Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Marvel Plays Captain America Too Straight, Early Reviews UPDATED

by Anne Thompson
July 20, 2011 8:05 AM
7 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

So far so good for Marvel Entertainment, which has churned out more blockbusters than stumbles. This year, both Thor and X-Men: First Class delivered, and Sony's 2012 reboot of Spider-Man will be previewed at Comic-Con, along with a full screening of Captain America: First Avenger, which always presented a challenge. How do you dust off a patriotic World War II Nazi-fighting hero--battling larger-than-life the Red Skull--and make ten-year-old boys believe in him again? Marvel bravely took on the task, starting out the movie with the discovery of a buried fighter plane in the Arctic, and reaching back in time to resurrect the origin story of Steve Rogers, a 90-pound weakling-turned-super-strong-war-hero.

Director Joe Johnston (Rocketeer) and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely never lost sight of “scrawny inner Steve,” and used 30-year-old Raiders of the Lost Ark as their touchstone, as well as the original Jack Kirby comics. But much as Steven Spielberg seems to hover over everything these days, this well-designed movie could have used more of Raider's wink-wink humor and outright slapstick. Raiders has a very different tone from Captain America: it's a madcap romp, a violent romantic action comedy. Captain America plays it too straight, with no laughs at all.

Give me Quentin Tarantino, who approached Nazi-killing in World War II with considerable humor and brio; he gave the anti-Nazi action genre a twist. Captain America, as played by Chris Evans with able support from Hugo Weaving of Matrix fame as the Red Skull (channeling the voice of Werner Herzog), comely Brit soldier Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper as weapon inventor Howard Stark (Tony's father) and rock-solid Army colonel Tommy Lee Jones, is dead-ahead dull. If nothing else, Marvel is establishing one of the characters who makes up the sprawling superhero ensemble The Avengers, already under way with Joss Whedon wrangling Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), among others.

Finally, no period pictures should be shot in 3-D. It pulls you out of the movie. Immersive all-digital environments like Tron, Avatar and Transformers, if well-mounted, can work in 3-D. But not live-action period sets, especially if it's shoddy retroactive 3-D, as this is. They're already too unreal and fake--the 3-D makes it worse.

Here are more details on Marvel's recent output; the Village Voice posted Karina Longworth's pan Tuesday night. UPDATE: Variety takes the same tack, describing the film as "red, white and bland." Predictably, genre-friendly Drew McWeeney thinks the "sincere" film is one of Marvel's finest so far. THR writes:

As the last Marvel prequel that includes two Iron Man and Incredible Hulk movies before next summer’s The Avengers, this one feels perhaps a little too simplistic and routine.

7 Comments

  • Michael Brose | July 25, 2011 8:31 AMReply

    I saw Captain America tonight and I have to disagree with the review. One of the best superhero movies I've seen in a long time. The idea was a difficult one but thought it was brought together creatively well and the movied seemed to flow. I thought there was a bit of "patriotic" humor and was entertained most of the movie. So many superhero movies tend to have cheesy one-liners and force the humor or comic feel. This had a realistic sense to it and I actually felt a connection to and cared about the main characters. Well done... in all areas!

  • Mark | July 20, 2011 11:49 AMReply

    Raiders is not a madcap romp. Temple of Doom certainly is, but not Raiders.

  • RealAlias | July 20, 2011 9:45 AMReply

    Fucking bitch trashing Marvel. Makes me pissed off more than anything. Go watch SOPHIE'S CHOICE.

    MARVEL FOREVER, MAN!!!!!

  • Thomas | July 20, 2011 5:30 AMReply

    Anne, you spoil movies too much. Time to read Karina Longworth instead.

  • elpirata | July 20, 2011 3:57 AMReply

    This movie wasn't shot in 3-D. It was post converted for audiences that aren't completely tired of that gimmick yet. Obviously people are getting tired of 3-D again, but why are any of these reviewers (especially ones that don't like 3-D to start with) reviewing the new movies in 3-D? You're watching a movie miserable and annoyed to start with.

  • Old Fart | July 20, 2011 3:40 AMReply

    Every fanboy lining up to see this film at Comic Con should be forced to sit through the entire 1944 Captain America serial first. (I was at a con back in the '70s when they showed the entire serial all night--it was quite a chore to stay awake through.) No attempt to film Captain America has gotten it right. And it sounds like this new one is no better.

    No one's yet remarked how much Captain America owes to Philip Wylie's 1930 novel, Gladiator. Granted, that book is usually cited (rightly) as the inspiration for Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel's Superman, but the story and the conception of the hero have much more in common with Captain America. The central character of Gladiator was in fact given super powers in a lab experiment to create super soldiers for World War I. Captain America used the same concept but for a later war.

    But I wouldn't expect fanboys to know about this.

  • Ren | July 20, 2011 1:02 AMReply

    Captain america movie will be epic, fun, and lots of things to learn. So don't believe all this negative reviews. Captain america will be a great movie. lets all watch it! I cannot wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • EXCLUSIVE TRAILER: 'Up Series' Director ...
  • Comic-Con 2014: Why 'The Giver' Is Like ...
  • WATCH: New 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill ...
  • Best of the Week: TIFF & Venice Stir ...
  • Lasse Hallström Strikes a Familiar Gong ...
  • Comic-Con 2014: Fox Targets Male Demo ...
  • Comic-Con 2014: Marvel Hammers Home ...
  • Titans Peter Jackson and George Miller ...
  • Top Ten Box Office Takeaways, as Action ...
  • Comic-Con 2014: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja ...