FlixChatter Review – Captain America: The First Avenger

This review is courtesy of Ivan Maramis… a.k.a. ze blogger’s hubby 😀

When it was first announced that Captain America would be made into the big screen, I thought it was such a preposterous proposition. I know of the comic and am familiar enough to sum it up in a :30 second elevator pitch, but never really read the comics growing up. Seriously… the name, the costume — those two alone should be enough to scare sane movie-makers away from even thinking about coming up with a decent plot. And if the previous attempts are any indication, they should pretty much forget about it.Yet as initial promos/trailers were released, the movie actually looked… promising. And guess what, the final product doesn’t disappoint, either.

Here’s the plot summary taken from the official site:
Captain America: The First Avenger will focus on the early days of the Marvel Universe when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America. As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving.)
The first thing I noticed was how the movie look resembles that of the Indiana Jones series — and that’s never a bad thing. The sepia tones and the softer, muted color rendition give a stylistic retro feel to the 1940s setting. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that director Joe Johnson directed the similarly-fashioned The Rocketeer, and was also the visual supervisor for Raiders of the Lost Ark. But incorporating this retro look to a superhero genre is especially refreshing considering most major superhero comics were written in the 40s – 60s.

There is nothing extraordinary about the story, especially if you judge it just as another “superhero” movie. It’s an origin story of our protagonist evolving from a scrawny frail guy into a government-approved-steroid-injected dude. Throw in a megalomaniac villain to fist fight with, add some humor and a pinch of love interest in the mix, and you get a pretty safe (possibly bland) formula for a superhero movie. It’s a simple good vs. evil plot. And that’s not necessarily a bad approach. This is the era where politics was much more black and white than it is today, and you know you just have beat the Nazis to win the war.
Steve Rogers... the amazing transformation
Chris Evans gives a believable portrayal as an earnest guy with a pure heart who simply want to serve and protect the country. You sympathize with the character right away, in the same way that Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) discovered him to be the perfect candidate to receive the super soldier serum. But soon after Rogers got his instant body-building look, the experiment facility was burnt down by one of the Red Skull’s men (played briefly by Richard Armitage).
Realizing that Rogers is such an expensive asset to risk in a war, the government instead use him as a celebrity mascot performing in USO tours to entertain the American troops in Europe. He’s given the costume that’s pretty much an American flag wrapped around his body, with a stage name Captain America. Die hard comic fans will immediately recognize that his stage costume IS the classic Captain America suit depicted in the comic.

Remember what I said earlier about the two things that could potentially break this movie? The name and costume were half of the major issue in bringing this character to life in a believable way. But Johnston and his team solve the problem brilliantly by making our good ole’ star spangled Cap attire originated from a campy stage show. It gives a witty nod to the comic, but it also creates a sensible transition as to how Steve Rogers get to keep his identity as the Cap, and eventually wear his stage-inspired but a more practical combat suit. He also got an improved & battle-ready shield, thanks to the brilliant inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).
Comic fans or not, you might ask why use shield as a weapon of choice? There was a scene earlier in the movie (pre-serum) when Dr. Erskine asked Steve if he is ready to go and kill some Nazis. And Steve responded by saying, “I don’t want to kill anybody. I just don’t like bullies…” Shield is primarily a device to defend and protect, though in more than occasion it served as more than combat armor. It reinforces Steve’s genuine desire to protect the weaklings now that he’s been transformed into a super soldier.
It's not easy being red ...
Hugo Weaving brings in a solid portrayal as the Red Skull. It’s not quite the same caliber as Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning the Joker where he nearly overpowered the film, but Weaving infuses enough authority, pompousness and deranged sensibility to the character (sans the over-dramatic maniacal laugh). I was afraid that his Agent Smith voice from The Matrix would echo heavily here, but his voice actually sounds quite different and his German accent is not over the top or pretentious. Weaving is the epitome of a charismatic leader — whether playing a good guy, or in this case, a bad one.
The rest of the cast are commendable as well. Atwell’s Peggy Carter brings in a more authoritative and no-nonsense female figure, a refreshing take when compared to the typically-expected damsel in distress. Her relationship with Steve Rogers is convincingly sweet — there’s an palpable chemistry between them yet they it doesn’t move too fast to make it corny. And I can’t ask for a better actor to play Colonel Chester Phillips than Tommy Lee Jones. He’s got the look, the grit and the sarcastic wit and his scenes offer plenty of comic relief. Sebastian Stan’s role as Bucky may be a supporting one, but it plays a critical part in shaping Steve Rogers to become the person that he is. Thus, while the performances perhaps won’t win any major award, the casts work nicely as a strong unit.
Captain America: The First Avengers may not be as mind-bending as the The Dark Knight, but it delivers a satisfying and entertaining fare in the vein of Indiana Jones. The action scenes are engaging enough even without 3D — it’s absolutely unnecessary so if you haven’t seen it, might as well save your money and see it in 2D. Be sure to stay until after the credits to see some special treats from Marvel!
Closing thoughts: The movie is patriotic without being preachy nor overly political, encouraging without being overbearing. It’s simply a good, clean entertainment with a message that the basic trait of a true hero is his or her heart.
4 out of 5 reels

Well, has any of you got a chance to see this movie? I’d love to hear what you think.

54 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review – Captain America: The First Avenger

  1. Ted S.

    Nice review Ivan, I enjoyed the film too but I felt it lacked tension. I thought the action scenes happened for no reason then to just please the audience and the characters weren’t in any real danger. The film does look good and it was still a fun ride. I just wish they put more thoughts into the screenplay.

    1. ze blogger's hubby

      Thanks Ted… I don’t disagree with you about the action scenes. They seem ridiculously easy for one man to tackle. But then, the Brits have had James Bond doing crazy stuff 20+ times, maybe Cap is just trying to catch up 🙂 Seriously though, now that you mentioned it, even Indiana Jones had a few “suspenseful” scenes Johnston could’ve modeled after for this. Great point!

  2. I tried twice to see it this weekend, and it was sold out both times (not all shows; just the two times, each day, that I would’ve considered going). So, four chances to see it, four times sold out. That sort of blew my mind. Now for no real reason, I want to see it 10 times more than I did before.

      1. My expectations are really high. Specifically, I’m expecting 2 hours of theater-grade air conditioning (which is sooooo much better than my own).

        1. Well in that case, you probably won’t be disappointed 😀

          No seriously John, I’m curious to hear what you think. Would you come back and let us know your thoughts? Perhaps it’ll inspire you to put together another witty list that you do so well!

  3. Ivan and Ruth, you will have to forgive me. I am unable to read this review properly until Friday Morning (Thursday night for you) as I am going to see this tomorrow night and I am trying to avoid any reviews…It is a tough job though as they are everywhere!!

    I will read this after I have written mine and see if we have similar results….

    Thanks for writing though.

    Scott er I mean Custard HAHHA

    1. Totally understand Custie, I’ve been avoiding all those HP 7.2 reviews too, as I haven’t seen it. Hope you enjoy it, curious to hear what you think.

  4. I’m so behind, but I really hope to see this one sometime soon. HP7.2 this weekend! Good review … I’ve been a little surprised with the mostly positive reviews, but that’s a good thing. And I admit I’m maybe mostly excited to see the “skeletor” at the end. RDJ + Hiddleston = win!

    1. Hey, I’m glad I’m not the only one who hasn’t seen HP7.2! I’m gonna see it this Friday, too.

      Yeah, RDJ + Hiddleston should be great, oh Sam you definitely has to see the after credit scenes, that alone is worth the admission ticket!!

  5. Hi, ze blogger’s hubby and company:

    Thanks for the well thought out and very detailed review. The film has the definite period piece look and feel that is essential in bringing ‘Captain America’ to life.

    1. Hi Jack, have you seen this yet? Yeah, the vintage look is definitely a major strength in this film, quite a contrast to some of the scenes set in contemporary time.

  6. Bravo Ivan! I love your review! and, I knew that you being ze blogger’s hubby meant that Armitage would receive mention! haha.

    One of the things I also really enjoyed about this movie, aside from the great points you bring up, was the music! The score was appropriate and a lot of fun to listen to.

    Glad you liked the movie! I cannot wait to go see it for a 4th time here soon! 🙂

    1. Ahahahah… actually he put Richard Armitage’s name on his own, I was quite surprised he even remember his name, but then again, how could he not, I must’ve mentioned his name a hundred times during the movie 😀 Next time he’ll get his OWN superhero flick!!

      I’m not gonna speak for Ivan, but for me, THOR’s music is far more memorable.

      What, you’re gonna see it for the 4th time??! Wow, you sure do love this movie! 😀

    2. ze blogger's hubby

      If Ruth has a say for the movie, I’m sure you’ll see a much extended screen time of Richard Armitage 😉 The music definitely has a patriotic feel to it. Some of my fave soundtracks are from Batman Begins or Battlestar Galactica TV show — they’re like the dragon boat drummer for me at work.

  7. I liked it, but was disappointed that I didn’t love it. My only problem with the film is I felt Johnston couldn’t really put a major action set piece together. It seemed we were witnessing anything exciting in montage form. The Howling Commandos also got shortchanged quite a bit, but I guess for pacing issues this was necessary. I would have though at least Nick Fury would have got some screen time making the zinger at the end have more dramatic weight. Overall I’m glad they pulled this off, but am extremely excited for Avengers!

    1. ze blogger's hubby

      One thing I forgot to mentioned in my review is that I did feel most of the action scenes are like those typical of TV series — abbreviated & condensed pace for the “hour.” So that’s definitely a valid point you brought up. The reason they didn’t bother me too much though was maybe because I came with that expectation knowing that it’s an origin story. It’d be totally fun to see Cap & the Howling Commandos in different adventures (outside of Avengers). But, yeah, I was super skeptical about Avengers but now am pretty excited about it too!

  8. Nice review Ivan although I don’t share your enthusiasm about the movie nearly as much 🙂 While it was relatively competently made, The First Avenger never really grabbed me and never did I thought “oh this is good… I like this!” It was incredibly corny at times with mostly unspectacular action scenes that weren’t always needed. You have great actors in the supporting cast but only Tommy Lee Jones manages to shine (entirely because he is an awesome actor). Red Skull was a complete letdown and there is just too little tension throughout.

    It’s not a bad movie but IMO completely forgettable in all aspects. It’s not nearly as well executed as X-Men First Class, or as cheaply entertaining as Thor. It simply exists with no other creative purposes than to lead to The Avengers movie

    Oh and Hayley Atwell’s role was slightly better than the usual damsel in distress but what’s with her speaking with a British accent as an American officer? What was that all about?

    1. ze blogger's hubby

      Hey Castor, thanks for the comment… Glad to get a chance to finally converse with one of Flixchatter regulars. 🙂 I can see your points there, but perhaps I was coming in to the movie with a lot of apologetic mindset, which made me judge the movie with a different standard than the others (FYI, my top fave superhero genre is still The Dark Knight, and Captain America is not even in the same league).

      I’ve seen clips of the previous attempts and to say they’re horrible is an understatement. Knowing that, I really wanted this movie to succeed, so I told myself that I’d be happy if the movie just doesn’t suck. And it didn’t and it’s better than I expected.

      So as much as the story line itself is not as engaging as it could’ve been, I still think that overall it’s a good template for starting fresh with our star-spangled dude. For what it is, I’m willing to be a bit generous with my assessment — if anything, it’s good purely for escapism value.

      Oh, BTW, Hayley Atwell is playing a British officer in the movie.

    1. Wow, another sold-out story. What time did you go? So I guess this film is quite popular, I’m surprised as the total box office didn’t seem that high.

        1. Yeah, I suppose 😀 I just thought that on weeknights the theaters might not be as full. We’ll see how it fares against Cowboys & Aliens this weekend, btw, we ‘own’ that one right Castor?

  9. Melissa Bradley

    Great review, but I hated it. I guess I’m not into the overly idealistic, naive heroes who simply want to save the world from bullies. I prefer heroes with more edge like Iron Man, Thor or Batman.

    I was pretty hard on this my own review.

    1. Hi Melissa, thanks for stopping by. Ah I see, well I tend to prefer the edgier heroes too, they’re more interesting obviously. But we both went in with the realization that Steve Rogers is a good guy (kind of like Superman with his altruistic tendencies) so it’s not really fair to knock off points from the film because we prefer a different kind of hero.

      1. Melissa Bradley

        That’s true, I am looking forward to The Avengers. Can’t wait to see more Iron Man and Thor. 🙂

        1. Oh yeah, it’s going to be a hoot to see ALL those characters together!! Iron Man, Thor & Cap are the three characters I like the most from Avengers… least fave Hawkeye & Black Widow because of the cast.

    1. We have similar taste in movies, yes, and we both like the comic-book/superhero genre which explains our affinity for it and the fact that we tend to like ’em more than most.

  10. great review. I really liked it myself. We went at midnight too, so i was tired. I liked the direction so I guess i will check out The Rocketeer.

    As for the characters not being in danger, I was quite shocked & dismayed at who got killed right after Steve’s transformation. I actually said “No!” Out. Loud. I never do that. i don’t have any comic book background so i wasn’t expecting it. But still.

    PS: Tudors fans, did you see Natalie Dormer, who played Anne Boleyn? 🙂

    1. Woo hoo! Glad that you did, doll. Pls do check out The Rocketeer, I especially enjoy the villain as you’d probably guess 😀 😀

      In regards to ‘characters weren’t in any real danger’ – yep, THAT and not to mention his BFF! In fact, because Steve is human, he’s in far more danger than other Marvel heroes like Thor/Hulk or even Tony Stark under that indestructible suit! I too jumped out of my seat in regards to what happened at the lab. Made me hate Richard Armitage for a bit… just a tad though, after all he’s Mr. Thornton!! 😀

      Yes, I recognize Natalie from The Tudors, she’s kinda typecast as this seductive girl isn’t she? Her character is annoying though.

        1. i think it’s her eyes 🙂 i’m sure she’s a really sweet girl. i always wanted Anne Boleyn to get together with Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill) on Tudors. It would have been most unhistorical, but i thought they looked nice together LOL

          Armitage will have be a really good guy in his next picture to redeem himself after this one 😉

  11. A big hello to Mister Flixy 🙂
    I haven’t seen the film, but I liked the review. Most of the reviews I’ve seen were positive and Flixy knows I’ve never missed a Chris Evans movie so this one won’t be the first one either!

  12. OK I have seen it now my thoughts in a nut shell….

    3-D WHY???? It was shocking and pointless. Hugo Weaving sounded like Arnie in Kindergarton cop, very odd. Chris Evans Small his voice sounded too deep and when he was big he sounded to high pitch. HAHA

    Otherwise it was fairly enjoyable. A bit cheesy in the middle act, although he IS called Captain America so I guess that is to be expected!!

    Thanks for writing a great review Ze Bloggers’s Hubby!! 🙂

    1. ze blogger's hubby

      3D thing is totally pointless… agreed! Glad to hear it was still enjoyable for you despite the campyness 🙂

      Your comment got me imagining… what would it be like if Arnie from Kindergarten Cop, Agent Smith, Red Skull, big & small Chris Evans and Christian Bale’s Batman are all in the same room, having intense conversation about who got the best onscreen voice… I know, I know, weird imagination… but still… 🙂

  13. Having just seen it, I’d say that’s a pretty good synopsis of it. It basically doesn’t take any big chances, instead opting for quick/easy/formulaic… which isn’t at all a bad thing. They’ve put so much money into this Avengers endeavor that the last thing in the world they want to do is swing for the fences and miss completely with one of the characters. So they played it safe.

    1. ze blogger's hubby

      John, exactly what I thought about the movie too — pretty safe formula. In a way, it’s OK for this movie, because of the relatively straight forward character and setting (WW II). I guess we’ll all find out in a year whether all the hypes about Avengers will pay off or not.

  14. Johnston really was comfortable with where he was going with the film only Branagh did that as well this summer with a superhero movie.

    1. Totally agree, Fitz. I heard that like Branagh with Thor, Johnston said that Capt. America was the only comic-book superhero film he was interested to direct. Turns out both of them were perfect for the job.

    1. Well I don’t know about ‘extremely’ but yeah, I think Sebastian Stan as Bucky was good, I really like his character. Btw, he’s in Black Swan too, did you remember?

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