Captain America: The First Avenger

I’m a bit late coming to this film—blame Comic-Con—but having heard good buzz I went to see it this morning with high hopes. For starters, a comic book story set during World War Two offers a perfect opportunity to banish irony, make use of Nazis as bad guys, and cheer on an all-American hero. Chris Evans is well cast in the leading role, as he not only embodies the physical character but embraces his patriotic attitude with complete conviction.

What’s more, the cast is full of expert players who (under Joe Johnston’s direction) bring color and life to their characters without overacting or resorting to kitsch. Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving, and Toby Jones add weight and resonance to every scene they’re in.

Add to that the imaginative production design by Rick Heinrichs, one of the most talented art directors of our time, and—

—rousing music by Alan Silvestri (not to mention a peppy new theme song written by David Zippel and Alan Menken).

Hugo Weaving as Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Unfortunately, Captain America uses up all these assets during its first hour and still has another full hour to go. At some point, almost imperceptibly, the wind goes out of its sails and the story (by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia films) becomes somewhat mechanical and routine. We’re even denied the satisfaction of a big finish—for reasons I shouldn’t reveal.

It’s still pretty good, but I was sorry to feel enthusiasm sapping away. The narrative is simple and straightforward; its hero isn’t a tortured soul and its villain isn’t a multifaceted character. Why should it take 125 minutes to play out? Comic book creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby didn’t write stories that wore out their welcome.

As for 3-D: I was happy to be a cash-paying customer at the Cinerama Dome this morning, usually a great place to see a “big” movie. But from the first scene to the last, I felt as if I were looking through a layer of window screens or stockings. The use of 3-D was decent enough, but I haven’t seen a film this dark and dim since Clash of the Titans. (I checked with other people who’ve seen it, at other locations, and they had the same reaction.) Surely someone at Marvel or Paramount could have foreseen this and brightened the prints. Or should I simply be demanding a refund for my $3.00 3-D surcharge?

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July 2024