the passage of time, and contain a lot of exciting imagery. However, both of the montages were a little long and they robbed the film of some momentum.
- The love story. I don't know why every superhero movie needs to have a love story, especially when it feels tacked-on in movies like this, Thor, Iron Man 2, and The Dark Knight. It gives the opportunity for some jokes, some intentionally tender script moments, but overall it felt tacked-on by the marketing and publicity department.
Things that seemed on-loan from another movie:
- The timeline. Captain America is a hero from WWII. And according to the comic books, he somehow winds up in the present day, as a part of the team that includes Hulk and Iron Man. But the pieces of this story are thrown into this movie is such a strange way that I don't see how you could understand it unless you already knew the character's comic history. It felt like they should have saved it for The Avengers movie next summer.
- Samuel L. Jackson. I'm sorry, fans of Marvel Comics, The Avengers, and Mr. Jackson in general. He is completely out of place in these movies. He's there just for fan service, and when it comes to acting, he's not even trying. Reminds me of his comically awkward turns in the Star Wars prequels. This movie (and maybe the entire Marvel movie universe) would be better if they deleted Nick Fury and replaced him with the wonderful Agent Coulson.
I loved this movie. Loved, loved, loved this movie. I wish that all movies were this good. Does it have some problems? Sure, of course it does. Almost every movie does. There are places where the film bogs down in the love story, or where the pace feels a little off. But if more movies were made like this, I would not complain.