You can file this one right next to Rise of the Planet of the Apes on the “Movies that I thought Would Suck but Were Actually Pretty Good” shelf. Especially after the atrocious Thor, I expected a standard big-budget action blockbuster that would feature nothing more or less than Captain America punching Nazis and saving the U.S.A.. Essentially, I was expecting the cinematic version of this:
Lots of jingoism and American exceptionalism and absurdly patriotic gibberish. Well, that’s not what this film is, far from it. In fact, it’s funny that I’m writing this right after publishing my Rise of the Planet of the Apes review, because like that film, Captain America ignores audience expectations and just does what it wants. It doesn’t give you what you expected just because you expected it. It certainly isn’t even remotely similar to that song up there. In fact, the film has its own song, that takes your expectations and actually parodies them in an awesome song by Alan Menken. How meta can you get?
That song is played over a whole sequence where Captain America goes on a nationwide tour to rally the American people to buy war bonds. Every night, he gives a rousing speech, surrounded by beautiful women in skimpy (for the time, at least) outfits. And every night, he gets to fake-punch a man dressed as the Fuhrer. It really is a commentary on how awful this film could have been. This really comes crashing down on you when the montage ends, and he gives the speech to a less-than-enthused group of soldiers on the front lines in Italy. At that moment, we see that the filmmakers get what’s wrong with a film that is nothing but that montage. I literally expected nothing more than that montage, but the film dares to include – *gasp* – a story and characters! The story may start to crumble in the second half, and not everything involving the villain makes total sense, but I’ll give it to the movie just for trying. ‘A’ for effort, guys!
Chris Evans was my biggest worry going in. The last time he did a superhero movie, it was Fantastic Four and its sequel, and not only were those movies terrible, he wasn’t that good in them. It would have been a different story if the characters of Human Torch and Captain America had been similar, but the two are polar opposites. I’m was pleasantly surprised by Evans’s authentic portrayal of a (shockingly) well-written character.
The pace of the film, more so than the tone, tries to evoke the classic serials that existed during that time period. It even ends on a cliffhanger, for crying out loud! In fact, at one point, we literally see an in-universe Captain America-serial being shown at the movies. Because of this, the film feels split into several distinct sections. Most of them flow together well, but some of them don’t, particularly the ones near the end. This probably has something to do with the fact that the film becomes a lot more focused in the third act, because it all has to lead to one thing, which I won’t spoil, but anyone who knows even a little about the Avengers should know what I’m talking about. I would have been happy to just sit back and enjoy The Continuing Adventures of Captain America. In fact, why not throw the ending of this movie at the beginning of the upcoming Avengers movie? That way, Captain America gets a more conclusive ending, The Avengers gets a great cold open, and it all adds up to the same thing anyway. Maybe they thought that fans wouldn’t want to wait to see how they got Captain America to [that place that I won’t give away because of spoilers], so they just threw it in there. Actually, it sort of works if this is an origin story not just for the titular character, but for the Avengers as a whole. His origin has to tie in with all of them somehow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work.
It isn’t necessary to see this in preparation for The Avengers next year. Thor covers pretty much the same ground, and that ground will likely be re-covered in The Avengers. But this is much better than Thor, so if you have to choose between the two, this is the one to go for.