Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) is Marvel’s latest entry in their movie empire. I enjoyed the film a lot. It was true to the spirit of the original comics. One of the things that can bring down a movie adaptation is being too slavish to its source material; movies and comics have different strengths and weaknesses.
Director Joe Johnston does a great job recreating the look of the 1940s. His previous period superhero film, The Rocketeer (1991), suffered a bit from a generation of special effects that weren’t quite adequate to portray the retro technology and period feeling that was needed to recreate Dave Stevens’ iconic character. But in Captain America the art direction and special effects are almost seamless. I only noticed a couple of obvious green-screen matte shots.
One of the best special effects was the skinny Steve Rogers at the beginning of the film. My understanding is that they used a technique similar to what Peter Jackson did to make his hobbits look small; shrinking actor Chris Evans digitally (as opposed to some reports that said that they digitally wrapped Evans’ face onto a stand-in’s body).
Chris Evans was an outstanding choice to play Steve Rogers. He looks every bit as portrayed in the comics. He gives a very good performance as a man who is without fear and is a champion of all that is right and decent.
Hugo Weaving has to be given props for yet another excellent performance under almost unrecognizable prosthetics. Tommy Lee Jones gives us his usual great gruff authority figure, but at 65 years old (and not a youthful 65), he is really way too old to be playing a colonel.
It was nice to see some of the WWII Marvel heros working with Captain America. A mixture of classic and modern Howling Commandos Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita, and Jacques Dernier were evident. Sgt. Nick Fury, the original leader of the Howlers, was obviously retconned out, as this would conflict with his appearance as the leader of SHIELD in the modern Marvel Universe. Montgomery Falsworth (aka the superhero Union Jack) from The Invaders, was also part of Cap’s team.
Captain America had action, character development, and a straightforward plot. Too many origin-story movies try to cram in too much, or spend way too much time before the action kicks in. Captain America spent a fair amount of time showing Steve Rogers before his transformation, but most of that was interesting character development. My only real complaint regarding unnecessary scenes was of the USO tours that tended to be repetitive and not terribly enlightening.
One of the interesting retcons in the comics is that the Super Soldier experiment performed on Steve Rogers was the prototype for the Weapon X experiments that ultimately created Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton. There was some allusion to this in Captain America when Peggy Carter revealed to Steve Rogers that the Super Soldier treatment enhanced his metabolism, endurance, and ability to heal.
I’m looking forward to next year’s Avengers movie, and undoubtedly a solo sequel for Captain America.