Captain America was awesome. Not freaking awesome, but awesome nonetheless.
Review by Throwback
There are basically two comic book characters who are perfect: Captain America and Superman. Everybody measures their conduct by these two, and if you wind up on a different side than them, you’ll eventually be shown as wrong. Because of their perfection, you can learn a lot about people based on their opinions of these guys. People who hate the concept of perfection typically hate them. There is often talk about fundamentally changing them to a “darker, edgier” model so that moderns will like them more. This is what worried me about the Captain America movie. Well, that and the costume. I was so happy to be disappointed.
Most people know the story of Steve Rogers, a would-be recruit for the U.S. Army, who was just too small and scrawny to make the cut. Taken in as part of a top secret super-soldier project (already alluded to in The Incredible Hulk), he is subjected to experimental treatments that elevate him to the peak of human physical perfection. This is all thankfully left intact. The last thing we needed was a Steve Rogers hell-bent on revenge for whatever cliché the writers could come up with. Opposing him is the Red Skull, portrayed in marvelous fashion by Hugo Weaving. The Skull seeks an object of tremendous cosmic power (already seen in Thor) to serve as the primary plot device in the upcoming Avengers movie. That the object itself is largely a McGuffin doesn’t get in this film’s way, though. It’s a movie about the character Captain America, and that’s why it’s awesome.
First, let’s talk about Chris Evans. Here’s a guy who is usually playing an arrogant jackass. This role asked him to change gears completely and be a humble guy who basically has a completely awkward version of greatness thrust upon him. I’ve stopped worrying about the casting for Marvel movies. Even when I think it’s going to be terrible, like I thought this might be, it turns out okay. Evans was more than okay; I thought he was terrific. The performance was sincere and believable and way beyond what I thought he was capable of. Yes, the film’s first act with the CGI body and his face was weird and a little bit creepy. They had to make him skinny somehow, and it was only temporary. As far as the acting went, I thought it was a home run.
Second, there’s the supporting cast. Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter was gorgeous. More than that, she was convincing as a British female who had toughness and a spine. This wasn’t Moneypenny. Allow me to let the fan-boy out for a moment while I say that Hugo Weaving freaking ruled as the Red Skull. Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes were both very pleasant surprises: McDonough, because he’s good in just about everything; Stan, because he was another surprise in giving Bucky a different spin for the movie.
Third, there’s enough action to keep your kids happy (my kids at least), but the reason the movie is great is that the hero is a hero. One reason why the 90s was such a horrible decade was its elevation dark, angst-ridden, almost nihilistic characters as heroes (e.g., the Crow). This was also when I first remember hearing people say they hated Captain America. What you have in this movie is a guy doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. His parents weren’t killed. His wife wasn’t raped. He wasn’t beat up and disfigured by his enemies. He’s just a good person who wishes that he had the ability to do more good. He has to struggle with this, as he’s initially cast as a joke. Even then, he accepts being a joke because it’s the most he can do in his situation. When given the opportunity to do even more, he does more. Ultimately, he shows that he’s willing to give up everything for that goodness. Characters like this used to be commonplace in our culture. It’s refreshing to see one again. Note again the familiar comic book attack on Pelagianism. There is no self-generated greatness. It is a gift from someone above you.
Fourth, the costume works. This isn’t Green Lantern. You can only take super-hero movies as seriously as the costume lets you. This movie even uses the costume to demonstrate the evolution of the character from symbol to soldier.
Outside of “hell,” there were maybe half a dozen minor uses of profanity. No blasphemy at all. No sex, though there was a PG attempt at seduction which was rebuffed. It’s a war movie, so there’s violence. One particular scene with an airplane propeller stands out, but if you’re okay with Star Wars and Indiana Jones, this shouldn’t be a problem. I took my 4-year old. That should tell you something.
What you’ve got in Captain America is an action movie for the whole family with a hero that is the kind your kids should admire. You’ve got a decent enough plot surrounding the character development to keep everyone interested and engaged. There’s no reason why you and your family shouldn’t enjoy this film. I wanted to give it 3 tiaras, but the plot could have been a bit stronger. It gets 2 ½, both on the strength of the movie itself and the mind-blowingly awesome bit after the credits.