Captain America: The First Avenger takes place during World War II. The Army is working on a top-secret project to create a super-soldier, and their guinea pig is an asthmatic weakling from Brooklyn called Steve Rogers. This dork has been pushed around his whole nerdy life, but with Dr. Stanley Tucci's help, he transforms into Captain America, a perfect physical specimen -- and the secret weapon to defeating Nazi scum.
For now I'm not going to worry about how a superhero from the 1940s is going to join forces with the modern-day Iron Man & company. That's a question for another dumb day. What concerns me is the fact that in our time, a soldier dressed in red, white, and blue whose sole purpose is "defending America's ideals" should be a tough sell for any moviegoer over the age of 10. If Captain America emerged as a pro-democracy, anti-fascism mascot in 1941, what is his relevance in 2011? More importantly, will director Joe Johnston even bother to figure that out? No he will not. If you saw The Wolfman, you know that Johnston doesn't aim too high. (In fact, that one even fell short of my johnston.) Fine. Who says a superhero movie needs be anything more than good escapism? This film will offer an uncomplicated conflict, cool visual effects, and some good old Nazi killing. The problem, though, is that this is not 1941. Cigarette ads are not endorsed by doctors, a woman's place is the kitchen and everywhere else, and the American military is not merely out to do justice around the world. If you make a film called Captain America, I need to be won over.
First of all, we have an American soldier firing guns at Nazis with a PG-13 rating. No good. Rather than the righteous bloodletting of Inglorious Basterds, we'll get the Captain pistol-whipping and shooting weapons out of enemy hands, like B. Zane in The Phantom. Then there's the strange irony that the U.S. Army engineers the perfect human being in order to combat Hitler and his vision of Aryan perfection. (Just for kicks, I wish the Captain was blonde.) The movie's biggest failing, however (aside from the dialogue), is the premise that America's ideals and its military's interests are one and the same. Oh, there's no doubt that super-Nazi Red Skull (played like a fiddle by Hugo Weaving) needs to be put down. But once that job is done, what's next for the hero? Will be help rebuild Europe? Spy on the Soviets? Is he for or against dropping the bomb on Japan?
Is it unfair to ask a comic book movie for some complexity? Not really. Let's not forget that the past decade has given us the first two X-Men (fuck the rest of them), the dark and intelligent Batman films, and V for Vendetta, which was even embraced and referenced by revolutionaries in Egypt. I am all for a good time at the local cinemaplex, but Captain America will neither provoke any thought, nor be that good a time. Even Thor was laughably bad. Not this one, though. It will instead take itself too seriously and live in that thick slice of mediocrity that dominates this god damned genre. If I wanted to see Chris Evans play a superhero that no one cares about, I'd watch Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. But I don't, so I haven't.
All that being said, I will end up seeing Captain A. That shield is sweet.
Dorien Sez: C-
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