Tuesday, December 6, 2011
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)
The final film precursor to Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated adaptation of THE AVENGERS (due out next year) is an art deco-infused entertainment set during World War II that hits its arbitrary marks but feels as flat as its superhero’s back story. Chris Evans (who provided what little spark THE FANTASTIC FOUR had) stars as Steve Rogers, a proverbial 98-pound weakling whose desire to shoot Nazis is considerably bigger than his biceps. The patriotic fellow courts repeated rejection from military recruiters until Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) plucks him from the ranks for a controversial treatment. Despite doubt from leggy Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and derision from Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Erskine and inventor Howard Stark (father of Tony, played by Dominic Cooper) turn our diminutive hero into Captain America, complete with bulging pectorals. The new physique captures the attention of Peggy but Phillips remains skeptical, leaving Rogers to peddle war bonds for jingoistic politicians. Meanwhile rogue Nazi Johan Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), with the help of Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), hunts for magical items to create super weapons to arm his Hydra army. Schmidt, revealed to be Red Skull, captures Rogers’ friend “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and his division. Captain America must disobey orders to rescue his friend and thwart Red Skull’s diabolical plan to take over the world (auf natürliche!). Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely’s script, based on the comic books by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, covers a lot of ground but does so so superficially that by film’s end Captain America feels like a construct rather than a character. Director Joe Johnston maintains a brisk pace but he has neither the finesse nor the patience to nurture his actors. Despite the best efforts of pros like Tucci, Weaving, and the Joneses, the performances fail to engage. Fans of the comic may be able to fill in the gaps, but the rest of us remain in the dark. While its period look is gorgeous and its visual effects impressive, the film’s best moment is the teaser for THE AVENGERS. Help us, Joss Whedon! You’re our only hope.