Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MA$$ACRE: Captain America (2011)

From my perspective, Captain America has always been sort of a jerk. Granted, I haven't read too many comics from his solo series, but it used to be that every time he showed up in any X-men books (pre-90's anyway), he'd be quick to blame them for whatever trouble was happening. Because, you know, mutants. Thankfully he's grown a little wiser since then, or maybe another character took the name and costume, I'm not sure. But in the past few years he's been fighting for truly American ideals like acceptance and justice, and not blaming minorities for stuff, at least when he isn't dying.

Still, it took some persuasion from friends to get me to see this one, even despite the $2 entry fee, mostly because I just didn't feel enthused about Cap as a character. Thankfully, it wasn't entirely bad, although as a whole it's a mess, and I seriously question some of the things we're asked to believe.

The first half of the movie actually had me pretty entertained. Set during World War II, we're introduced to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who has the heart of a lion and the body of a twelve-year-old. All he wants to do is join the army and fight for his country, but he's shot down again and again due to his diminutive frame. (Didn't they recruit for non-combat positions in WWII?) Through all of this we get nonsense about how courage and heart are all you really need to be a man, and eventually Rogers' persistence pays off when Tommy Lee Jones sees him as a potential candidate for a new super-soldier program.

After getting pumped full of drugs, Rogers becomes a manly muscle man, and now is when everyone starts fawning over him. The previously frigid female officer who couldn't be bothered to look at him before lets her hair down and does nothing but sigh and bat her eyelashes for the rest of the goddamn movie. His comrades suddenly give him the respect he deserves now that he looks the part. The film refuses to back up all the talk about courage and bravery and all that being more important than your outward appearance. What a message to send to kids: yeah, what's inside counts, but good luck getting people to notice it unless you look like a Greek god.

As a superhero though, Cap doesn't get immediate respect, and the film's self-awareness of how ridiculous a costumed American flag guy would be in real life leads to some of the most entertaining scenes. Before seeing any real action, Cap is turned into a propaganda piece and carted around the country punching a fake Adolf Hitler in a stage show to encourage the sale of war bonds. Unfortunately, this sense of realism collapses under the weight of a ridiculously portrayed group of cartoon villains that we're supposed to see as more evil than regular old Nazis.

The superhero formula has been done so much recently that it seems like writers are just falling back on the flow of the origin story as a crutch. Once we've got a fully-formed hero, they don't have a clue as to what to do with him. Action sequences...? Uh, yeah, that must be it. And throw in a cast of racial stereotypes to fight with Cap, cause it's easier than introducing characters we care about. The film just feels lazy in the latter half, the main villain, Red Skull, acts entirely without logic, and the disjointed action sequences do nothing to help you care. In short, my assumptions about Captain America as a character were reinforced - there's no internal conflict driving his character once he gets pumped up, and he just becomes a cardboard cutout that fights bad guys. Any message the film tries to convey regarding heroism rings hollow, and we're left with another largely empty film about an action figure that goes through the motions just so that people won't be clueless about the character once the Avengers tie-in rolls around.

3.5 / 10 = Skip it

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