One of the major themes of mainstream comic books from the 1930s until now has been patriotism. Whether it’s Superman (who fights for truth, justice, and the American way) or Captain America comic books story writers have wrapped their characters in the flag over and over again. It played well in the 50s and early 60s during the Cold War when Superman was in the theaters and on TV, and it would appear to play well now, as we are embroiled in two wars at once, plus countless other conflicts. Would that a real Captain America could solve our bellicose problems like Steve Rogers does in the Marvel dramas.
For the record, I would rate this Marvel movie third behind only one Spiderman movie and one Iron Man movie. It’s better than the rest of the one’s galloping out of the Marvel stables. For one thing it is two hours of fun and it has some memorable funny lines. For another thing it has an excellent cast. Tommy Jones almost steals the spotlight as a typically cranky WWII General. Stanley Tucci is superb as a German American scientist and Hugo Weaving a truly sinister maniac of a bad guy called Red Skull. And the younger lead actors Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell are fine as well. While this movie may be meant to set up the back story for the launching of a series of Avengers movies starting next year, it does quite well, and stands on its own two feet nicely.
As I have mentioned previously, it is always difficult for the director or producer to pick a story line from so many many comic book episodes of a quintessentially heroic figure like Captain America. Whereas other Marvel characters are more complex, and misunderstood, and ethically questionable at times, Captain America is simply the good guy, no moral ambiguity whatsoever. And just to make things even more clear, if need be, the Red Skull has no redeeming features whatsoever. Its Good vs. Evil in tights, your conscience does not need to stretch it’s imagination here. For this reason especially, it is a good thing that the WWII retro-fit story line with the Nazi’s and Hydra as the bad guys is played with a good deal of humor, and sometimes even with a very light touch. Yes, there is some romance, and yes some daring do, and yes the good guys win, and yet there is a surprise ending, and you are left wanting more. At times one does wonder how much of the rah rah patriotism is done a bit tongue in cheek (see the scenes where Captain America is selling U.S. Bonds), but on the whole the story holds together and the characters are likeable. For two hours and a tick, one is able to suspend one’s disbelief and just enjoy one’s self. For once, it is not the special effects or CG that wins the audience, but likeable characters that we actually care about, and a plot about an underdog who becomes an overlord that is quintessentially American in character.
In one sense the real test of how good a movie is, is whether you would gladly go see it again. This movie I would certainly gladly watch multiple times. I would like to laugh again at the malaprops and enjoy the daring do again. This is a movie that took me back to the 1950s and early 60s when my Mom left me at the Center theater on Saturday morning to watch a bunch of cartoons, a Flash Gordon episode, and a war flick, of say The Longest Day or PT 109. This is a movie the family can go to— it is not a bore, it does not have too much gore, and it leaves you wanting more. And P.S.— you don’t need to see it in3D to really enjoy it. It’s a cool flick for a hot day, or for that matter for a hot date.