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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) in the USA - or Buy Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: Paramount PHE 1451. 1 DVD 119 minute film with extras. Price: varies, I got mine for GBP 9.99 (UK. cast: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones,, Sebastian Stan and Dominic Cooper.

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Of all of Marvel’s characters, the one character that has had the most misfires on the television screen is probably Captain America. Whether it was because of budget, story or trying to get someone to look realistic in his red and white striped and blue uniform and winged hood or just a good story to hang off it.

This ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ film sorts a lot of this out by staying where he was created, literally in WW2, from a weak Steve Rogers determined to being heroic to being given a treatment that enhances his physique. It’s rather interesting seeing him describing to Peggy Carter that his body is always repairing itself because it sounds a lot like how a certain adamanium clawed mutant’s body functions. One element that is neglected is how much food Cap really ought to be putting away to keep up his physique. Even a regular light snack would have backed that up.

Much of Cap’s origin is kept the same as the original comicbook. The significant change is in turning him into a media star rather than putting him into the war zone as he ends up being one of a kind, so he thinks. It also allows for them to show Cap in a Hollywood version of his costume although considering the need for texture on the screen, I’m surprised they didn’t make the shoulder/chest area of his costume more chainmail-like but that’s a minor gripe. If anything, the costume goes through several transitions throughout the film and although no one tells Cap he is a symbol, it is pragmatic as it identifies him from the other troops. While on this subject, the name ‘Captain America’ almost becomes a sarcasm until it becomes justified by his heroic actions.

They neatly get around the problem of having Bucky Barnes being a teen-age mascot and although he isn’t classed as a team partner, he tends to come over as a couple years older than Steve Rogers than the other way round. From the audio commentary, the director Joe Johnston points out that Bucky was given the first treatment of the super-serum without the energy boost by the Red Skull. Looks like being spared the completed version spared him having a red skull himself from the Skull’s prototype version. Even so, I’m surprised they got rid of him earlier than the flying wing finale, especially as it would have been more telling why Cap had to stop the Red Skull.

Having the Red Skull being a failed or rather over-eager to try out prototype for Erskine’s formula does at least put him on par with Cap physically for combat. It also brings Hydra into the frame much earlier than the 1960s, as per the comicbook, but oddly seems to remove the Nazi menace from the film which seems an odd choice considering the time period. But then, for this reality, there is also no Invaders, so no Human Torch or Sub-Mariner, although that would have probably have confused the film-viewers new to the subject matter.

You’ll notice that I’m being careful not to give away too much about the film’s plot here and broadstroking some of the highlights. In many respects, none of it feels like staged events for its own sake and is a proper roller-coaster ride. Cap hasn’t quite got the hang of bouncing his shield off of many objects as in the comicbooks but it is at least used in a similar fashion.

The audio commentary centres far more on the technical aspects of the film and it’s interesting to discover just how much was filmed in the UK, not only at Elstree but Manchester and Liverpool. Director Joe Johnston must have had some bad experiences in his previous films as he points out the professionalism of his second unit director Doug Coleman on not straying on an extended action scheme. The same could also be said for key members of the cast up to do whatever was required of them. Let’s hope he returns to the UK to make some more films.

Considering how cohesive the film was, I did find it interesting how he also explained how much of the script was tweaked at the editing stage. Saying that, it does make me wonder how far this could go in terms of actors seeing an end product as something they had not signed up to do. However, this is not the case with ‘Captain America’ and this is a great film. Don’t forget to go beyond the credits to see ‘The Avengers’ preview.

GF Willmetts

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