Friday, July 22, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger 3D Review

When I was a kid, Captain America was one of my favorite comic book superheroes. He had the cool red, white and blue costume. The mask gave him a kind of Batman look without the darkness. As I grew up, Captain America became more corny to me. So when they announced that they were going to make a movie about Captain America, I looked forward to it as nostalgia and wondered how they would make it cool but not corny. The film, Captain America: The First Avenger, goes back to the roots of the hero, where the comic book first started. World War II.

The movie interestingly starts out in the present day. The military finds Captain America's shield frozen in the Arctic north. It then flashes back to 1943 and World War II. Nazi Johann Schmidt aka The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is trying to use an ancient power source for global domination. Meanwhile, in New York, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is trying to enlist in the army. His problem is that he is a sickly and frail youth. He is rejected numerous times. Finally during an attempt at a recruiting station, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) overhears a conversation between Rogers and his friend, Sgt. Bucky Barnes. (Sebastian Stan) Rogers nobly argues why he wants to join the army. This impresses Erskine who recruits him for a special program.

The special program is under the command of Colonel Chester Phillips. (Tommy Lee Jones) Assisting Erskine and Phillips is British officer, Peggy Carter. (Hayley Atwell) The purpose of the special program? To develop a super soldier, one who would have super human strength. Erskine explains to Rogers that the scientific process not only promotes physical abilities but also enhances the character of a person. And while Rogers is the weakest of the recruits, he demonstrates courage and goodness. That convinces them to use Rogers as the first test subject. Injected with secret serums and vita-rays, Rogers becomes a super human. Meanwhile, Red Skull has formed his own army called HYDRA. It becomes the mission of Rogers as Captain America to stop the Red Skull.

The cast is all superb. All take their roles seriously. The supporting actors really lift the lead parts. Tommy Lee Jones may have a wink in his eye but he's a pro and knows when to give his character gravitas. Stanley Tucci gets some juvenile sci-fi things to say, such as using the term "vita-rays." But he delivers those lines as if this stuff really exists. Toby Jones (Infamous) as Dr. Zola is convincing as a put upon Nazi scientist. Hugo Weaving as Red Skull gives his character the depth to demonstrate his Nazi belief in a race of supermen. Hayley Atwell is intelligent, strong, warm, voluptuous and lovely. This is probably Chris Evans' best work. As a weakling and then as Captain America, Evans makes nobility, kindness and loyalty a beautiful thing.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have put together a screenplay that respects the source material. There's warmth, humor and well written dialogue. Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) knows how to stage and film action scenes. He deftly captures his actors emotions with perfect close ups. And he has a knack for detail. This movie looks like it was filmed in 1943.

As for the 3D version of this movie, forget it. This was a conversion from 2D. It's good for a conversion. But most of the effects don't pop. And in a lot of the scenes, the 3D is non-existent. As with all 3D movies, Captain America is too dark. But thankfully much of this film features day scenes. I can't think of anything that makes me say, "wow" to a 3D shot in the movie. So, save your money and see this film in 2D.

Captain America: The First Avenger is what a superhero movie should be. Epic. Great action and a big heart. Hooray for Captain America. The grade is A.

P.S. Stay past the credits for an extra scene and a preview of next summer's "The Avengers."

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