July 23, 2011

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Some Quick Thoughts on the Captain America Movie

I saw the Captain America movie with my wife this morning, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The Marvel studio is doing great work with these Avengers films, especially in relation to linking them together. Usually, I don't post anything about the movies I see, but since this is a Captain America theme weekend for Panel Patter, I thought I'd make an exception.

Spoiler-filled comments follow, so be forewarned!

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Okay, that should be plenty of room.

Overall, while I enjoyed this movie a lot, and I think it was about as good as a Captain America film can be, I don't think it's the best of the bunch so far. It's a movie that revels in being a comic book movie, and I think that actually hurts it in places. We've got disintegration rays and people flying all over the place when they're hit and hero-villain patter that's right out of the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby playbook. There's nothing wrong with that at all, mind you, but after the quiet grace and Shakespearean tragedy of Thor, it's a bit harder to swallow. I think Cap suffers by not being Thor, much the same way that Iron Man 2 gets flack because it wasn't Iron Man 1. Your mileage may vary on this, I know some folks were less in love with Thor than I am.

Whoever did the casting in this film should be nominated for something. Tommy Lee Jones was perfect as the scenery-chewing, wise-cracking military foil. "I'm not kissing you" might be my favorite moment of the whole thing, with "Find me two more" being a close second. Excellent choice, and I'm so glad he had a nice big part. Skull and Zola also played their parts as really bad guys quite well and the Howling Commandos looked and felt like they leaped out of Kirby's pen.

Speaking of the cast, Evans nails the enthusiasm and well-reasoned patriotism that Steve Rogers stands for when he's being written well (I'm looking at you, Englehart-Grunwald-Waid) as opposed to the loyal soldier that some like to make him, like Jenknis did in a series of stories so bad I had to quit reading. (For what it's worth, I'm not sure where I put Brubaker on this continuum.) He has a lot of help from the script in this regard. But everything I think of when I think of Cap was here, though perhaps just a bit stiffer than I'd liked.

One continuity nitpick: How can Tony Stark's dad be about 35 in World War 2, then have a 35 year old Tony in the 2000s? I guess he was a lady killer right up to Tony Randall age? I admit that kept bothering me. Wish it had been his grandad instead.

This is now officially my 2nd favorite Stan Lee cameo.

I liked the idea of Cap as being a figurehead at first, but I think they played it out too long. The punching Hitler joke was cute, but the sequence went further than it needed to. It's one of the times where I felt like they were trying too hard to touch the comic book roots, given that cute inside gags are about as old as the medium itself.

I know people said the Thor movie tried to shoehorn a lot of history into one movie, but it felt worse here. The downside to being the setup for the Avengers movies that there's no time to bring non-MMMS people up to speed gradually. It seemed like there was so much we needed to know, but not enough time to tell it.

The worst casualty of this speed? Bucky. While I don't think anyone suffered by being rushed in Thor, Bucky's "death" is cheapened by not properly establishing his relationship with Steve.

I use quotes for death, because we all know he's coming back. No matter how acclaimed Brubaker's Cap run is, I will always hate it for taking away the power of that death, and I am sure the movies will follow the comics because that's what they do (see War Machine).

One last Bucky note: Anyone else catch him wielding the shield, however briefly?

I liked how the Red Skull is played as being unmitigated evil. He's so bad Zola even flinches. And that's exactly how it should be. This is not Magneto or Loki or even Doctor Octopus, who have some redeeming qualities. The Skull is evil incarnate, and they let it fly here. I was worried we might get a tortured child or something. Nope! Just a rat bastard. Well played.

Was it just me, or did anyone else think the guy playing Zola was channeling Truman Capote? It was fun, if only in my head.

The closing credits are awesome, and worth watching more than once when this hits DVD. It's not as good as the ones that opened Watchmen, but it's close. I loved the use of war posters and how they blended them together seamlessly.

That's my take on things. How about you? It's definitely a great film, well worth seeing on the big screen, and I highly recommend it. It's not perfect, but it's still so much better than we as comic book fans have a right to expect. Can't wait for Avengers next year!