tobacco Knights presents
Installment 5: Captain America: The First Avenger
2011 Directed by Joe Johnston
It’s difficult to give an immediate overall thumbs-up or thumbs-down of Captain America: The First Avenger. I started off really liking this movie, more than any of the four previous MCU installments (even Thor), but after about an hour in, it started to stumble a bit. By the end of the movie I was ready for it to be over, and just wanted to hurry up and see what the post-credits epilogue had to offer. I had a Cowboys pre-season game to get to…
I saw The Avengers in the theater when it came out (the only MCU movie I’d seen before starting this project), so I had spent some screen time with Steve Rogers already, and kinda knew his backstory. But the beginning of this film really took me for an entertaining ride showing where he came from, his multiple attempts to join the war effort, and how he eventually came into the hands of Dr. Erskine and his experimental serum, which had already been used (and gone awry) by the enemy. It also introduced a few really good characters in Agent Carter and Bucky Barnes, as well as a young Howard Stark (father of Iron Man Tony). I liked Hugo Weaving, who is always great, until he pulled his face off and became a He-Man action figure reject. He even sounded like Skeletor from that point on. I really liked Stanley Tucci, who is always very genuine in his facial expressions, whether he’s playing an intimidating gangster in Road to Perdition or an understanding husband in Julia and Julia, or in this case a comforting Einstein-esque mentor that anchors the first half of the movie. Tommy Lee Jones served his purpose competently as Colonel Phillips, but his acting persona has been searching every farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse for a little diversity since 1993. And I have to mention the always-eerie Toby Jones as the biochemist Arnim Zola. If you haven’t seen his dead-on portrayal of Truman Capote in Infamous or his ultra-intimidating Percy Alleline in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I highly recommend them. Good thing this guy wasn’t so prominent in the early nineties or David Lynch would have used him to death.
Like I was saying, the first half of this movie was really good. I liked the opening in the arctic discovering the plane wreckage and the shield, and then the jump back in time to the 40’s to introduce Steve and Bucky. Director Joe Johnston did a really good job on the look of the period, with some Art Deco accents to the World Exposition, and warm lighting and color to the interiors which gave a believable visual separation from the present day opening. The mysterious neon Rubik’s Cube Tesseract was finally explained and used in an understandable and unambiguous way that didn’t leave those of us un-versed in comic book lore wondering exactly what the hell it is and why it’s so sought after, and the evil Hydra organization is set up nicely, with it’s cool logo and catchy mantra of two heads growing where one is cut off. And I really liked how Captain America’s ridiculous costume came about through a marketing campaign for war bonds – a good way to give the whole thing credibility and forgive its cheesiness.
Once Rogers became Captain He-Man and Schmidt became Red Skull-itor, and pseudo-Einstein got shot, the movie kinda went downhill from there. I really liked it up to that point, but it quickly went too comic-book wacky for me around that mid-point. I presume most fans of the series enjoyed the entire movie, which is totally fine and understandable, and I think overall it did justice to the character and to this particular story, it just wasn’t my personal cup of tea the second half. I think the most extreme it got for me was either the Snowpiercer outtake on the train that eventually culminates in Bucky’s demise, or when
Agent Smith (I mean Schmidt) pilots the Stealth Bomber lookalike packed with conveniently-labeled bombs to let us know where they’re headed (“New York”, “Chicago”) in the penultimate action sequence. Even TV’s Batman series of the Sixties would have face-slapped on that expository.
And the “bonus” final scene that we’ve all come to anxiously wait for after the credits…. is a trailer? Come on. You marketing geniuses should know an actual cool quick scene gets us amped up more than anything for the next one (see Thor’s epilogue). Save the trailers for where they belong – before not after. And yes, I know they’re called trailers because they used to come at the end, but that was in an age when credits weren’t 20 minutes long and the theater empty by the time they’re done. So do better next time and make that wait worthwhile.
The One Thing: For this movie it has to be the caliber of the actors and their performances that take precedence over the main character and the story itself. All of the primary and even secondary roles are cast and executed very well. Obviously Chris Evans makes a really good Cap, but beyond that Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter and Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark are equally great. I’m now really interested in checking out the Agent Carter TV series. I already elaborated on Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones, but both deserve mentioning again. Hugo Weaving was great as always and I was really looking forward to watching him throughout the movie, but this was not to be. I almost wonder if that was even still him in the Red Skull getup. The vote’s not totally in yet on Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes. He seemed OK, and I know he somehow resurfaces in coming films, so I’ll give him a pass for now.
So The Avengers is up next, which I mentioned earlier I’ve already seen, but I’m excited to see it fresh now that I have all the backstory. And I hear Captain America: The Winter Soldier is really good, so I’m looking forward to that one too.
Just Blowing Smoke: I may have come across my new favorite cigar. I know we live in a world of hyperbole these days, but the new Dunhill Signed Range is the best smoke I’ve had in recent memory. It came highly recommended from an online cigar distributor I’ve been ordering from recently, and I’m a big Dunhill fan, so I gave it a go even though it had a $15 price tag. Let me tell you, it’s worth $30. Especially when you consider that’s what you pay for a good Davidoff, and I think this is better. The Aged Dominican that Dunhill put out a couple years ago was amazing and very mild, and was a favorite of mine for a while. The Signed Range has a bit more flavor and punch to it, but still not too much to overpower its smoothness. Spend the dough and give it a go.
To read The Nerdling’s review of Captain America: The First Avenger click here