Captain America: The First Avenger

Movie Review #776: ‘Captain America”s awkward pacing and CGI overkill prevent it from being as entertaining as it should be.

★★½
By Red Stewart
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Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13 (contains sci-fi violence)
124 minutes

Pulp fiction (not the movie) is something you can only truly appreciate if you grew up in its era of popularity, and unfortunately the first mistake “Captain America: The First Avenger” makes is trying to imitate those times. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the effort Joe Johnston and his crew put in, but there was a reason pulps began to decline following World War II and that’s because they weren’t in tune with audiences. The effects of war replaced the jingoistic propaganda ringing amongst the youth, and the advance of the Cold War only solidified the romanticism of spy thrillers.

“Captain America” aims to be two things: an origin story for its hero and a setup for the 2012 “Avengers” film, and it sadly doesn’t quite live up to any of its promises, instead opting for pulpy, action spectacle. We’re introduced to Steve Rogers, a skinny man whose only wish is to serve his country. Though his brittle shape technically prevents him from joining the army, his patriotism impresses a scientist called Dr. Erskine, who recruits him for the secret Super Soldier Program that will turn him into the eponymous hero we all know and love.

The two issues that prevented me from truly enjoying the film were the pacing and use of CGI. Not to beat a dead horse, but the pulpiness really doesn’t suit “Captain America”, who, for all intents and purposes, is living out the underdog origin. Pulp heroes were all one-dimensional caricatures aimed to emphasize masculinity and adventure. Spending time giving Rogers character depth messes with the pacing of the story, sending it forward a bunch or slowing it down to develop a plot thread that won’t be explored later. This also shows up in the action, which mostly consists of a multitude of fast-paced explosions and jump cuts, topped with Massive amounts of computer-generated imagery. To clarify, I have always preferred CGI to physical sets as not only are they thrown away after use, but it also limits the creativity of a film. However, the overabundance of the CGI, especially given its relative weakness in the post-“Avatar” cinema world, leaves it more distracting than immersive.

It may sound like I hated the film, but that isn’t the case. There was a lot of good in “Captain America”, starting with the acting. Chris Evans does a great job portraying Cap as a genuinely nice guy trying to do some good in the world. Hayley Atwell is stunning (both aesthetically and acting-wise) as Cap’s romantic interest and army buddy Peggy Carter, and the other supporting performances by Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Hugo Weaving, and Tommy Lee Jones are all excellent and need no real emphasis. The dialogue works to each character’s strengths and helps to at least provide a decent layout as to how everyone’s relationships work.

Ultimately, however, those two nuisances prevent “Captain America” from being as good as it can be. At the end of the day, I felt I had been robbed of a full character arc for the hero, leaving him to feel rather hollow in “The Avengers”. ✴

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2 thoughts on “Captain America: The First Avenger

  1. In an ideal world, I would have given Cap a proper WW2 movie, rather than one that feels rushed and tries hard to get Cap into the present day ready for Avengers. I’m just glad the fixed the issues with the second movie, which I thought was brilliant.

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