Marvel’s Captain America is released on DVD this week and, as the last of the pre-Avengers flicks, it seems like a good time to line them all up and see how it stands alongside its teammates solo efforts. Certainly – on paper – it looks good; director Joe Johnston previously oversaw the period adventure The Rocketeer and star Chris Evans has been supplying effortless charm in good films and bad for a few years now.
In reality however, things are not quite as clear cut. While its wartime setting is lovingly rendered, the tone and execution are never really one hundred per cent successful; its handling of weakling Steve Rogers desire to fight for the country he loves is the stuff of a plucky underdog movie, while its treatment of the villain of the piece seems to come from a cold war B movie. The effects that transform - the admittedly buff – Chris Evans into a six stone nerd are mostly impressive (there’s the odd touch of floating face syndrome here and there) yet the Red Skull’s rubber mask never really sells us on the fact that its supposed to be his real face.
The set pieces are only ok, with nothing on the par of, say, Iron Man’s escape from captivity or even Thor’s main street showdown. The real letdown though is the films earnestness. Evans has proved more than adept with both action and one-liners in the past and his performances in films like Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and The Losers had made his ascension to leading man status seem like it was only a matter of time (despite his intention to be nothing of the sort; happy with his ability to walk down the street unrecognised, he apparently turned the role down three times before being convinced). This film just isn’t the realisation of his easy charm/smarm and natural timing; it seems to take Rogers’ straightforward do-right nature as its own, resulting in a slightly stiff feeling somewhere between homage and pastiche. There’s no argument that the breezy tone of Marvel’s (still greatest) film Iron Man was the key contributor to its success and I think many people, especially those familiar with Evans and Johnston’s work in the past, expected more of the same here. The fact that the film didn’t entirely succeed for me may well have more to do with the incorrect nature of my expectations, but I ended up – a surprise even to myself – preferring Marvel’s earlier effort Thor. Despite containing Frost Giants and the like – not a LOTR fan, that kind of fantasy nonsense normally turns me off – Thor did possess the quick and easy cool of Iron Man which even Iron Man 2 handled a little less assuredly with its darker tone and slow middle section. Captain America, although made lovingly, feels a little lumbering next to its lither, more nimble brethren.
So as Joss Whedon’s sure to be massive team up rolls ever nearer, how does Captain America measure up? Certainly above Marvel’s two (count ‘em) unsuccessful tries at The Hulk, but below Thor and Iron Man 2 and waaaaay below Marvel’s own bench mark Iron Man (I place no blame for
this on Evans himself though; I get the feeling that he’ll slip into the Avengers ensemble with ease seeing as that’s how he’s spent the entirety of his career so far). Joss Whedon has a lot on his plate; finding room for all these characters as well as fitting in Scarlett Johanssen’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (and that’s without having to successfully turn the Hulk into a worthwhile film commodity and a character we care about) is a herculean task indeed. But, in Joss we trust. The trailer looks awesome – go check it out now if you haven’t already and come back when you’ve dried yourself off - and there isn’t a man alive who can balance an ensemble cast like him.