Captain America: The First Avenger movie poster
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Captain America: The First Avenger movie poster

Captain America: The First Avenger Movie Review

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The comic book adaptations have come fast and furiously this summer, yet none have established themselves among the genre’s best. Captain America: The First Avenger is the final 2011 entry, and like the other Marvel films, it’s entertaining but not much more.

It’s been over 20 years since Captain America received big-screen treatment, and for good reason: the last adaptation has a staggeringly bad 2.9/10 rating on IMDB. But the hero is made for movies, a character who can exist in a gritty, real world setting and saves the day through raw power and dedication.

The movie only partially takes advantage of this opportunity. Set during WWII, director Joe Johnston establishes Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) as a hero literally designed to fight Nazis. The groundwork is there for a powerful, gritty and exciting action thriller.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun, entertaining movie that hits many of the right notes through the first two acts but falters some toward the end. The movie begins well, with a great setup that establishes Steve Rodgers’ will as a soldier and his rise to Captain America. Johnston sets things up well, hooking the audience in with a fun, and funny, first act.

The CGI-enhanced (or reduced) Chris Evans  works better than it has any right to.

Surprisingly, and to the movie’s misfortune, the first act is also its best. Once the story shifts to Europe, Johnston’s directorial limitations begin to show; the movie becomes nothing more than a standard action film, presenting nothing memorable or exciting. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re going to spend $140 million to do an action movie, shouldn’t the goal be to go above and beyond?

The movie’s lack of remarkable action is saved by its fast pacing, but an accelerated story comes at a price. The plot is marginal at best, failing to take advantage of its expansive WWII setting. Furthermore, the character development is nearly nonexistent. Once Rodgers becomes Captain America, the movie loses all interest in developing dynamic, emotional characters.

Hayley Atwell, who plays Rodgers’ love interest, looks completely lost amongst the shallow script; in fact, her character is a complete waste of space. Hugo Weaving, who plays the Nazi villain Red Skull, tries his best to elevate his character beyond the material given to him, but other than shooting a bunch of people with lasers, he isn’t very intimidating.

Even Captain America himself is underdeveloped and uninteresting. Once he becomes big and bulky, his character flat lines. Chris Evans, who was one of the few highlights of the Fantastic Four movies, is bland and unremarkable.

The only real breakout star of the movie is Tommy Lee Jones, who delivers a dry curmudgeonly performance as Captain America’s commander.

Captain America: The First Avenger suffers from poor character development and simply average action – oh, and a cheesy, cliché climax. But despite its shortcomings, the movie is entertaining, fast-paced and surprisingly funny. It doesn’t set any new bars, but it is good mindless fun. It could have been better, though. Would Captain America settle for just average?

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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