Captain America: The 1st Avenger

Tuesday July 26th 2011

Captain America might be The First Avenger within the internal chronology of Marvel’s massively ambitious Cinematic Universe franchise, but he’s the last to be unveiled before next year’s mega-blockbuster The Avengers. So unsurprisingly, there’s a whole load of responsibility resting on his impossibly broad shoulders. This first cinematic outing for the chemically-enhanced super soldier is not only expected to deliver a satisfying, self-contained superhero story, it’s also required to constantly bully every member of its audience into buying Avengers tickets come next May. And under these circumstances, perhaps it can be forgiven for being a little bit shit.

And I do mean ‘a little bit’. In fact, the opening 45 minutes of the film are almost unequivocally brilliant — X-Men 2 brilliant. The pacing is perfectly measured; the action scenes bold and dynamic; even the skinny CGI body that Chris Evans is wandering around in looks semi-decent thanks to Shelly Johnson’s hazy, sepia-tinged cinematography — reminiscent of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (in a good way). That said, it might have made more sense to cast an actual skinny person and had them gain weight to play the post-operation Captain America. As it is, you spend a lot of time waiting for Chris Evans to stop messing about and start being Chris Evans.

And start being Chris Evans he does, after a quick dose of Big Strong Man Serum (that’s not a euphemism) brings back the ludicrous muscle man we all know and love. [Quick anecdote: I once sat cross-legged at the feet of Chris Evans whilst dressed as a sailor. It wasn’t quite as gay as it sounds.] But even with his world famous pecs now on display, Evans retains a likeable personality and genuine sense of depth that’s extremely uncommon in the cram-as-many-characters-in-as-possible-and-fuck-the-casual-viewer world of Marvel Studios.

Things takes a turn for the worse around the halfway mark, as the action sequences become more and more video-gamey (possibly in an effort to prepare people for The Amazing Spider-man) and Captain America himself gets a little too gung-ho. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty fun watching him take out hoards of pantomime Nazis with a massive fuck-off shield, but any subtlety the film may once have laid claim to is thoroughly defenestrated around the time it turns into a third-person shooter. Still, it could be worse:

Inevitably it all goes to shit at the end and you remember why you hated Marvel in the first place, but at least Captain America has a stab at being an independent, original creation before it falls back on the same old go-to’s with their same old eye patches. And after sitting through 125 torturous minutes of Iron Man 2, that’s almost enough for me now.