Captain America: The First Avenger is the last piece of the puzzle before The Avengers becomes the greatest movie ever made. Yes, hyperbolic sentences like that are what makes me such an ‘amazing’ writer, but more importantly this film is about something much bigger. Loose ends. The serum that the Abomination is on in The Incredible Hulk (that I’ve actually yet to see), Howard Stark and the ‘new element’ from Iron Man 2, the tesseract/cosmic cube and its journey throughout the real world along with all manner of bits. Much bigger however is Captain America himself, we now have our Fantastic Four.
Uhm, different movie.
Captain America is a damn good movie, a bloody damn good action romp that raves itself through a nightclub of American action devoid of cynicism or irony. This is a film that takes itself seriously to the point where its main hero literally says “I don’t wanna hurt anyone, I just don’t like bullies.” after being asked if he wants to go off and kill the Nazis. It’s a world away from the hanging-out-with-Robert-Downey-Jr. of Iron Man, the Jekyll inner battle of the Hulk, the mystic coming of age tale of Thor and it’s certainly one without an ounce of any real serious analysis of superheroes. It’s simply the final domino placed to kick things into The Avengers.
I think its closest comparison would be Thor, yet I love Thor a little bit more, probably because it reminds me of Spider-Man 2 and takes me back to a more ‘universal friendly’ away from the Nolanverse Batman and Watchmen and general middle-aged drama trapped in an action movie. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t want to sound disrespectful; but I am kind of overfed on the whole ‘adult only’ club and while those films certainly appeal to all ages with action, middle-age drama, hot chicks and stuff; they still don’t all feel along the universal flavour.
I will be the first to admit that I like the Raimi Spider-Man films and am not eager in any way whatsoever in what they’ll do with the reboot. Raimi was silly and serious, the Pixar way in a lot of sense, treading the fine line between adult themes and, well, a superhero movie. I will also confess I like Spider-Man 3, I certainly don’t love it, but people have made a lot of fuss over those ten minutes of ’emo Peter’ and ‘dancing’, it’s the same with the nuking fridge in Indy IV. All of this said, I don’t prefer the Raimi approach to superhero movies, but I’m more than open to them. I still think The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero film of all time but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy Spider-Man 2 and its terrible dialogue that has been ripped straight from a comic book.
Thor, as I’ve already explained, is not a subtle movie. It isn’t a Nolanverse romp into post-9/11 commentary nor is it an Iron Man middle-aged fudge fest, both of which I adore, but Thor nostalgiabombs me into Spider-Man 2 in a way that makes Spider-Man 2 look like a bad movie. The film carries no real artistic weight but is there as a popcorn movie, albeit a heavily Shakespearean one, what with Kenneth Branagh at the helm. Yet it pays off, we get all the information we need for Captain America and the whole ‘Norse Gods artifacts’ thing and it sets the stage for Thor’s place in the Fantastic Four.
Captain America then, in theory, goes one step beyond into this giant Americafest of gun-ho patriotism and mandatory membership into the ‘We Hate The Nazis, No Girls Allowed, Funclub’. Instead, I don’t get the American vibe from Captain America, which is odd given the hero has red, blue and white on his uniform and embodies the ‘good boy scout’ that Superman himself represents. What I get from Captain America is something unconventional, something I haven’t felt with a superhero movie since ever, it’s a feeling of looseness. Captain America is a film about a guy who lost what life he had, and this film is about showing what life that was.
See when Chris Evans is stumbling about saying “Yeah, it’s just I had a date.” it’s him realizing that it’s all over. I imagine he’ll have to deal with his history in Captain America 2 or it’ll serve as some character development tissue in The Avengers but otherwise, this is one giant disconnected. We have been literally pulled out of World War II without a proper goodbye and it’s actually kind of worse that Ol’ Cap didn’t die. The crew of Tommy Lee Jones, Dominic Cooper and Hayley Atwell head out to find him but instead get faced with the cosmic cube instead. Speaking of Hayley Atwell, holy shit.
Captain America certainly isn’t a film about subtlety when its main villain has been kicked out of the Nazis for ‘being too evil’ and is literally red all over. Yet it still manages to feel like this chest-pumping film that doesn’t go over the top with “America, Fuck Yeah!” but instead replaces it with a tragedy of this one guy’s life. All those loose ends have me thinking that Marvel will certainly resolve them in a sequel, or The Avengers, but I’m not sure it’ll be done justice. My criticism of Captain America isn’t that it’s a bad movie, it’s a damn good one, but it’s this empty feeling that will only be filled with a sequel.
It’s like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One to me, because I wasn’t left unimpressed but I was left wanting more and if anything that’s a good thing. My worry is of course it’ll all be ruined but this is Marvel we’re talking about, the same studio which hired Joss Whedon to direct the coolest thing in the history of forever. I imagine all of those loose ends will be used to turn this character from gun-ho action and, well, grow up to join Iron Man and Batman.
The same goes for Thor and the hints at him getting back to Earth, and while Raimi’s Spider-Man never had this perhaps something magical can happen: the adult themes and the universal film can co-exist side by side. When that happens, when we get our superhero movie that works like Toy Story 3 in saying different, important things to different groups of people, then we’ll have something more than a popcorn movie or artistic, adult work on our hands. We’ll have something memorable.