Before the screening I was commiserating with a veteran fellow critic about what movies have come to, having to sit through one comic book movie after another with idiotic superheroes, silly stories and mind-numbing dialogue. Neither of us was looking forward to enduring yet another Spiderman-type production. The trailers showing Captain America fighting bad guys with his anachronistic little shield weren’t encouraging. To give Marvel Comics some credit, though, their movies have grossed more than $9 billion worldwide. So maybe it’s the audience to blame for the fecklessness of modern films.
This movie starts like The Thing (1951) with people investigating the discovery of a crashed space craft in an icy wilderness, but it quickly segues into a flashback to Nazi Germany circa World War II. Then we meet wimpy Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a 90-pound weakling who keeps getting sand thrown in his face and whose only goal is to get into the armed forces and fight the bad guys. But he’s constantly rejected until he’s met by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who picks him for an experiment that turns him into Captain America, who goes off to eventually confront the Nazi bad guy, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
While it’s all very comic-booky, director Joe Johnston has turned it into a very entertaining action movie and even has a romance between Capt. America and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). There are some special effects involving weapons of which nobody in WWII could have even dreamed and Capt. America’s silly shield. The best special effect in the movie, however, is the digital shrinking of Evans to play the 90-lb weakling. This is CGI at its best.
The worst special effect is the phony 3D. Like lots of movies, this was not shot in 3D. It was shot in 2D and the third dimension was added in post-production. Even films shot in 3D have diluted colors, but when a film is shot in 2D and made into 3D later, the dilution is magnified. As a result, this film is much darker than it should have been. If you remove the glasses, you can see it in nice bright color, but if you opt for the 3D, you’re going to be disappointed. The illusion of depth is not worth the sacrifice of color. My advice is to forget the 3D, which isn’t that effective anyway, and see it in 2D and get good color.
The acting is first rate. I first saw Evans in Cellular, a good 2004 adventure, and liked his performance. His acting here keeps this from degenerating into farce. He’s aided by the always-capable Tucci and also Atwell, who provides appealing and feisty romance. But the best performance in the film is by Weaving, who makes Red Skull a believably hateful villain. The film takes on another dimension when he’s on screen.
As to the content, it’s good all the way through until the disappointing ending, which caused me to leave the theater on a downer. It looks like the ending was an afterthought, wanting to set up the sequel, but it was a bad idea because the film stands on its own, and so should any sequel. The ending greatly detracts from what is, up until then, an entertaining movie.