In the midst of a fairly dreary summer Captain America emerges as an unlikely hero. This summer has seemingly had the goal of redefining empty spectacle and while one could hardly accuse Captain America of modest introspective filmmaking, it does at least want you to care about the people who are caught up in all of the CGI-splosions and tell a complete story about them. It’s almost a little sad how gratifying that is.
Like Joe Johnson’s earlier film The Rocketeer, Captain America manages to capture the fun, and dare I say innocence of the pulp era, with its straightforward heroes, hissable villains and retro future designs. Though it may lack The Rocketeer’s aesthetics purity it remains a welcome reminder that the sight of a Nazi taking a hard left hook to the puss will never lose any of its inherent charm.
Chris Evans, continuing his trend of being unexpectantly talented (he was always better than the movies he was in, watch Push sometime). He manages to play both Steve Rogers and Captain America convinincingly. Showing how the latter grows from the former. He’s easily the most human superhero we’ve seen since Tobey Maguire put on the red and blue. His opposite Hugo Weaving gets to Hugo Weaving it up, which is never a bad thing. His Red Skull is the ultimate pulp villain, marshalling armies of black clad soldiers and masses of infernal devices. Here is a man who knows the value of an ominous insectile war ship that he can stand in front of and cackle while it hovers ominously in the background. Stanley Tucci also makes a nice addition and Tommy Lee Jones also stars in the Tommy Lee Jones role. Delivering what I can only describe as The Platonic Ideal of “Old Crusty Tommy Lee Jones” performances.
Joe Johnston builds a unique look for the film (real visual imagination being another rarity this summer). Unadorned period piece for most of the America set segments, a look of sinister retro evil for the more fantastic sequences. Also welcome is his sense of lucid action. It’s amazing how much better spectacle works when you can see it.
I don’t want to oversell things here. It’s not a perfect movie, somewhat over long, with a climax that comes about fifteen minutes too late, and features one battle aboard a sinister hovercraft too many. Though it says something that it may leave the viewer hungrier for some more period action than The Avenger’s movie it sets up. Still in a summer, neigh a movie year as dire as this one has been it is rewarding to see something that comes in and does its job with such straightforward determination. Like its hero Captain America is old fashioned, which is by no means a bad thing.