Friday, April 4, 2014

In Which Captain America Knocks My Socks Off

So I had a wonderful birthday yesterday, which included good food and a trip to the movies for some good ole fashioned patriotism.

Captain America at a glance is one of the more bland of not only the Avengers, but Marvel's super hero universe altogether. We've got Norse gods, eccentric billionaires that are way funnier than Batman, a talking raccoon with a machine gun, even a guy who eats planets (I'm not kidding).

So to have a movie that finally makes you take Cap seriously is pretty great. A lot of stuff has been tweaked, i.e. we switched out the red white and blue pajamas for something that actually looks like a secret agent who loves patriotism.

But Cap himself still holds to the same moral code evident in his first solo movie and the Avengers. And in this particular installment, that often means some clashes with S.H.I.E.L.D. head Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) over freedom vs. safety and some very post 9/11 political intrigue.

This was not the aforementioned good ole fashioned patriotism one would expect from a Captain America film. But that's okay.

The story is a perfect blend of political thriller, character piece, and action blockbuster. For every dark moment (of which there are many), there's a joke. For every explosion, there is a quiet dramatic scene that builds wonderfully on these already familiar characters.

Oh, and the characters in this movie are awesome. We've got Chris Evans back in the titular role, and there is nobody better for it. His Cap finally gets a little sass and perfectly conveys the everyman sensibility and morality of Steve Rogers without coming off as pretentious or annoying. Scarlett Johannsssoooonnn (I'm not even gonna try anymore) is spectacular as Russian assassin Black Widow, and has great chemistry with Chris Evans. But this movie also proves that any excuses for lack of a Widow movie are absolutely invalid. Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders are back as Nick Fury and Maria Hill respectively. My earlier qualm with very little screen time for Hill still stands, however awesome her scenes are. But Fury gets quite a lot of material in this film, something I've been waiting for, and it's handled very well.
Then we've got Anthony Mackie as Falcon, who also needs a little more screen time, but makes an impression with what he's got. It's a great role, played very well, with lots of humor and empathy. And of all people, Robert Redford joins us briefly in this installment as a twisted politician. He fares well as one of the movie's many villains, although his is shrouded in a bit more ambiguity than say, the Winter Soldier's.
By the way, I won't spoil anything. But the villain in this movie is one of Cap's greatest, for reasons other than his combat skills, which are impressive to say the least.
The action sequences in the film are cool too. There aren't a whole lot of set pieces until the flash bang boom final fight. There's a particularly cool car chase...thing with Nick Fury, and anytime Falcon gets a chance to show off is completely awesome. And Black Widow gets a lot of time to kick butt and fire off one liners.
The plot twists in here are particularly potent and game changing. This movie is probably a tonal shift point for the entire Avengers universe, what with some of the revelations. It's going to be really interesting to see how they continue from this point.

I was a little disappointed by one really minor detail, which is Coulson. I know we've got Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which I'm terribly behind on, but shouldn't they at least have mentioned his death? Especially since he was such a big Cap fan? I don't know, I feel like they really gloss over that little detail.

So obviously, I was really impressed by this movie. It was the perfect combination of Marvel's previous lighter movies with just enough of the darkness of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. Do I want all of Marvel's movies to be like this? No. But this one was pretty sweet after the high fantasy/sci-fi of Thor 2, and the comedy action of Iron Man. You get a little bit of everything if you're invested in these movies as I am, and that's pretty genius.


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