Sunday, May 1, 2016

Captain America Prep: The First Avenger

Captain America: Civil War is poised to gross a staggering $170-190 million this coming weekend and early word of mouth is only positive. Cap has been my favorite superhero since I first started reading comics as a 7 year old so seeing him become a popular culture and Marvel Cinematic Universe icon has been both gratifying and frustrating. Since 2008's Iron Man, Marvel has been creating a movie universe with intertwining stories, characters crossing over and distinct Phases to form a larger story. Civil War finds Cap at odds with Tony Stark's Iron Man over government regulation of super powered beings. To get ready for the film, I popped in my favorite MCU film so far, 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. Coming off the heels of two Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk and Thor, Cap seemed like the most risky solo film as the red, white and blue clad fighting machine could potentially offput foreign audiences with the name and costume alone.

Joe Johnston, the director of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, THE ROCKETEER and Jurassic Park III is in familiar territory here given the period setting and special effects driven action. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (PAIN & GAIN) craft the tale that begins and ends in the modern age but transports us back to 1942 for an origin story. The film does a great job of tying together so many elements of Captain America, from scrawny Steve Rogers becoming the subject of Operation: Rebirth, getting blasted with vita-rays to become bigger and stronger to career nemesis Johann Schmidt aka The Red Skull obtaining the Cosmic Cube, Cap's original triangle shield then Army outfit from The Ultimates to support from The Howling Commandos. Everything moves at a clip with lots of rock'em, sock'em fisticuffs and armies battling with Thompson machine guns, laser rifles and explosions galore. The cast is excellent throughout from leading man Chris Evans to fan favorite Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter with Tommy Lee Jones (especially amusing), Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci and Sebastian Stan providing support.

First Avenger would gross a healthy $370 million worldwide while Cap became the center of the MCU for better or for worse. Sequel The Winter Soldier contains arguably the best action of any Marvel film and grossed over $700 million worldwide. FA still holds up as the most rewatchable Marvel flick for me as you just don't get too many superhero meets World War II Men on a Mission with a sci-fi tinge stories these days. The fights are well done with lots of punches and kicking shot in wide angles instead of up close and hyper edited. Cap is also surprisingly violent as lots of G.I.'s and baddies are shot, blowed up, thrown out of airplanes and one turned into meat sauce after meeting a plane propeller. First Avenger also has arguably the most subdued and melancholy finale as Cap crashes the Red Skull's giant ship into the arctic to save innocent lives while talking to his would be love Peggy before waking up in the modern age, 70 years out of his time. I still think it would have been more emotionally impacting if the film stuck to the comics death of Bucky as the two race a motorcycle down a runway, ramp off the end, grab onto a flying rocket then Steve's last memory is watching his best friend get blown up by a booby trapped door as he plummets into the ocean and takes an ice nap. But maybe that's just me.

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