I wasn't going to see it at all originally; I heard the title and groaned. One super-cheesy American propaganda film, coming up! But my friends went to see it, and invited me along, and since they generally have good movie taste (and they were paying) I thought, ok, what have I got to lose?
It was amazing!!
Now let me state here that this film was seen purely from an average movie-goer's perspective. In other words, I wasn't a rabid Marvel fan, I wasn't even a Captain America fan. Actually, I had never heard of him at all, and somehow I missed all the hype surrounding this film. I hadn't seen a trailer, I had not read a review. So keep in mind that all those comic book references to the Marvel universe have flown completely over my head and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. Now on to the review...
The thing I loved most about this film was the fact that Steve is a basically good guy. He's not one of those seriously flawed, angst-ridden heroes we've been seeing in theatres of late. He's got character, and he retains that character even after he's transformed into super-macho Captain America. Basically, he remains a small guy in a big guy's body. He's sweet, he's vulnerable, and he's serious about defeating his enemies: "I don't want to kill anyone," he says. "But I hate bullies." He's also self-sacrificing--just very moral in general. His bodily transformation gives him the opportunity to live out his principles. (I still liked him better when he was skinny--that was some serious CGI! He was so cute!!)
I fell in love with the character pretty much from the start; he's a 98 pound weakling in the beginning, and very easy to root for as the underdog with courage and heart. And he embodies such a pure innocence--he's never even had a conversation with a girl and his interactions with them are more than awkward! Cute, cute, cute. I think Chris Evans did a spectacular job with the character. There wasn't much of a character arc for him in the film, other than the physical transformation, but it does take skilz to portray innocence believably. Particularly since Chris is fresh from the cocky, self-assured Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four films. I liked his hair too, he's very handsome. :D He should stay blond.
Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter, a British lady who is somehow ranked in the American army and working with the secret Super Soldier operations. I never quite understood what she did--she was ranked higher than Cap, she trained the soldiers, she did a bit of spy work, and she kept an eye on (and helped) Steve. I LOVE her character though! She's tough, she's capable, but she is still quite feminine and rather elegant, in fact. (I loved the 1940s costumes and hair, it's got me very inspired wardrobe-wise right now!) Hayley says she based the character on the quote about Ginger Rogers--in other words, Peggy could do "everything the soldiers did, but backwards and in high heels". I think that sums her up perfectly. She is a stunning role model. Plus, she completely supports Steve. No matter what he decides to do, she's got his back, 100%. It's rare nowadays (at least I feel) to have a couple onscreen that connect like that. And their little romance is very sweet, and made the end very heartbreaking. *sniff*
The other characters are just as good--the casting for this film was spot-on, not a bad apple in the bunch. Sebastian Stan plays Cap's best friend and sidekick, Bucky Barnes, perfectly. Tommy Lee Jones is the wry commanding officer (he gets all the best lines!). Stanley Tucci plays Dr. Erskine, who first spots the potential in Steve and decides to make him the one to test the serum on. Stanley is in the film for a very short amount of time, yet manages to make a huge impact. I didn't even recognize him at first! And of course, who could forget Hugo Weaving (Elrond!) as the baddie, Red Skull?
I think this film appealed to me more than most superhero movies because Captain America actually spends a good deal of time on character development, and thus you actually feel you know Steve Rogers and you end up really rooting for him. And as soon as I saw the writing credits, Markus and McFeely, I knew why. These dudes are largely responsible for the three Chronicles of Narnia films, the first of which a particular favorite of mine. There were several similarities between the two films; both are set in the 1940s, both concentrate on character development in the first act and then go for action in the second. And both had this lovely, nostalgic-romantic feel. I know a lot of it on this film was due to the wardrobe & prop departments, which did a marvelous job, but the screenwriters did excellently too. I felt right at home! :) And they accomplished all of this without making it feel like a period piece per se, allowing us to appreciate the aesthetics & values of the time period while relating the story & characters to a modern day audience, without it feeling disjointed--need I point out how difficult that is? *deep breath*
The action reminded me of Narnia too--it was shown, but there was no gore, very little blood and no lingering on gruesome deaths...in other words, it didn't seem very violent! There was lots of action, yes, but I would say not a lot of real violence. Prince Caspian felt more violent than this! Take out the (very few) swear words and it would probably pass for a PG. As it stands, it is a very light PG-13, making it one of the more appropriate family films. Certainly less violent & scary than the Pirates movies--at least in my opinion. But it's no less thrilling!
The music was wonderful, another lovely Alan Silvestri score. I didn't notice much of it in the film except for the great main theme (very patriotic and John Williams-sounding--reminded me of the Patriot) and the very cheery, almost-cheesy Captain America jingle (which is lots of fun!). Like the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), you have to listen to this soundtrack on its own to appreciate it fully.
The one thing I didn't like about the film was the ending. It was very bittersweet. Well, actually, let me take that back. I did like the ending--bittersweet endings are some of the best (note: Roman Holiday!) and are quite rare in Hollywood, especially today. But it left me in shock, it felt like they were trying to tie up loose ends so they can reintroduce Cap in the Avengers sequel coming out next summer. I won't say any more to spoil it, just that it was quite sad. But looking back on it now, I like it. It seems appropriate. It's extremely in character for Steve Rogers. And it sets up a sequel that undoubtedly sounds intriguing, if a tad disappointing.
But I have to say, I loved the overall tone of the film--nostalgic-romantic, patriotic without being preachy, and full of good morals and a hero you can truly root for. Plus it's set in one of my favorite eras! This one is definitely going on the favorites list. If you haven't seen it yet, I wholeheartedly recommend it!