Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Made In The U.S.A.

I've seen three out four of the major studio super-hero movies in the theater this Summer (unfortunately, I missed X-Men: First Class). I thought Thor was pretty good, but I had some issues with it (especially the ending), and didn't like it quite as much as most people seemed to. On the other hand, I liked Green Lantern somewhat better than most reviewers and fans did - but, admittedly, I have a soft spot for the character, and was thus willing to forgive certain plot problems.  Most recently (a few weekends ago), Brandi and I went to see Captain America: The First Avenger... and I loved it!

I suspected from the trailers that it would be right up my alley, and that suspicion was reinforced by the fact that it was directed by Joe Johnston, whose film adaptation of Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer is among my favorite comic book movies of all time (I really want Disney to re-issue it on Blu-ray). Johnston really has a feel for period adventure fare, and his handling of the WWII setting and the various pulpy elements of the Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely screenplay was exemplary. I've heard a number of fans bitching online about the changes to Cap's origin story (especially the changes made to the character of "Bucky" Barnes), but considering all the retcons and embellishments made to the original, 60 year-old Simon & Kirby story (which, remember, was 8 pages long and aimed at an audience of ten year-olds), I thought the movie pulled off a brilliant balancing act, capturing the essential spirit of the character and concept, while interpreting it in a way that appealed to a mainstream audience of all ages.

The cast was fantastic. Chris Evans made a great Cap and even greater Steve Rogers. Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving were perfect in their respective roles. Hayley Atwell was sexy, smart, and capable. Neal McDonough as "Dum Dum" Dugan - small a part as it was - was inspired casting. There wasn't a single miscast role in the film.

Even the extensive CGI (which I have a reputation for hating) didn't bother me, because it was executed with care, thought and some genuine artistic style. A shot or two might have jarred, but overall, it enhanced the storytelling, and that what it was supposed to do. What people misunderstand about my criticisms of CGI and other modern filmmaking tricks, is that I only hate them when they interfere with my ability to engage with the story. Nothing yanks me out of a movie story faster than an unnaturally-moving cartoon monster or obvious CGI "stunt" - fortunately, Captain America: The First Avenger, had very few moments like that.

Anyway - if you haven't seen it, you probably should (I think it's still in theaters, right?). I know that when the Blu-ray disc comes out, it'll be going straight into my home video library. It's really good stuff.


Tim Greaton said...

Hi, Chris.I liked Captain American a little more than I thought I would. I am in agreement with Green Lantern being much better than the common panning...though I hated the smoke monster images...much prefer my nemisis to be concrete and limited. There were some serious plot issues there, though, like why did he go to get help, then state I'll do it, then win. Even so, I enjoyed. Thor was good but alien world was again a little less concrete than I prefer. Great post :-)

Mothman13 said...

This is the only one of this year's super-hero flicks I've seen. Awesome, awesome movie. When it was over, I wanted to watch it again right away.

Jim Keefe said...

Agreed - I thought it captured the spirit of Simon and Kirby's work spectacularly.

I've made this comment before, but Stan Lee's obligatory cameo actually made me grimace. It also upset me that Simon and Kirby's credit line is buried in the ending credits.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've heard that Cap was definitely the top of the summer class. I will have to see it for sure.

pocuscadabrah said...

I completely agree with your review of Cap. It is easily the best superhero flick of the year and worth many re-watches.

Sorry to hear you missed X-men: First Class. It was surprisingly good. Michael Fassbender really steals the show. I don't want to spoil it, but there's a fantastic Magneto moment in a South American cantina.

I had high hopes for Thor and GL. Both are good but I expected more.