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Old 08-11-2015, 11:46 PM   #1
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Captain America: The First Avenger

I finally got to watch Captain America: the First Avenger for the first time tonight. In a rare but always pleasant occurence, the film managed to exceed my expectations despite my high hopes held for four long years, delighting me from start to finish. No, it wasn't perfect, and I'll address some of that below, but by God did I enjoy watching this movie. I had a lot, lot better time with it than I did with The Avengers, which was part of what made this experience such a pleasant surprise.

This thread contains spoilerific discussion of the film outside of spoiler boxes. I suggest not reading ahead if you haven't seen the film yet but plan to see it some day. (Spoilers for other films, older and newer, should still be spoiler tagged as a courtesy. The working assumption is that The First Avenger discussion shouldn't have to be spoiler tagged in this thread specifically.)

Steve Rogers is my favorite of the Avengers lineup. I know, I know: everyone likes sonofabitch Tony Stark better. But ever since I learned about Captain America from Loki many years ago, I have been a huge Captain America fan from afar. I've never read a single comic, hadn't seen the movie until this day ... but somehow, I ranked Captain America right on up there with Batman and Rorschach as one of my favorite comic book characters ever.

It wasn't always like that. Like many people, I think, I used to mock the idea of "Captain America." What a dumb superhero, I'd think to myself. What a jingoist piece of garbage. Look at his dumb outfit. Look at his stupid shield. Just look at what a piece of trash he is, a "GLORIOUS AMERICA" holdover from the patriotic high America was riding in the '40s and '50s. I brought this up in conversation with Loki one day ... and he body slammed me into the ground. Loki told me about Captain America's origins. He reminded me about Captain America's tragic hibernation, something I'd seen in the '80s disaster of a movie but had somehow forgotten. He told me about Captain America's activities in the present day, about his relationship with the Avengers, with Tony Stark. We discussed Cap's role in Civil War.

After Loki was finished explaining to me what Captain America is all about, I was won over. And I'd been looking forward to the day Marvel would make a Captain America movie / that I'd get to see a new Captain America movie ever since then.

Agent Carter is one of the better love interests I've seen in a comic book film. Her relationship with Captain America begins believably enough, and by the end of it your heart really goes out to both of them. I thought the actress who played Carter, Hayley Atwell, did a fine job. Her performance was not noticeably spectacular, but it wasn't distractingly poor either. She's more attractive in my book than Kirsten Dunst or Maggie "Philtrum" Gyllenhaal, and she acted a lot better than them too. (I know, I know: Gyllenhaal's DC.) It's hard to beat Natalie Portman in the looks department, but until I see Thor I'd have to say that Atwell's Carter is probably currently in 1st place for my Marvel cinema ladies.

I'm avoiding spoilers, so I've no idea what Carter's fate ultimately is, but The First Avenger definitely hints at Carter and Stark -- presumably Tony Stark's father or grandfather -- settling down together. While Carter is demonstrated to have selected Rogers over Stark, the fact remains that Cap was in natural cryostasis for almost seventy years. One could hardly blame Carter for giving him up for dead and moving on with her life, including returning Stark's feelings towards her. If she in fact remained celibate for the rest of her days, cool. Tragic, but cool. If instead she settled down with Stark and had babies, also cool. It'll add some lovely fuel to the fire between Captain America and Iron Man.

Red Skull, the film's primary antagonist. What is there to say about him other than ... he sucks? ^^; Sorry. But Red Skull was seriously the weakest link in the First Avenger chain. Maybe it's just that the source material didn't give the film team much to work with. Maybe it's just that their scriptwriting sucks when it comes to Red Skull. I dunno. All I know is, Red Skull was confusing, his appearances made it feel like he was tripping onto someone else's set, and he just plain didn't hold a candle to other Marvel cinema villains like ... like ... well, maybe Marvel villains in general just seem cheesy and poorly written to me. ^^; But yeah. I really wanted Red Skull to be every bit as well-written as Captain America is, yet in the end what we got was a paper cut-out of a villain whose sole raison d'ętre was to serve as a foil against Captain America.

And just who was this Hugo Weaving impersonator anyway? When Johann Schmidt first showed up on screen, I mistook him for Hugo Weaving. Then on closer inspection I realized it wasn't Weaving, but rather some other young actor who merely resembles Hugo Weaving. .............. Then I checked Wikipedia while writing this post and discovered IT REALLY WAS HUGO WEAVING! All of my shock. Watching the movie I became convinced, easily, that while the man on screen superficially resembled Weaving he was by no means Hugo Weaving. Wow. Consider my mind blown that he was in fact Weaving all along.

I really liked the adorable German (Jewish? Jewish ) scientist. It's sad that he has to die so early in the story, 'cause I really wanted to see more bonding between him and Steve Rogers. His message to Rogers about the good inside of him (Rogers) bears clear parallels to Ben Parker's message to Peter about power and the responsibility that comes with it. In this sense, I feel like the scientist is "Steve Rogers' own Ben Parker." So yeah. I kinda wanted to see them do more together because they were adorable together and I think getting to see them do more on camera would have made the scientist's death that much more sad for the audience.

So ...! Mr. Stark. This character made me giddy to no end. Because of what I knew prior to watching this film, every single time I saw Stark I would think, "THEY'RE SETTING UP FOR THE AVENGERS! >D<" or "THEY'RE SETTING UP FOR CIVIL WAR! >D<" The fact that Stark works together with Rogers ... the fact that he admires Rogers ... the fact that he was enamored with Rogers' own love interest ... all of this sets up so deliciously well for Rogers' first meeting with Tony Stark.

Bucky. So ... possible spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a movie I've not yet seen and have been trying to avoid spoilers for myself. But I can't really discuss this character without addressing these thoughts.

Spoiler: show
Twenty easy dollars says that Bucky is the "Winter Soldier" spoken of in The Winter Soldier's title. Like ... it either has to be Cap himself or else it's gotta be Bucky. And not just any Bucky: I feel like someone somewhere long ago may have spoiled me on this already, but I feel like:

Spoiler: show
if Bucky is the Winter Soldier, then he's going to be very very similar to Gray Fox from the Metal Gear Solid series. Formerly the protagonist's best friend, but then captured by the enemy, brought back from the brink of death, and transformed into a cybernetic killing machine.

Bucky's entire presence in this movie screams "SETTING THE STAGE FOR THE WINTER SOLDIER MOVIE ", and in that light it's forgivable. But if you divorce The First Avenger from The Winter Soldier and judge The First Avenger based on its own merits, then I have to say that the Bucky subplot feels shoe-horned into the film, feels like a bit of a distraction, and -- perhaps worst of all -- feels like it needlessly robs the film of roughly one-twelfth of its duration, ten precious minutes that we could have happily given back to Red Skull (maybe fleshed him out a bit better) or to the action scenes (which all too often felt frenetically short) or maybe even to the film's final scene.

Aside from that, I don't have too much to say. It is unfortunate that Bucky seems to have a hard time accepting that Steve is now the alpha dog in their relationship, Bucky the damsel in distress in need of being rescued, and that the two men weren't given time to clear things up between them and return to a healthy friendship.

I guess on the topic of Bucky, one last quick thing: I did like the trivia bit about how Captain America is incapable of getting inebriated (at least by normal alcoholic beverages) because his body detoxes too well. Usually in stories we see cursed powers like "I can't die no matter what," "I can't touch anything no matter what," "I can't sleep no matter what," and so on. I can't recall having seen "I can't get drunk no matter what" before. And in the context of drinking as a means to drown away sorrow, it's an especially sad inability.

So Tommy Lee Jones was in this movie. Of course he was. He was perfect for the role he was in. Tommy Lee Jones is to Colonel Phillips-type characters what J.K. Simmons is to J. Jonah Jameson. I was more surprised by the fact that he was in the movie at all than by the fact that Marvel had wanted to cast him in the role they did.

Jones did a good job of giving a shining supporting character performance -- he didn't steal the spotlight, but he was radiant as a supporting character. Pretty much all you could hope for from an actor playing this part.

Captain America's iconic shield. I was a little disappointed with the movie in how it didn't give the shield more attention when introduced. I also wasn't too thrilled with the introduction scenes (the one in the lab, the other[s] in the field) they did write for it. But I was happy that he didn't just magically start off with the shield, and that the film did at least delineate for the viewers that Steve Rogers acquiring this shield was a pretty important moment in his life.

I both respect and was surprised by the writers' decision to stick with vibranium's canon properties rather than souping it up to make it meet/exceed modern standards for strength in the Marvel universe. Translation: "three times stronger than steel" doesn't really count for shit in a world with adamantium and the like, yet the writers have Agent Carter quote this measurement all the same, making it a point of fact for the Marvel cinematic universe. I know, I know: adamantium and vibranium are related to one another, and Cap's shield in the comics isn't pure vibranium but rather is a vibranium alloy with another metal. (Some sources say steel, others say it's none other than adamantium. Probably depends on the issue.) But my point still stands that Marvel decided to lock in a quote of "3x stronger than steel" for the shield, something which has consequences for things like Red Skull's Tesseract-powered weaponry (The First Avenger) or Thor's inability to put a dent in the shield even when striking it with Mjolnir (The Avengers).

Speaking of dents in the shield, what is up with the shield's scuffed appearance? Why does a brand-new shield with a brand-new paintjob and supposedly nigh-indestructible properties have all of these scuffed-off paint marks all over it? I could understand maybe if it looked that way after years of use in combat, but the shield looks that way in the very first cel in which its paintjob is unveiled! (See photo above.) What the hell, man?

I liked how the team of special agents that Cap formed from amongst the rescued captives was essentially "the first Avengers," with Captain America as their leader. I liked even more that the film had the decency to respect our intelligence as viewers and never declare this openly, let alone bash us over the head with it repeatedly. Marvel expects that we're smart enough to figure out that these guys are like the ancestors to the team that Captain America would captain seventy years later. And I am happy with Marvel for treating us with this level of respect. So few studios do. Thanks, Marvel.

The story of Rip Van Winkle is an American classic. Similar stories exist the world over, stories about people who fall asleep only to reawaken years or decades later and discover that the world has greatly changed while they've been asleep. It is inherently romantic and tragic, and this tragedy is readily appreciable to audiences even though almost none of us have ever personally gone through what Rip went through.

Captain America is the Avengers' very own Rip Van Winkle. And that's one enormous part of what makes him such a belovable and awesome character for me. You have this guy ... who fought for king and country ... who was a hero in his time ... and he makes the ultimate sacrifice ... only to wake up seventy years later and discover ... that everyone he ever loved, everyone he ever knew, is either dead or soon will be. That the world has moved on without him. That it is a strange, alien place he does not recognize. And no sooner does he awaken to this living nightmare than is he yanked by his shirt collar by Nick Fury, a strange eyepatched man who requests Rogers' assistance with a mission.

Rogers' awesome story continues from here, but to explain it in more detail a) would require me to spoil events far beyond The First Avenger and b) would require me to have Loki's level of familiarity with the material. Well I don't have B. And I'm not interested in A either. So I'll have to end this section here. But just suffice it to say ... that Cap is this lovable, incredible tragic hero. And I just love him to pieces for it. He's a great guy, through and through, and serves as an amazing contrast to Tony Stark.

Bring on Civil War, baby.
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