Film Review: ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’


I have never really been comfortable with Captain America – star of new Marvel blockbuster Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – as a superhero. Unlike Batman, Spider-Man or the majority of his The Avengers [2012] posse, there is no real edge to his character. He is simply a soldier with disturbing jingoistic attitudes, out to indoctrinate the world with the American dream of capitalism, apple pie and a big shield boasting the star-spangled banner.

Captain America’s comic book origins are based in the US propaganda of World War Two, as the comic book was developed to encourage the war effort (which is something the film surprisingly touches on). However, the trouble with this new blockbuster version of Captain America is that its simplistic nature just isn’t that captivating.

The plot focuses on Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a small guy with a big heart for the red, white and blue. Rogers is given the opportunity to become a super-soldier and thus able to successfully battle the evil Hydra, the “deep science” wing of Hitler’s Third Reich, headed up by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) AKA the Red Skull, who has a bright red head and a penchant for Wagner (because all Nazis love Wagner, obviously).

Captain America is simply awful. It is another hour and a half of prologue to the film people are apparently waiting for – The Avengers. Like Thor (2011) before it, Captain America is full of cameos of minor Marvel characters, such as Tony Stark’s father Howard (Dominic Cooper) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), all neatly getting in line for The Avengers, which on past evidence may very well  turn out to be the type of tired movie that we have seen a million times before (just with different coloured spandex).

The performances are also extremely poor. Weaving’s Red Skull  is a camp Indiana Jones-style Nazi complete with maniacal laugh and black leather trench coat and Evans is hugely irritating as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Admittedly, the cast can’t be held entirely to account as the comic book is very one dimensional. Strangely, the film adaptation has been modernised with weapons charged from an ancient power source (a link to the comic book mythology of Thor) that just doesn’t look right in a 1940s.

Annoyingly, Weaving’s Red Skull – a potentially interesting character -just isn’t developed. His reasoning for wanting to conquer the world are just that he is a nasty guy with delusions of grandeur. Filmmaker Joe Johnston (who put us through such half-baked atrocities as Jurassic Park III [2003] and The Wolf Man [2010]) has missed an opportunity to do a “Nolan”: namely, to reinvent the genre and give the characters some actual character. Instead we have a film jam-packed with clichés that we have been seeing since 2002 with Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man. I understand that these films make big money and that many a 10-year-old will lap this up, but how many more of these camp, dull, tired Marvel superhero movies can we put up with?

Joe Walsh