Saturday, 23 July 2011

Captain America: The Avenger Who's Not Vengeful

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Captain AmericaMaking Captain America: The First Avenger was a huge film risk, but one that should pay off big for the Marvel superhero franchise. The Captain America reboot is mostly retro, something that has already failed in theaters, and starring a leading man who's never played the role. Based in the Second World War, where weakling Steve Rogers (played impeccably by Chris Evans) is rejected again and again by Army recruiters, Rogers signs up for an experimental program to create super-soldiers. Using science from expatriate German scientists, and the super-steroids (and "vita-rays," ... yeah, whatever that is), Rogers turns into Captain America.

This is not a masterpiece superhero movie in the line of the Batman Dark Knight series, but it's a solid film. Batman, Superman and Green Lantern belong to a different universe — DC Comics — which is different than Marvel's X-Men, Iron Man, Hulk, and Spiderman. As a self-confessed geek, I knew this without looking it up, and admit to having subscribed to the Captain America comic book as a kid more than 30 year ago. This film's chief weakness is that most of the characters are not well developed, except Steve Rogers.

I confess to prefer Marvel Comics over DC comics, with the exception of the Dark Knight series, and while the Marvel series has not created a Dark Knight masterpiece, it's produced some fine movies such as the Spiderman, Iron Man, and X-Men series. Captain America fits in nicely with the upper range of this genre, and it ties the Marvel universe together nicely, including cameos for Dr. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) of the Iron Man legend Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of the upcoming Avengers movie.

The Hollywood zeitgeist says that retro movies don't work commercially with modern audiences, but this movie's retro portrayal is actually a strength. At the beginning of the movie, expatriate German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) asks Steve Rogers: "Do you want to kill Nazis?" Rogers responds: "I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies. I don't care where they are from."

The movie harkens back to an era when people sometimes had to fight wars without blood-lust, unnecessary brutality or vengeance, and who love their country without hating others.

In another scene, a prisoner fears torture at the hands of his U.S. captors, but Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) brings the prisoner a steak dinner instead, and then conducts an interrogation free of torture or brutality. No doubt, there will be a few neo-conservatives who will bemoan the lack of brutality in interrogations during that era. But Captain America hates bullies, regardless of what flag they wave.

That's why Captain America's patriotism is a breath of fresh air over empty globalism. Later in the movie, Captain America confronts Dr. Erskine's first failed experiment, the Red Skull, who mocks Captain America's flag-emblazoned uniform: "I have seen the future, Captain. And there are no flags." Captain America responds: "Not in my future."

Go see this movie, unless you hate superhero movies. I give it three and a half stars out of four, or an A-. It is a clean, fun summer blockbuster. 

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