Friday, July 29, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

by Reymundo Salao

Captain America was one of those comic book franchises that would seem so difficult to translate on to the cinematic silver screen, what with a character in such a colorful costume and was originally a figure of American propaganda during World War II. One way, I thought, would maybe to portray it in a very stylized and an artistic surreal setting that could be cartoony or probably seem like Tim Burton’s Batman movies. That, I imagine, would be one way of translating such a comic book into movie format. On the other hand, to translate it in a version which is a bit more grounded in reality, and would aim to blend well with the previously recent Marvel movies like Iron Man and Thor, now that would seem like an Herculean task. The film project was given to director Joe Johnston whose previous works on The Wolfman, Jurassic Park III, and The Rocketeer (which feels like its closest to this project in terms of concept, as it is also about a superhero in the World War II setting) were merely moderately good movies; nothing all too impressive about them. And the screenplay was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who both wrote screenplays for the Narnia movies.

Surprisingly, they managed to create a superhero movie that feels like it is destined to join the list of those great superhero movies ever made. Writers Markus and McFeely had weaved together a storyline that flawlessly injects the concept of Captain America in a world grounded in reality. From how the costume of Captain America came to be, up to the concept of the title character indeed becoming a propaganda tool at one point in the storyline. The screenwriters made sure that all the essential elements of the Captain America mythos fit together so that it could exist in a realistic world and could all blend well to make up a storyline which is more than just thrills and action. And director Johnston’s experience with “Rocketeer” he revisits the familiar concept and to perfect it, this time with a great script and a legendary character. What they actually achieve is create a movie that serves as an inspiring tale of heroism and the essence of what a hero is.

The main character Steve Rogers is a simple man of sincere and sheer goodness. In his heart, he desires to be a soldier and to be part of a greater good.  He is genuinely concerned that many of soldiers die in the war, so that good may prevail, and he wants to do his part. But the problem is that he is very sickly, small, and pitifully thin. But even though he has a very puny physical form, Rogers is a man of valiant and unflinching courage, because he knows that whenever he stands up for something, it is something that is worth fighting for, no matter the odds. It was almost something of a miracle that the visual effects employed to make actor Chris Evans look like he is a 90 pound, almost-malnourished weakling, are almost too flawless. The special effects on this one are highly commendable, to the point that you would surely be convinced that it was indeed Chris Evan’s body.

But aside from the flawless visual effect, it is Chris Evan’s performance that creates the strength of the character. Chris Evans really knows how to personify that kind of courageous, strong-willed and a sincerely good guy as Steve Rogers is. It is so convincing the way he acts; he knows how to look like a guy who sincerely wants to do his part as a soldier and as a hero, regardless of his sickly state. We can see the pain in his eyes, the struggles through failure; and the determination that he can still be part of, or be of use for a greater good.  Even after Steve Rogers transforms into Captain America, the story allowed Chris Evans to be constantly showing off how great his acting is.

Stanley Tucci also shined in this movie as Dr. Abraham Erskine who was not merely just the scientist responsible for the Super Soldier Serum, but more importantly, he was the one who recognized Stever Roger’s sincere personality and determination to be a soldier who wants to do his part in the war. The scene with him and Rogers was very inspiring and touching, and gave out my favourite line in the movie: “a weak man knows the value of strength and the value of power”

Actors like Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving deliver what they do best, playing roles that are not too different from their previous roles. Despite the fact that he is overcast in similar roles, I still think Weaving is perfect for the Red Skull. Hayley Atwell did a fine job as well as the leading lady.

This movie sets out to tell a tale of what real heroism is all about. The main character Steve Roger exemplifies all that is good about a hero. Even before he gains his superhuman strength and enhanced features, he already was a super hero in his own right; he is capable of risking his own life for the sake of the greater good; he has the wits to overcome obstacles; and he has the guts to face any foe, never mind the odds.

And even though this is Captain America, it tries to not put too much focus on what is typically "American" possibly on the reason that they want this character to be someone anybody, regardless of race or nationality, can identify with. And indeed, even though he is Captain America, anybody can identify with the value of what good guy is; anybody can identify with how weak people can also have ambitions of achieving great feats for the greater good.

All of the characters that have helped Captain America achieve his victory were not “typically American”, Dr. Abraham Erskine is German, Peggy Carter, the woman who had aided him is British, and the crack team which he goes to fight alongside looks like a mixture of various races; a French soldier who looks like he's a demolitions expert, a British, an Irishman, a black guy who is also a linguist, and an Asian from Fresno. There is a conscious effort to show the importance of diversity and Possibly a metaphor for America’s racial diversity; or perhaps tells us that our hero is capable of looking past their racial identities and sees them for what they can do and what they stand for.

All in all, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is an excellent film, not just as a superhero movie, but also an inspiring story of what a good guy and what a hero ought to be. And because this is a Marvel movie destined to be tied up with the upcoming AVENGERS movie, there is an Extra Scene at the end of the closing credits that will really blow you away with excitement.

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