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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America

Hey people! Welcome back to the latest edition of Chaos Corner. I've played two games of 40K in the past couple of weeks. I won one, lost the other (both as Dark Eldar- I will go back to Chaos one day! I vow to Nurgle himself!). I'm going on vacation this week; afterward, I intend to play more games in August.

At any rate, I saw Captain America today. The last of the superhero movies for this summer: Thor was good (whoever would have thought we'd have a good Thor movie), X-Men: First Class was unexpectedly good, and Green Lantern was mediocre, at best. Will Cap be the best? Or the worst? So, away we go with our Captain America review:

I've been hoping that Captain America would be really good. I love the character, and thought the idea of having him IN WWII as he should be was a great move. Then, past few days, I've read numerous reviews. Some loved it. Others liked it. Plenty hated it. Hmmm. After seeing the movie, I recalled 2 of the reviews. One of them said "It's not perfect, but its entertaining"... uh, since when do movies (let alone highly subjective comic movies) HAVE to be perfect? No movie is perfect. Not even Empire Strikes Back, Godfather, or The Dark Knight. So, why walk in demanding perfection? The other suggested that Captain America spends too much time dwelling on "building up to The Avengers" instead of being a real movie. This is misleading. Marvel has done something incredible here. They have taken the idea of a comic universe mythos, and make movies that do the same thing (not single one-off characters, like most comic book movies). These guys (Thor, Cap, Iron Man, etc) all exist in the same world. There's spill over between the stories, characters, technologies, etc. Criticizing Cap for relying too much Iron Man/Thor while building to next year's Avengers misses the whole point. These Marvel movies are a mosaic. Pieces of a whole. Slamming that is like saying that Fellowship of the Ring spends too much time setting up pieces for Two Towers. Marvel's ambition with these is staggering, now that I've seen them all and how they all interlock (in obvious and in subtle ways). Iron Man 2 is bad not because it is building a Marvel mythos, but because the story just isn't good. Thor builds on the universe AND is a decent movie. And, it turns out that Captain America is the strongest entry yet in the Marvel Movie Universe. Here's the Good/Bad breakdown:

The Good: First, credit to the filmmakers for doing the World War II route. I'm sure there was pressure to "modernize" him- I'm glad they planted him firmly in WWII. It's essential to his character. Second, I have to credit the cast- they are truly perfection here. Chris Evans is a "pretty boy", and I was worried that he'd be as bad as Ryan Reynolds. I'm pleased to say that's not the case. Evans does a great job- he's an honest guy, a good guy that you want to root for. He plays Cap straight- a guy who wants to do the right thing. His strength isn't his body, but his heart. His morality. He doesn't WANT to kill, but to save innocents he'll do what he must- even if that means sacrificing himself. Equally good is Hugo Weaving, as the sinister Red Skull. Weaving had to walk a fine line here- there is nothing redeemable about the Red Skull. Unlike many comic book movies that have tragic, misunderstood, or victimized villains, the Red Skull is anything but. He is the ultimate expression of Hitler's Nazism- absolute power for the sake of power. No tragedy, no good ends through ignoble means- nope. The Red Skull is evil. That's it. It would have been easy to have the Red Skull be a caricature- a mustache twirling villain. But Weaving is good enough to give the character some shading- subtlety. And the "skull" effect is great- I felt I was looking at the Red Skull from the books. The supporting cast is great too- Tommy Lee Jones is great (tough but funny) as the Colonel, and Toby Jones is quirky but realistic in the role of Armin Zola. Finally, there's Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, the scientist that creates Cap. He's a deep character, filled with sadness and hope in equal measure. In other areas, the special effects are great all around, the action is well done (if a bit too brief at points), plays like a WW II adventure, makes nods to current Cap comic stories, and ultimately makes great connections to the Marvel Universe (I guess, chronologically, this movie should come first). I won't spoil them all, just keep your eyes open and make sure you've seen all the Marvel movies.

Well, Colonel Tommy Lee Jones, if you're trying to make up for Batman Forever, then mission accomplished!

The Bad- The action was a bit iffy at points, since some of the bits were over too quickly. This is a function of the second half of the movie- which is more of an overview of Cap's actions against the Red Skull throughout the war. The plot reflects that- you WANT to see more, but you're racing throughout the war to the end. The last half of the movie is kind of episodic, which is a shame. I'd love to see Cap go against other villains in WWII- Baron Zemo, for example. But, he's out of WWII by the end of the movie, so I guess not.

Ultimately, Captain America is the strongest Marvel movie yet (just a hair better than Iron Man). It handles the character with respect, is a fun WW II adventure (Indiana Jones, if you will), and really connects with the Marvel Universe. It says it all when you come to the end and you want to see what happens next. I'd give it three and a half Marks of Chaos out of four. Until next time, Make Mine Marvel, er... Nurgle.

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