- Captain America: The First Avenger. Directed by Joe Johnston. Starring Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones. Rating: 7 (out of 10)
TIRED of comic bookinspired films yet?
There have been three already this year (Thor, another X-Men, Green Lantern), making 2011 a fanboy's dream.
But even if you're not a Marvel zealot, you might want to give this year's trend one more try: Captain America - with its gee-whiz dialogue and retro styling - is one film that feels as though it belongs on the big screen, instead of on Saturday morning cartoons.
Chris Evans, who cut his superhero teeth on the Fantastic Four films, plays Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid desperate to get into the army during the Second World War. Owing to his size, his chronic asthma and a long list of ailments, Steve keeps getting turned away, until the day a doctor eavesdrops on Steve's passionate plea to get sent overseas.
The German-born Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) asks Steve if he wants to go kill some Nazis. "I don't like bullies, I don't care where they're from," is Steve's reasonable response. After basic training, Steve is selected by Erskine and Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) to participate in a top-secret project, one that will make him a super soldier.
In the film's first great magic trick, Evans goes from puny to pumped, emerging a foot taller and a great deal more muscular after the experiment. Noting the change with more than professional approval is Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a British agent working on the project.
A serum that makes good men great and bad men evil? The Nazis already have it. The maniacal Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) hunts its source to Norway, laughing, "while ze fuhrer digs for trinkets in ze desert." Schmidt plans to harness the super serum's energy and take over the world with the help of his super scientists, who salute Schmidt instead of Hitler.
After some heroics stateside, the project hits a stalemate, and Steve is relegated to flogging war bonds in his Captain America costume with a troupe of dancing dollies behind him, then to movie and - ironically - comic book fame. This is when he goes rogue, enlisting the help of inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) to rescue American soldiers trapped by Schmidt, who has now morphed into the Red Skull thanks to his overuse of the serum. (Stay away from steroids, kids, lest your body do the same.)
As Captain America with newly minted street cred, Steve whittles away the baddies until the inevitable faceoff with Schmidt/Red Skull occurs, culminating in a long nap in the Arctic and a meeting with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in the middle of Times Square. For those of you napping through the past few years, I should explain that the appearance of Howard Stark, who is Iron Man's father, and Fury are tieins to next year's big-budget Avengers movie. Thus "The First Avenger" in the Captain America title. Get it?
The set-up for Steve's transformation from weakling to Captain America is so carefully delineated that we
don't really mind the lag in action in the third act; there is plenty of heart and humour to see us through. Tucci, Toby Jones (as Schmidt's minion) and Weaving have great fun doing deliberately hammy German accents: I was just dying for someone to say "ve have vays of making you talk." The love story between Peggy and Steve is appropriately chaste and in keeping with the period feel, and it anchors the story as it blows into full-boar CG battle mayhem.
Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, also with Hugo Weaving, October Sky, Jumanji) throws some Raiders seasoning in here, with a dash of Star Wars gadgetry, but these feel like part of the overall plan rather than cheap rip-offs.
Assuredly, Captain Canuck could take Captain America in today's economy ("Feel the strength of our mighty dollar, zap!") but given the dismal state of things south of the border, a little rah-rah flag flying could go a long way, morale-wise, and Captain America: the First Avenger is just the ticket. Maybe Obama should buy a pair of tights?
EMPIRE ESPLANADE 6
200 West Esplanade, North Vancouver 604-983-2762
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 3D - Fri-Thur 12: 45, 3: 40, 6: 45, 9: 45 p.m.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - Fri-Thur 1: 15, 4: 15, 7: 15, 8: 00, 10: 15 p.m.
Cars 2 (G) - Fri-Thur 1: 45, 4: 30 p.m.
Horrible Bosses (14A) - Fri-Thur 2, 4: 40, 7: 30, 10: 10 p.m. Captain America: The First Avenger 3D (PG) - Fri-Thur 1, 4, 7, 10 p.m.
Captain America: The First Avenger (PG) - Fri-Thur 12: 30, 3: 20, 6: 30, 9: 30 p.m.
PARK & TILFORD
333 Brooksbank Ave., North Vancouver 604-985-3911
Zookeeper (G) - Fri-Thur 12: 40, 3: 50, 7: 10, 9: 30 p.m.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D (PG) - Fri-Thur noon, 3: 30, 6: 40, 9: 50 p.m.
Bridesmaids (14A) - Fri-Thur 12: 50, 3: 40, 6: 45, 9: 40
Winnie The Pooh (G) - Fri-Thur 12: 10, 2: 10, 4: 10, 7: 00, 9: 20 p.m.
Friends With Benefits (14A) - Fri-Wed 12: 20, 3: 20, 6: 50, 9: 45; Thur 1 (stars and strollers), 3: 20, 6: 50, 9: 45 p.m.
The Tree of Life (G) - Fri-Thur 12: 30, 3: 35, 6: 30, 9: 35 p.m.
1131 Howe St., 604-688-FILM www.cinematheque.bc.ca.
The Green Ray (France,1986) June 22-25, 27-28, 7, 9 p.m.
Made three years after Pauline at the Beach, and screening in a new 35mm print, The Green Ray - originally released in North America as Summer - epitomizes the wondrous talents of the late, great French director Eric Rohmer.