VOD film review: Captain America: The First Avenger
Ivan Radford | On 09, Apr 2014
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell
Watch Captain America: The First Avenger online in the UK: Disney+ / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Captain America: The First Avenger proclaims the title in Marvel’s signature Avengers-promoting fashion. After all the films advertising the 2012 blockbuster, it’s a wonder Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) hasn’t become bored of getting the band back together and gone home to polish his eye patch. Fortunately, Captain America proves worth the wait. But now he’s here, everyone wants to know two things: How many Nazis does he kill? And how many times does Chris Evans take his shirt off? The answer to both: not enough.
Steve Rogers (Evans) is a scrawny little kid, desperate to join the army. Why? Because he’s a nice guy. We can tell that because he has a side parting. And because he lets other blokes beat him up in the back alleys of Brooklyn to defend the honourable name of the US army.
Enter crazed scientist Dr. Erskine (an almost unrecognisable Stanley Tucci) and deadpan army Colonel Chester Phillips (a scene-stealing Tommy Lee Jones). Together, they plan to pump Steve full of the doctor’s special juice and turn him into a butch hero ready to knock out Hitler.
And he does knock Adolf out, 200 hundred times – as part of a stage show designed to raise funds for the forces. Boasting a song by Alan Menken, the glitzy period number is an excellent call from director Joe Johnston; it addresses the campness of the comic books while making the Cap’s costume seem more realistic. Plus, it’s a catchy tune – all summer blockbusters should come with a chorus girls routine.
While Rogers prances about on stage, psychotic Nazi Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is trying to harness the power of the gods to make the Germans unstoppable. He’s a fun, unthreatening villain, complete with trashy make-up, a Werner Herzog accent and a Dr. Strangelove-esque assistant (the excellent Toby Jones). Together with Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark, the film’s worth watching for the cast of crazy scientists alone. Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter, meanwhile, brings steel and nerve to what could have been a mere romantic interest, bringing pathos and charm to the fetching period vibe.
But what of Red Skull? How can the Captain compete with the deluded, red-faced maniac? Quite easily, it turns out. And this is the only problem with Marvel’s creation. For the first hour, Chris Evans is likeable and flawed – even when given the Benjamin Button treatment, he’s a better lead than the titular hero. Once transformed, he’s infallible. Like Superman, he wins fights just by walking into the room.
As a result, the final act descends into a montage of Captain America punching people. And throwing his shield for no reason (hello, post-converted 3D). At one point, he sneaks into a heavily guarded base while carrying a luminous stars and stripes shield – it doesn’t matter if he gets caught. He just has to punch a few more people.
Without a better bad guy, Captain America is just another super soldier story, with not as much dramatic tension as you’d hope because there’s not a huge sense of danger (although Sebastian Stan as BFF Bucky brings a more mortal sense of peril). The historical detail is great (even the hazy CGI backdrops work) and Johnston captures the laid-back tone of an Indiana Jones adventure, but like Temple of Doom, Captain America can be summed up in three words: Needs. More. Nazis.
Captain America: The First Avenger is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.