Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America

Captain America - Marvel Movie Poster (Advance) (Size: 24" x 36")Captain America - Movie Poster (Shield) (Size: 24" x 36")

Captain America was never my favorite comic book super-hero.  He was always the one I thought was just okay.  I tend to enjoy the characters that have a bit more of a darkened side to them.  While I understand that there are the occasional times when this type of illustration & shading does occur, but he just never resonated with me, the way a wolverine, punisher or batman had.  This all said, I’ve always been a big fan of the Avengers series though and have been eagerly looking forward for all the pieces to be put into place, leading up to the Avengers launch. 

I read a lot about this film before it was released and that information all sounded pretty good.  I’ve seen numerous trailers for the film as well, where each time I wanted to see this film a little more.  So I did have a bit of anticipation for this film.  After finally seeing it, I can honestly say that it didn’t disappoint.

All the films in the Avengers franchise seem to take the origination story approach, which I ‘m fine with.   As someone who likes to see adaptations, providing I’ve read the book/comic prior, because they put a motion picture twist upon the stories our minds have painted for us.  Sure you can say comics are already visual, which you’d be correct, but there is a major difference watching something in live action, on the theater screen, which in part, is one of the major attractions for many with film in general. I also understand the rationale for beginning with an origin story angle, it’s not only logical, but it also attracts a wider audience, enabling those newer fans or those unfamiliar with the history and/legacy of the hero. 

I really enjoyed all the films in the Avenger franchise family, but I do have to say that this film happens to be my favorite of the lot, just barely topping the original Iron Man. 

Holding with the pattern I’ve established for my reviews, I won’t reveal the plot for this film.  You can easily find it if you want to though, articles on Capt. America are everywhere, and have been for some time.  I’m not going to discuss the acting, outside saying I thought it was fitting for the genre and for the type of film it is.  What I’m going to discuss here are the reasons why I really enjoyed this film.

First off I’m going to tell you that Red Skull/ Johan Schmidt was about as good as it gets for a rogue super-villain, vicious, megalomaniacal, formidable, seemingly invincible and appearance-wise evil.  Perhaps some of these played a part as to why Red Skull was voted on as one of the top comic book super-villains of all time. 
The entire scenario revolving around Hydra takes me back to the Nick Fury: Agent of Shield comics, which I always enjoyed.  The blind, almost brainwashed cult of Hydra followers is brilliantly displayed.  The film just shows you, without making too big of a deal about it how powerful Hydra is and can be.  Yet, it is a big deal, which is the case anytime world domination is a foreseeable consequence if the hero fails his/her journey.  

Hydras presence as a formidable, almost unbeatable opponent can be seen alluded to each time their catch phrase, “cut off one head, two take its place,” is repeated throughout the film, each time accelerating the stakes for our hero.   The connection and subsequent separation of Hydra with Nazi Germany is also well defined.  We first hear how Hydra is a special scientific division of the Nazis and by the time we reach the climax, the Nazis are no longer being discussed, as we’ve seen that Hydra has grown larger and stronger than the party itself.   This element increases the threat that these villains possess, by taking a very real historical enemy power and illustrating a force more deadly we not only see the hero’s stakes increase but also we see an increase in the emotional aspect of the audience.

My next point revolves around costumes and setting.  The dress of the citizens, the uniforms of the soldiers were appropriate for the time period, while Hydras’ soldiers draw a stark contrast, to not only the then present-day style, but also in relation to the battle between good and evil, in their futuristic attire, looking more like revamped storm-troopers than they do soldiers from 1942. 

Captain Americas costume in particular, was extremely well done.  Instead of wearing a modernistic suit he wears one appropriate to the era.  As it turns out these historically appropriate costumes assist the film’s believability by remaining true to the realistic vision of the filmmakers, where being historically accurate was equal, if not more-so, in importance then cinematic splash. 

This vision led to some incredibly constructed historical landscaping; some great attentive detailing of 1940’s New York City, where current events are combined with a language appropriate for this era.  Anyhow I can’t say enough about how impressed I was regarding this aspect of the film.     

My last point is how the writers and directors did a tremendous job foreshadowing the cohesion and connection of this film to the other Avenger storylines.  This film is chock full of intertwining threads, here are just a few:

The Cosmic Cube

While I don’t recall this cube having any connection to Zeus in either mythology or in the Thor comics, I do like the fact that they took this liberty, by facilitating a prop that effectively connects Capt. America, Iron Man and Thor.
The cube not only adds a supernatural element to the Red Skull’s ability, but it also linked the Capt. America franchise to the Thor Franchise.  Howard Stark, father to Tony, aka Iron Man, is a key player in Capt. America’s reason for being, as he helps create Steve Rogers transformational procedure.  This involvement is an obvious yet key connection between Capt. America and Iron Man.   In a quick scene, near the film’s end, we see the cube being discovered by Howard thus linking the Iron Man franchise to the Thor franchise.

Without going too much further in detail, the conclusion of Capt. America breeds an obvious connection with shield, therein laying the groundwork for the Avengers films yet to come.

But there is one more thing I’d like to mention here, that being the manner of Red Skull’s defeat.  Without spoiling, Schmidt’s defeat is not in question, yet the possibility of a return remains alive, a la Loki in Thor.   I mention this, not only for the obvious potential for a Red Skull vs. Capt. America rematch, but also because, if my memory serves me correctly, he also had some epic conflicts with Spiderman, which could lead to a potential crossover event, as Spiderman has also crossed over on different occasions with each of the Avenger characters, whether it be as a friend or as a foe.  This idea is purely speculative on my part, but I thought it would be fun and interesting connection to make in this regards.

To close out this review, I’ll simply say go see the film.  You will like this if you enjoyed the comic book, are a fan of comic book to screen films or even a fan of wartime dramas.   I left the film greatly impressed, in what they tried to do, and for the most part how they accomplished it.   Capt. America can stand alone, but the real fun is watching the film with an open eye, looking for the various teasers as they relate to the upcoming Avengers franchise. 

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