Captain America—Waste of Film

Since I have already done blogs on three of this year’s summer major films I thought I might as well cover Captain America as well. Not because it was good art like Thor (good, not great) or because it had a thread of philosophical importance running through it like Transformers, X-men, or Green Lantern. But more to warn people off. Which I’m kind of torn about. This movie was a joke, but it’s an important part to understanding the upcoming Avengers movie (which will be written and directed by Joss Whedon, a living god, so it is distastefully necessary to see this Captain America).

Captain America has some good actors (Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell) and some great actors (Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones). It also has a competent script. What it doesn’t have is a director who knows what the hell he is doing. The movie was directed by Joe Johnston…the man who brought you such cinematic genius as The Wolfman, Jurassic Park III, Jumangi, The Rocketeer, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. (He also did October Sky and Hidalgo but I think that the scripts were too strong for this hack to completely ruin those). Take a look at that list again. Would you give a man who has directed such a list of crap one of the biggest summer movies of any year? No, I wouldn’t either. It should come as no surprise that this man did a lot of special effects work for uber-hack George Lucas (the man who thinks CGI can easily replace plot, character and theme); clearly Johnston learned well from the master of the dark side. There are not enough psychedelics in the world to make me give a man so incompetent behind the camera a movie which was supposed to be this big. Which brings up some interesting questions, does Johnston have pictures of the head of Paramount golfing with Satan? Did he sleep with the head of Paramount? Is Paramount so pissed about losing the Marvel movies to Disney they tried to sabotage the whole project? (There might be something to that last one.)

So let me go over the actual problems with this film.

The first set of problems stems from the first act. The first act sets up a few things. The first is the call for Captain America to “be a good man” and not fall victim to temptation to be a bully that always comes with great power. This was actually done quite well. We set up the Rogers character as having great heart and will and desire to help. There was a lot of discussion about the corrupting nature of power and its abuse. You’d think that this is setting up a deeper conflict. That there will be a moment when Captain America is tempted to give into to just letting might make right, to succumbing to vengeance, to being tempted to not be a good man. Yeah, that would have been nice. Any character development would have been nice. And foolish me, having only seen it in every movie building up to the Avengers to date I thought I would see some great character development. But not here. Nope. Not at all. And don’t think you’ll see any development in any of the side characters either, because they’re also just as lifeless. I love Hugo Weaving as an actor; the man can take any role and do a great job. But this Red Skull had to be one of the most lifeless characters he has ever played. Weaving ten lines in Transformers were a better showing than this joke (again no offense to Weaving, this is the fault of a director who didn’t know what do with actual talent). Oh, speaking of characters, I’m sure if I had ever read a Captain America comic book I would have loved the fact that they included all of Captain America’s team…only I haven’t read those comics so the 10 minutes on film these guys are shouting random statements that I’m sure meant something to the diehard fans went right over my head…couldn’t you have tried to integrate this a bit more so it didn’t seem so clunky and forced?

Then there are the problems with the second act. There wasn’t one. There was a fun and exciting action scene montage. No plot. No theme. No character. Action montage. It was like a trailer for a second act…but no second act. Supposedly this second act took months of time in the lives of the characters, yet somehow the relationship between Captain America and British Officer Peggy Carter is at a complete and total standstill during this time. You believe that don’t you? Two people who are clearly attracted to each other just don’t do anything with each other for months in a high stress situation. I hesitate to wonder what director Johnston considers normal human interaction, but what I saw in this film bears no resemblance to how people in such a situation would actually behave.

Then there’s the third act. More action. Any conclusion to theme or character development…no, why would you have that?  We touched on that in the first act, why would we need to have any resolution or closure when we can have things blow up? Duh. Oh, and suddenly after months of hiatus, the death of close friend (whom I never liked from his first moment on camera—if someone is kicking the shit out of my best friend the last thing I’m going to do is let them go with just one hit to the face, but then again this guy was a really crappy friend) suddenly after this death we’re back onto full relationship mode. Huh? Made no sense whatsoever. And the last line “I had a date” might have been truly tragic, but as I wasn’t ever lead to feel anything for this relationship before that moment it was just bland and dull. But there were explosions.

Lot and lots of explosions! If you have severe ADHD this is your kind of movie. If you have an unimpaired frontal cortex you might find this just a little bland. It was fun, but I have come to expect more from this series of movies building up to The Avengers—much more. I can’t say that this is the worst superhero film ever, or even the worst of the last ten years, but I can certainly say it was, by far, the worst of this summer.

Best parts of the movie:
Rogers line “If you start running, you’ll never stop.” If only they had actually done something with that line.

The Avengers trailer at the end. That was cool. And maybe Johnston should see how even in those few seconds we got a hint of the characters and how they interact.

Worst parts of the movie… acts two and three. Complete waste of film. Oh, and the heavy handed cynicism about raising money for war bonds. That might have at least seemed original if Clint Eastwood hadn’t already done a whole movie on that single concept, and done it much, much better.

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