I’m not going to get in to the debate as to whether this was a good or a bad movie. I think it could have been a great movie if they’d added more “Saving Private Ryan” to the stew while it simmered. Anyway, here are 10 top things I enjoyed about Captain America: The First Avenger. This list is not in order nor is it exclusive. It may contain spoilers.
But first, a quote from the director explaining why I enjoyed the film:
“He [Captain America] wants to serve his country, but he’s not this sort of jingoistic American flag-waver. He’s just a good person.” -Joe Johnston
1. Hugo Weaving. In the first hour of the movie, Hugo weaving continues to demonstrate that he can be enjoyable. Maybe not entirely new, but enjoyable.
2. Hugo Weaving’s makeup. Specifically, before his reveal of the actual full on Red Skull. The tiny hints: the way his skin doesn’t sit quite right on his face and especially when he gets punched in the face so a little bit of red shows in his eye socket in a very unnerving way really drive home the menace of what could really be underneath the fake mask.
3. The extended musical number. Captain America’s introduction as a symbol to sell war bonds is unexpected and amusing. The scene goes on much longer than one would expect from a summer action movie, to the point almost of farce.
4. Propaganda. This is directly related to #3. The movie does not shirk from discussing the use of Captain America as a recruiting tool. We see a wide variety of ways that Cap is sold: in movies, in elaborate dance numbers.
5. The Reality of War: All of this is brought to a stop when Captain America is asked to perform in front of real troops, five miles from the front. The beleaguered soldiers have little time for his on stage shenanigans and by this point, neither does the audience.
We’re right there when the troops peg him with hard objects but we’re also right there when Cap starts to wonder if he’s really serving his country in the best way possible.
6. Nicolas Cage. I really thought the guy who played Captain America kind of looks like Nicolas Cage. Anyone else?
The Real 6. Bodycount. This movie takes place during World War II. It may be a superhero movie, but it is also a war movie. While the named characters have plenty of plot protection, this movie does have a high body count for both sides in any given battle.
I’d like to have seen more realism in this department but I have to recognize they did more than most movies do. When the unarmed prisoners escape the POW camp, many of them die. When the American soldiers perform a frontal assault on the Nazi base, many of them die.
Plus, while the deaths are PG-13, many of them still come across as gruesome- especially guy thrown through a plane propeller. I flinched.
7. Defining what Captain America stands for. The movie takes a number of moments that might not be necessary in an action movie to define why Cap does what he does. It’s not quite a character study, but as superhero action movies go it pushes in that direction.
He’s not out to kill Nazis, he’s out to stop bullies. He’s sacrificing himself for others because that’s the right thing to do. It’s not about American supremacy, it’s about doing the right thing.
Plus he’s got humility. When he returns from the big rescue mission in direct violation of orders, Chris Evans doesn’t blink before asking to be disciplined by Tommy Lee Jones. Of course, taken out of context that could sound pretty kinky.
8. Nerdiness. Captain America is, at heart, a nerd. He’s got super strength, sure, but for years he was the weak kid with a temper who doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Even when he fills out and the ladies start lusting, he still has this innocent wide eyed awkwardness when dealing with girls.
9. Montage. Most of the action sequences are unusual. Instead of elaborate set pieces, most of the action occurs in vignettes and montage as Captain America and his band dismantle the Hydra organisation. There isn’t really a great boss or awesome fight scene. The scenes come and go rapidly like a “best of” reel with all the boring parts cut.
10. Colors and lights. I saw the film in 2-d. I’m glad I did. Many of the scenes are visually framed in interesting ways and the movie features a strong use of color palette reflecting the retro-pulp setting. I also liked how this differentiated most of the movie from the present day scenes which had a much brighter, more clinical look.
Bonus: Chris Evans doesn’t blink before asking to be disciplined by Tommy Lee Jones. Yeah, it still sounds kinky.
Also, at no point do I recall a damsel in distress needing Captain America to come to her rescue. Score one for the ladies. Of course, there were only like four female characters in the whole film who had names. So maybe not.