We’re now to the fourth comic book superhero movie of the summer. It’s easy to see why superhero movies are such blockbuster fodder. Big explosions, giant action set pieces, and an ingrained go-get’em American spirit. None more American than Captain America himself.
World War II has just started. America, and the rest of the world, is at war with Hitler and his Nazis. While Hitler searches for “trinkets” of the occult another German Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) searches for true power. He finds a glowing cube in a church which apparently possesses the “power of the gods.” How, why, or when this cube came to be so powerful is never explained. It’s a glowing cube for heaven’s sake, what else do you need to know?
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny nobody who’s been turned down for voluntary military service numerous times. He has the heart of a lion, but the body of a 12 year-old. He’ll never be physically ready to fight. That is until he meets a scientist (Stanley Tucci) that takes a liking to him and volunteers him for a super-soldier experiment. He goes into a pod, is strapped down, and after a couple minutes comes out with bulging biceps, chiseled abs, and he’s also grown a foot or two for good measure. Steve Rogers is now Captain America.
With most superhero movies we learn that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Rogers takes this responsibility to heart. He wants to help his country by any means necessary. The sculpted body and super-human strength are only a means to an end for him.
Captain America: The First Avenger looks great. It’s bathed in a sepia tone much like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was. It’s definitely fun to look at, but unfortunately that’s about it. The problem with the movie is that it feels too rushed. Like it’s sprinting towards its conclusion so we can finally have an Avengers movie. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is never given enough screen time to become real menacing. When the villain isn’t believable, or even all that scary, it’s hard to be invested. It’s difficult to feel a sense of dread when the villain isn’t given ample time to prove his malevolence. We never actually believe that Red Skull even might succeed, because Captain America deals with him and his henchmen rather easily.
Captain America puts together his own band of soldiers that he uses to take down Red Skull and his armies, but we never get to know them either. They spout a couple one-liners here and there, but it feel as if most of their scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Montages fill up dead space where characterization should be. It’s tough to care for characters that you hardly hear from. If a couple of them bite the dust, or in this movie’s case, get vaporized no matter. There are other extras to populate the scenes with.
Seasoned actors like Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones know how to make the most of the small screen time they’re given, the younger actors don’t fair as well. The entire movie feels like a glossy sheen with more substance underneath trying to get out. Only the gloss is all you can see. The movie whisks by you, throws a few explosions your way, Captain America tosses his shield a few times, smacks a few Nazis around, and presto you have a superhero movie. It is mildly fun to sit back and watch, but when compared to other comic book movies like The Dark Knight or Iron Man (or even X-Men: First Class and Thor of this year) it’s lacking something. A human element that makes you care. Captain America feels hurried and threadbare, but for anyone looking for a mildly pleasing action movie this one is for you.