Captain America: The First Avenger
Classically, mythology served several purposes ranging from didactic lessons teaching the moral standards embraced by the culture to understanding the mysteries of nature otherwise beyond their current comprehension. One less typically considered aspects of the natural human need for a well constructed system of myths is as an expression of jingoistic pride. This was manifested in the traditional Greco-roman myths and the exceptionally militaristic foundation of the Norse Parthenon. Here in the modern world of the United States of America we may rely on science for explanations of natural phenomenon but the underlying need to embrace mythology for moral guidance and the expression of nationalistic pride still remain engrained deep in the psychological make-up of our species. As this country became fully vested in Judeo Christian values the natural replacement of the exalted collection of gods and goddesses have been supplanted by comic book super heroes. The modern manifestation of this trend began to emerge in the thirties just prior to the outbreak of world War Two. Super heroes turned their attention from the usual assortment of villains to fight the dastardly Nazis.
This was also the time when new heroes would arise to valiantly defend the ideals this nation was founded on and the golden age of comics got underway. One of the most patriotic of these heroes is a figure that embodied our Nationalistic pride; Captain America’. Superman may have fought for truth justice and the American way but technically speaking he was an illegal alien. While this did represent the immigrant’s American dream Captain America was a homespun hero that demonstrated the superiority of the American system. This comic book character was carefully crafted to reinforce the national enthusiasm at a time of war. He was also resurrected in the sixties, the comic book silver age, during another time of national crisis. Now, in this second decade of the new millennium many feel our country is once again under siege and we turn once more to the shield wielding Captain America. This most recent incarnation of the ultimate national role model is just one part of a newly revised fixation of comic books as the basis of popular movies. in this trend the long standing feud between Marvel comics and DC is decidedly tripping towards Marvel and this Captain America film is the penultimate offering before the release of the long awaited ‘Avengers’ film. This group of superheroes was a cornerstone of the Marvel universe banding together a team of heroes possessing unbelievable power, loyalty and resolve.
There have been several attempts to bring Captain America off the pages of comic books over the decades. There was, of course, the popular cartoon that became a centerpiece of the Marvel television block as well as a regrettable live action movie made in 1990. It was laughably bad but fortunately the film under review here has benefitted from the growing expertise and talent that is being brought to bear on the modern Marvel based film. With opuses including "Iron Man’ and ‘Spider-Man’ audiences have come to demand much more from movies of this ilk than jus cutting edge special effects. Now, a comic book movie has to first and foremost be worthy of being hailed as an excellent film by contemporary cinematic standards; it has to relate to the audience a genuinely human and compelling story. Like the myths of old the story has to be the main focus not the super powers. Marvel established this right from the start as a founding principle of their comics differentiating them from the Superman/Batman centric DC tended to avoid. The recent series of Marvel movies elevated this to the point where their movies are not only the best comic based movies but can hold their own as films in their own right.
The story follows a young American, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), loved his country and wanted to join the war effort that was growing rapidly in 1942. Due to his poor physical condition he was rejected from serving in the military. He gets his opportunity to help when scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) has Rogers included in a top secret government project. The military adjunct to the project, Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) expresses his doubts but due to Roger’s unwavering zeal and patriotism he decides to give the young man a chance. The project subjected Rogers to a top secret process that turned him into a super solider, Captain America. It turns out that an imperfect trial of the procedure resulted in a similarly enhanced individual, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), working for the Axis under the Nom de guerre ‘The Red Skull’. At first Captain America is under utilizes selling war bonds in his patriotically colored costume. Itching to get in the fight and realize his potential Rogers is rebuffed until he takes matters into his own hands to rescue his best friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Armed with a shield crafted by wealthy industrialist Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) made from the indestructible meteoric metal, vibranium. Although Bucky dies Captain America eventually saves the day preventing a crushing attack on America but is lost in the Arctic, apparently frozen to death. He awakens 70 years later were he is recruited to a team of super heroes called ‘The Avengers; this leads directly into the upcoming culminating film featuring the first mission of this illustrious team.
As a long time avid fan of Marvel I have been anxiously waiting to see my favorites hit the big screen for fifty years. This is by far the best treatment of Captain American ever. True to the high water mark Marvel films have set this one is also an exceptionally well constructed film. The special effects will amaze you but the heart of the movie is the transformation of Rogers; not so much physically but emotionally. He loved his country, was a faithful friend and devoted boyfriend, an all American boy. He could not be restricted to an over promoted sales pitch. He was given powers in order to actively take the fight to the enemy and prevail victoriously. This is the modernization of ‘the little engine that could’ set out against the back drop of a fast pace, action packed thrill ride. This movie will leave you anxious to see the ‘Avengers’ with baited breath.
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