I am an ardent reader of Screenrant. Just to get this out of the way, so you know I’m not blasting anyone, and I know that a difference of opinions is perfectly fine (and makes the world go round…). But I beg to differ. I don’t think Captain America was better than X-Men: First Class. I haven’t watched Thor yet, but I’d go out on a limb here and say that First Class is the best superhero film of the year.
Captain America has its fine points, I agree. It found a bankable leading man in the form of Chris Evans, whom I knew only as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies. Honestly I wouldn’t have recognised him by his face alone. It’s the hair, I swear. As the Human Torch he sports a buzz cut and here- well, you’ve seen the posters. It’s amazing how the hair can make a person go from devil-may-care to responsible between the space of two films. But come to think of it now, that seems to be Captain America’s defining trait: the responsibility he feels towards his country. Chris Evans plays his patriotic feelings the earnest route, and there’s plenty of humour to be found in the first couple of scenes where he’s trying to enlist into the army. There’re plenty of moments that add emotional weight to the narrative too, particularly the heart-to-heart between Steven Rogers and the doctor the night before the former’s transformation into Capt. America. Come to think of it, the doctor’s the one who injects most of the emotional oomph, despite the bare amount of screen time he’s given.
I had loads of fun with the villains. Of course they were going to be the Nazis! It’s always either the Nazis or the Russians ain’t it? And thanks to Roger Ebert’s review I was going “Beijing Ya!” (Peking Duck) every time the Red Skull appeared on-screen. Sure, that took away some of his menace, but let’s face it, he wasn’t very menacing in the first place was he?
“…the hideous Red Skull, whose skin tone makes him resemble those ducks marinated in red sauce you sometimes see hanging in Chinatown restaurant windows.” Mr Ebert does have a point…
I liked the story. It moved along in a very linear, straightforward fashion, at a clipped and sharp pace, introducing great characters (Tony Stark’s daddy!) and loads of fun and laugh-out-loud moments along the way. The ensemble cast mesh together well, rubbing off each other with the right amount of chemistry. It’s infused through with 20th century nostalgia, including those famous photos I’ve chanced to see several times in Billy Bombers and outside New York New York. The 1900s vibe is always there in the background, so natural and subtle that it’s only in the last scene [SPOILER] when a very dazed Capt stumbles out onto the streets of present-day New York that the difference hits you hard, and has you thinking, oh boy, the set designers sure did a great job. [/SPOILER] I had the chance to watch some behind-the-scenes footage of the adaptation of Capt’s consume from the comic books into a real-life suit, and oh boy, the costume designers did a really great job too. Kudos all around.
And Capt’s last line, which is also the last line of the movie? Just perfect. One simple line, bringing to home [SPOILER] just how much he’s lost, and bringing things full circle to the very first scene where we saw Capt’s trademark shield buried in ice. So much emotional impact is conveyed with the one line, and shows us just how much Steven Rogers has grown from that skinny, sickly boy into that strong Captain who deals with things in his stride. When Capt crashes the plane into ice it made for possibly the most moving scene in the film, and one that’s strangely reminiscent of Captain Kirk’s (father’s) last words to his wife in the opening scene of 2009’s amazing Star Trek. The brevity with which the words get cut off- I’ve always wondered how those involved deal with it when the only rational thing to do at that point seems to be to panic. [/SPOILER] And the time-lapse and Capt’s recruitment into S.H.E.I.L.D seems to imply that the story’s well and done in a single film – no room left for a Captain America 2, which I thought was a very neat and nice move. Although that remains to be seen.
It might seem strange to say this, seeing as how I’ve gone on lengths to talk about Captain America‘s strong points in the emotions department, but it’s precisely that which lets the film down. Captain America is a strangely flat character. Batman has his brooding, conflicted, dark side issues, Spider-man his self-esteem and confidence issues, Ironman his arrogance (he’s the antithesis of Spidey; in other words) and Superman has his Kryptonite (note the sarcasm), and Captain America has his… patriotism? I know that’s a large defining trait, but after it’s all established in the first act, the later chapters tend to sag with too little personality development on the Captain’s part. I think I preferred him before his transformation, even though the voice obviously did not go with that half-starved bod (great CGI there, by the way). Less to say about the villain. Red Skull’s most distinguishing trait? Hugo Weaving’s smooth talk. Seriously, why have I only realized now how much I like his voice? The way he enunciates every letter to a tee (no pun intended) and slides each word out like silken honey, it’s practically the reincarnation of Professor Snape (or maybe it’s the other way round). I was expecting him to break out a “Neo” all of a sudden. He didn’t- but yeah, back to the point: Red Skull’s just not that interesting a villain. And there’s something vaguely disturbing about seeing Captain America knock aside all those opposing soldiers like bowling pins when the film doesn’t attempt to account for the morality issues behind collateral damage.
And that, my friend, is why X-Men: First Class is my superhero flick of the year.
Rating on Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Rating on IMDb: 6.9
Viewing history: Seen 1x. Rental.
Mondo has posters for Captain America too: