Pint sized skinny lad named Steve, played by Chris Evans, is trying to go to war to fight for his country but is in such bad shape that he can’t get past the doorway. He’s spotted by scientist Stanley Tucci who sees in him all the great strengths that a real soldier needs – valor, honesty, loyalty…yadda yadda and so he gets his veins filled with serum (science yo!) and becomes a fucking monster who kind of looks like he walked straight out of the Cork midfield. This is where the film takes a surprising turn (well it was to me anyway – I don’t read comics). It becomes aware of its own pomp and sillyness and it does it simply and effectively for about half an hour.
The newly endowed Steve becomes an actual propaganda hero trotted out to promote war bonds and so for the first hour the closest thing we get to action is a high kicking chorus line of busty ladies and some pouty “you want me don’t you?” looks from the extremely easy on the eye Hayley Atwell who has been poured perfectly and oddly enough into the uniform of the British army. She’s a…eh something….an agent maybe? I don’t know why she’s here except that this is a comic book film. She’s here to be the eye candy.Tommy Lee Jones shouts at recruits as a Major or something, Stanley Tucci does a gentle German accent to remind us that not all Germans are bad and Chris Evans is basically the real nice guy at the heart of the film. These performances are all fine. Tony Starks’ dad even turns up for Marvel universe continuity and to remind us that yes, it’s coming – The Avengers movie – all your favourite super heroes in one place. (I kind of pity Joss Whedon in that he can’t possibly please every nerd out there so inevitably he’ll fuck it up and make a film that grosses billions but ultimately gets him death threats from spotty fat lads with their virginities intact…still he is unbelievably rich so maybe I’m going too far with the pity) After the first hour or so Captain America finally gets to Europe where he is of course initially regarded as a joke by the lads actually killing Nazis but soon POW!! Captain America is beating Nazis to a pulp with his shield. And a hero is born. It’s that simple. It’s that flimsy.
What works here is that all the performances are solid, they’ve done the simple things and done them right. Tommy Lee Jones as Sergant shouty. Well, obviously. But it works because it’s obvious. Hugo Weaving as the evil Dr Schmidt has apparently been hanging around with Werner Herzog and Arnie for the past year in a attempt to get the Bavarian / Austrian accent down. He does. If an accent alone could emit evil with every syllable this is the one. He is excellent at chewing the scenery and more power to him. What also works here is that because the plot, the performances, the characters, the humour and everything being so simple the film makers can focus on just letting the film be…. awesome (to be American about it) and be sure to say “awesome” in your best faux californian accent for full effect.
The real stars here are the whizz kid special effect techs and the production designers. New York has been recreated with such precision and attention to detail that at a few points it looks more like a 3D version of Once Upon A Time in America. The 3D effect is subtle when it has to be but things still come flying out of the screen and occasionally it looks like the computer just couldn’t handle anymore and made shit up on its own. Ultimately the film looks absolutely amazing. The set pieces are well filmed, though there’s no one amazing signature sequence. The action appears, does its spectacular thing, and then stops before it gets silly or you lose track of what’s going on. The sets (or the CGI environments) are beautiful, there’s a subtlety (if that’s the word) to the scenes set in misty forests and on high mountain tops etc. that works basically because they kept it all so simple.
This is an old fashioned comic book, Sunday afternoon boys-own stuff kind of film. The kind of thing that 12 year old boys would like if 12 year old boys today weren’t all addicted to internet porn and torture videos. This is good old fashioned action. Flimsy, entertaining, instantly forgettable, popcorn munching fun for boys.
In a word: Buxom.
Captain America: The First Avenger is on general release in Irish cinemas from Friday 29th July.