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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

I don’t have a lot to say about Captain America. In fact, only some kind of compulsion to review every recent movie I see leads me to write about it at all. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the movie, it’s just that it doesn’t really lend itself to much critical thought. This is a professionally-made big budget popcorn movie, but it has something a lot of its brethren in that arena lack: charm. There is no irony or crassness in Captain America, the hero or the movie, and that makes this movie, directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer), a pleasant breath of fresh air.

The story is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but nuance would be unwarranted in this environment any way. It’s World War II, one of the only eras in history where it’s even possible to speak in straight-faced terms about Good vs. Evil without too much historical revisionism. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a 98-pound weakling trying to sneak into the Army when he has a chance encounter with Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) a German expatriate working on a classified project with the United States Army in conjunction with a scowling colonel (Tommy Lee Jones). You probably already know how that experiment goes. Along the way Dominic Cooper shows up to do his impression of every other actor’s impersonation of Howard Hughes, and Haley Atwell shows up as a woman in a man’s world who serves as a love interest for Steve/Captain America, because this is the movies and two attractive people of opposite sexes can’t just have mutual respect for each other.

All of the actors do an admirable job delivering their occasionally very cheesy, and never particularly strong dialogue. They are all well cast, which helps. Hugo Weaving is an appropriately hammy, accented supervillain.

The movie is just too simplistic to leave much of a real impression, and its by the numbers plot speaks to a lack of interest in doing anything challenging or different. This is a movie that knows it has a valuable property to caretake, and does its best to keep the brand profitable in advance of the big Avengers movie. Again, nothing to complain about really, but nothing to write home about either.

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