I’ve seen Captain America twice now. It’s being touted as the best Marvel superhero film. (Buzz says that Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight is best. Get outta town!) I’d disagree. I still think that Spiderman 2 fills that slot, and I would say that I liked Thor better (folklorist. Yeah. It’ll happen.)
All that is not to say that I didn’t like Captain America. As a matter of fact, Chris Evans gets my award for best actor in a superhero movie. This movie is not about a great cast. This movie is about a great performance.
There are other really good performances in this movie. Tommy Lee Jones plays himself to solid affect. Hugo Weaving is a tad over the top, but it’s necessary to be over the top to emote through a red skull mask. Stanley Tucci shines in his brief role as Cap’s fatherly creator. And Hayley Atwell’s cool British agent is a performance that rivals Evans’.
But Chris Evans owns this film. As he should.
The film has a lot of heart. At the core of the story is Steve Rogers, a man weak in body but strong in spirit. The idea of turning anemic Rogers into a super soldier seems counterintuitive to Jones, but Tucci realizes that it is the inner quality that makes the man. And when Rogers goes into the machine that creates Captain America (it’s officially called the Hunkifier. I saw it written on the side of the machine.), he comes out transformed in body, but the same good man in spirit.
After the assassination of Cap’s creator, he is the only super soldier created. His journey begins. What can he do to help the war effort? Jones wants him sent to an army base as an unstable experiment. An opportunistic Congressman recruits Rogers to do USO shows. Cap becomes a bit of a joke until he is encouraged by Atwell’s character to rescue some POW’s.
It’s all action from here. Captain America becomes a rallying point for the men in the war. A special squad continues to work against the Nazi Secret Science unit, Hydra. And through all of this action, Evans keeps his character from becoming a masked everyman superhero. Cap is uniquely Steve Rogers, a man with good qualities, and every action he takes magnifies that. In many super hero films, the hero disappears in the costume. In this film, you forget that Evans is wearing one.
I applaud that the movie is set in World War 2. I’m not sure you could buy the kind of man Rogers is if the movie were revamped to modern times, but what you get is an idealistic young man with patriotism and drive that seems in no way corny, naive, or cliche. I look forward to seeing how this character interacts in the Avengers film we’ll get next summer. I have a feeling he’s not the sort that will compromise on his principles.
When Cap is presumed dead at the end of the film, Hayley is given his file. The picture she cherishes is that of the weak man with the strong spirit. She understands, as we viewers do, what is the most important part of the hero and the man.
Off to AnimeIowa this weekend. I will also be trying to log in some serious writing hours. So I’ll probably see you all Monday.