Friday, August 17, 2012

Watching Captain America on Election Day

I bought "Captain America: The First Avenger" for my birthday last month but until now I didn't have a good time to watch it. I decided there was no better than to celebrate my first voting day since I graduated from college. It did not disappoint. The plot was great, the characters are entertaining and well developed, and the visuals are amazing.

The follows a steady progression from "Steve Rogers the wimpy guy" to "Captain America the war hero."  I've seen Super Hero movies that spend too much time on 'getting to the superness' and not enough of showing the super hero in action. That's not a problem here. Steve kicks ass from breaking out PoWs to dismantling Hydra's network to the final battle on an aircraft carrier. Even better is how they show Steve is already a hero before getting an upgrade from the super serum. In fact, this is a plot point that defines the first act and his relationship with the villain, Red Skull.

A second point of the plot is the integration in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Steve works shoulder to shoulder with Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark the Iron Man, and the Tesseract that Red Skull uses to power his army's weapons is from Thor's homeword of Asgard. I really like Shared Universe because it gives a sense of a wider world; the story we see (in this case, watch) is only a fragment of everything that's going on. In fact  there's a discussion on TvTropes "The Avengers" page where the tropers debate why other Marvel heroes don't help out the Avengers when the Chitauri invade and one of the answers is they are; we just don't see it. With a Shared Universe that answer is perfectly reasonable.

You know you have a good plot when it follows character development. Here we have a plot that is driven by the ambitions of the characters inside it. Dr. Erskine wants to create a truly noble warrior while Steve wants to serve his country; their goals merge and become Captain America.  Colonel Philips, on the other hand, has different ideas of what the perfect soldier is and thus his ambitions initially clash with Erskine's.  At the other end of the pond, Red Skull wants to take over the world, not because he's a villain in a super hero film, but because he believes himself to be a 'superior man' whose arrogance was by amplified by the same super serum as Steve. The Howling Commandos are just as fun to watch, and fun to root for, as the hero himself.

Everyone gets their time to shine. Peggy headshots a Nazi spy from a great distance. Dungan,  Gabe Jones and Jacques, hi-jack a HYDRA tank and wreck havoc in the base they hijack it from. Colonel Philips is played by Tommy Lee Jones! And he knows how to a Hydra captive sing like a bird without touching them. By no means does Captain America hog all the awesome.

Finally, the movie is just really feaking cool. The battle scenes, the magic/science of the Tesseract, and the more low-key interactions between Steven and others like Erskine. Its a wonderful movie. I'm glad I bought. I might watch it again on the next election day.

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