Jul 27, 2011

REVIEW: Captain America

The director of Captain America, Joe Johnstone, who also directed the delightful The Rocketeer and Jumanji, has exactly the right instincts for comic-book material — all the pep of the young Spielberg without any of Christopher Nolan's ponderousness, or dreary insistence on taking a tape measure to his dark side. Johnstone is a terrific pop craftsman with great gifts of economy who has boiled away all the bulk and bombast of franchise moviemaking to produce a smart, funny, tender-hearted piece of weakling wish-fulfillment: exactly right. He's wrested comic book heroism from the hands of bullies and handed it back to the little guy — what heresy in the era of Michael Bay! The script often reads like a smuggled critique of its competition. "Only a weak man knows the true value of strength," purrs Stanley Tucci, in a delicious German accent that is one of the film's pointillist array of pleasures, from Chris Evans' Captain — as blue-eyed and bashful as Christopher Reeve — to Tommy Lee Jones's Colonel, chewing off his dialogue like cigar ends, to Hayley Atwell's pneumatically-chested side-dish. It would be easy to overpraise this film, but really, there's little wrong with it. The villain could have done with a clearer master-plan — what's the Red Skull trying to do exactly? — the weather could have been a little brighter (a hangover from Jumanji) and there's a superfluity of futuristic gizmos shattering the otherwise lovingly rendered retro detail, but still: my movie of the summer. B+


  1. I take it Iron Man II failed to slice the Shone mustard?

    Jumanji was excellent. Who would have thought I'd like a Robin Williams film.

  2. someone had stars and stripes in his limey eyes cause Chris Evans is dull and the movie pretty much totally generic. Isn't CGI just so boring nowadays? That shield is a nonstarter. In Cowboys and Aliens, CGI sinks the movie and here it kills the second half. I can't believe you find this on par with Beginners...

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. A lot more than I thought I would. I like that it has nothing more on its mind then to be a flat-out entertaining popcorn movie.

    I also liked how the relationship between Cap and Peggy developed over the course of the film, just simmering under the surface until its tragic conclusion that surprised me at just how it resonated emotionally because you had become invested in these characters. At least I did.

  4. I liked Iron Man II but the plotting was slovenly.

    Yes to the stars and stripes in my eyes: the retro thing totally liberated my inner patriot. Blockbusters are subject to the great America dysmorphia: top dogs who believe themselves the underdog. The result is top-heavy plotting that sides with bullies while flaunting insincere little-guy bona fides.

    Johnstone found seemingly the one period — and a hero — for whom this wasn't a problem because it is literally true: he's a big guy with a little guy's soul. I greatly admired the simplicity and cunning of that — it's not just the quintessence of comic-book heroism, but America too.

    That scene between Tucci and Evans on the bunk beds, talking about weakness and strength — I found that genuinely touching.

  5. B+ is the correct grade here. Johnstone nails the corny tone right off the bat, sticks with it the whole way through, and everyone plays along nicely.