Assembling the Avengers #5: Captain America

Now look, I don’t know why I need to keep explaining this. It’s very simple. I’m blogging all the Avengers films, before I watch the big Avengers film. Understood? Good.

Captain America – supposedly the “First Avenger”, although isn’t Thor like a thousand years old? – is the fourth and final Avenger to arrive on our screens, and also the one I was largely unfamiliar with. The first time I heard the name, I assumed it was a joke. “Captain America”? Seriously? Why not call him “Uncle Sam” and be done with it? How about “Patriot-Man”? Or “Johnny Hero”? What about “Promoting-America’s-Foreign-Policy-Man”?

Expectations sufficiently lowered, I did not hate Captain America as completely as I might have.  It’s a solid action romp with charm, gusto and a well-utilised period setting, and it’s curiously refreshing to see some old-fashioned heroics on a silver screen. Sometimes, you just want an unpretentious, heart-on-sleeve, morally unambiguous hero to win the day, and Cap fills that gap remarkably well.  Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a weedy kid who, when given a magic serum (developed by Iron Man’s dad, no less!), turns into a super soldier, picked by the genius Dr Erskine (Stanley Tucci in yet another small-but-perfectly-formed turn). Cue the world saved, and World War II all sorted out, with style. They have a decent crack, too, at explaining to newcomers like me why he’s dressed like a pro-wrestling stripper,

A superhero movie is only as good as its villain, mind (would The Dark Knight have been as flabbergastingly great without Heath Ledger’s Joker?), and on this note, Captain America falls. Rent-a-villain Hugo Weaving dusts off his evil scowl for the umpteenth time to play the Red Skull in a hue of garish red. I’m not saying Weaving’s Red Skull is pantomimic, but Hugo will be appearing as Evil Stepsister #2 at the Bournemouth Pavilion’s production of Cinderella this Christmas. There was only one thing I could think of:

There’s also a few too many lazily obvious tropes. Falling prey to a common Hollywood malady, Cap operates in a revisionist past, imagining a 1943 where women, blacks and Germans enjoyed a climate of tolerance and equality in America. Hayley Atwell’s love interest is particularly contrived – it’s not that Steve shouldn’t get the girl. Of course he should. But did it have to be another implausibly I’m-One-Of-The-Boys/Independent-Woman cliché?

Nevertheless, it’s a solidly diverting hour and a half, and Evans puts in a good square-jawed turn. Like it’s hero, it’s sturdy and reliable without really being particularly spectacular. And it ends on a brave, downbeat note, which for such a transparently heroic character, is surprising. I’m almost converted. GOD BLESS ‘MURICAH!

 Previously: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor. Tomorrow: The Avengers Assemble.

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