Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

Review --- SPOILERS!






Captain America:  The First Avenger

Summary:

Scientists in the Frozen North find the wreckage of an aircraft, containing a red, white, and blue artifact which has been perfectly preserved in ice.

Back to Norway, 1942, where the Red Skull and his Hydra goons steal the Cosmic Cube, which has been secretly hidden for generations. 

Steve Rogers, the proverbial 98 lb weakling with a compulsion to always "do the right thing", has been repeatedly rejected in his attempts to join the army.  His best friend, James "Bucky" Barnes, has been accepted, and  ships out the next day.  He and Rogers double-date to the World's Fair in NYC, where Rogers attempts to enlist again - and due to the influence of Dr. Abaraham Erskine, succeeds and is assigned to the Strategic Scientific Reserve as a candidate for Operation: Rebirth.

Colonel Phillips thinks Rogers is an utter waste of time, but SSR officer Peggy Carter, disagrees; not being much in the physical arena but unwilling to ever really give up, Rogers has developed a quick mind to think his way through problems without brute force (as he has no brute force to use).  Evidence of his courage comes in a scene where Phillips tosses a dummy grenade in the middle of the trainees, and Rogers is the only one to dive on top of it.

Elsewhere, the Red Skull and his pet scientist Arnim Zola learn to harness the power of the Cosmic Cube, and bleed off its energy to power Arnim Zola's weapon designs.  The Red Skull plans to use Hydra and the advanced weapons to conquer anyone who stands before his dreams of global domination - including Nazi Germany.

The night before Operation: Rebirth, Dr. Erskine reveals to Rogers that the Red Skull was created by a previous version of the Super Soldier Formula, and suffered from several side effects.   He tells Rogers that it was important to find a test subject with integrity and courage, as those traits would be magnified as well. 
Dr, Erskine, assisted by technologist Howard Stark, conduct the procedure the next morning, and Operation: Rebirth is a success, but Dr. Erskine is fatally shot by Nazi agent Heinz Kruger, who attempts to take the last sample of the Super Soldier Formula in an advanced Hydra mini-sub.  He is captured by Rogers, but kills himself with a cyanide capsule

Colonel Phillips is disgusted; he wanted a platoon of super-soldiers, not just one.  Rogers is taken in hand by Senator Brandt, who uses him in a travelling USO show in order to sell war bonds (and is successful).  Rogers hates being a costumed performer.  Rogers discovers that his pal Bucky was captured (along with many others) and sent to a forced-labor camp, and leaves the USO show.  Aided by Peggy Carter and Howard Stark, Rogers infiltrates the Hydra base where the prisoners are kept, frees the soldiers and Bucky, and confronts the Red Skull, who sets the self-destruct charges and escapes. 
Colonel Phillips allows Rogers to recruit a team from the prisoners he's rescued, and Rogers, Bucky, and the "Howling Commandos" then proceed to destroy Hydra bases.  Rogers is given the Shield, and his costume is made battle-worthy. 

Intelligence reports that Arnim Zola is on a special train, and Captain America and Bucky attack the train, along with the one Howling Commando (Gabe Jones) that is able to ride the zip-line in time.   They capture Arnim Zola, but Bucky falls off the train to his death.

Arnim Zola spills the Red Skull's ultimate plan - he intends to use the Cosmic Ccube-powered experimental delta-wing bomber (the "Valkyrie") to deploy manned "buzz bombs", each one powered by the Cosmic Cube and roughly equivalent to a nuclear bomb.  Captain America, the Howling Commandos, and a group of Rangers with Colonel Phillips and Peggy Carter attack the base, but the Red Skull escapes in the  Valkyrie.  Rogers manages to board the aircraft, battles Hydra bomb pilots, and eventually the Red Skull, who is disintigrated by the power of the Cosmic Cube (which, taken out of its machinery, burns a hole through the fusilage and falls into the ocean).

Rogers forces the Valkyrie down over the Artic.  Colonel Phillips, engaged in rescue operations, retrieve the Cosmic Cube but fail to find the aircraft wreckage.

Rogers awakes in a room designed to look like the 1940's, but the vintage radio tips him off by replaying a baseball game Rogers himself attended.  Rogers escapes the facility, but is confronted by Nick Fury, who explains that the deception was intended to eases Rogers into the present time and minimize his culture shock.

Roll credits.

After the credits, cue Rogers in the gym, beating a poor defenseless punching bag to a pulp.  This is followed by the Avengers movie trailer.

Comments:

  • There were many differences between the classical canon of the MU616 and the movie.  They are inconsequential.  The spirit of Captain America was perfectly portrayed.
  • Chris Evans and the writers nailed the character of Steve Rogers without making him either a wisecracking parody or an arrogant asshole.   Likewise, Hugo Weaving's Red Skull was the letter-perfect portrayal of the Red Skull.
  • Stanley Tucci was an excellent Abraham Erskine as the "father" to Captain America.
  • The relationship with Peggy Carter was very well developed, and very well played.
  • One of the technical things that has, in past attempts at making a Captain America movie, been making the Shield-tossing look real.  They nailed it in this one.
  • The car-hopping scene has been done before in other films, notably "The Phantom", but never done as well.
  • I cheered just a little bit when the World's Fair had the Human Torch android on display; I so wanted it to pop into flame!
  • Dum Dum Dugan yelling "WaaHooooo!" made me want to scream it with him.
  • I'd be willing to bet that the Red Skull wasn't destroyed, but rather his discorporation by the energy of the Cosmic Cube will be a mechanism to bring him back later.  
  • I thought the USO show was going to be a really cringeworthy cheese-fest, but it was actually quite well-done, and explains why Captain Rogers retained the suit - for newsreel propaganda purposes.  Buy War Bonds!

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