Thursday 28 April 2016

Review: Captain America - The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger (3D / sixth-pass)
Cert: 12A / 124 mins / Dir. Joe Johnston / Trailer

Ah, a chance to separate the hardcore filmgoers from the opportunists, a test of theatrical endurance, that rarest of treats in this modern age: the triple-bill. To usher in 2016's blockbuster season*1 and Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, a back-to-back screening of Super-Soldier adrenaline kicked off tonight at 18:30. The First Avenger, followed by The Winter Soldier, leading into a midnight screening of the newest installment. For a viewer who's resolutely Team Iron Man*2, I'm unaccountably happy with this ;)

Now I've written about Steve Rogers' first outing on several occasions in the past. It's a film I absolutely adore, therefore it's one that I have no problem watching again. One of those movies I'm always in the mood for, in fact. A lot has changed since I started reviewing here, and I find I watch films differently now. In fact, that was very much the point. I didn't want to be using my Unlimited card several times a month and just letting each screening wash over me, leaving no impression as I sat glazed in the cinema*3. Writing about each film I see, including repeat viewings, helps me build a framework by which I can appreciate and enjoy them more. And generally speaking, by the time I've picked apart what I did and didn't like about the thing I've just watched, I arrive at a conclusion I'm happy to commit to the blog.

Now people's tastes change over the years, which is entirely as it should be. Watching a bunch of old movies for the first time, I know that I wouldn't have enjoyed many of them had I seen them when I was younger (and likewise there are a few entries which young-me might have enthused about, but which I now realise are dreadful). But I do find that my opinion on a specific movie doesn't really change once I've watched it. I'll find new details to love (or new bugbears to hate), but the work as a whole will sit in pretty much the same slot.

And it's with that in mind that I'm going to do something I wouldn't normally do. Because I read back my previous mutterings on The First Avenger and I appear to have repeatedly scored it six out of seven when it's clearly a bloody seven. So I'm changing that from this point onward. I also make a point (okay, occasionally) of saying that the number attached to a film doesn't necessarily make it comparable to another one with the same score. My final ratings are more a measure of the film's potential versus its actuality. But y'know what? The First Avenger actually can be compared directly with The Winter Soldier, even though the former is a far more enjoyable movie (although more on the second shortly). In short, Cap gets ramped up to full-marks, this outing.

Against the collective stories which have followed it (and that I still love, remember), I genuinely believe that this might be the perfect Marvel Cinematic Universe film. Bolstered by Alan Silvestri's score, director Joe Johnston captures the uncynical spirit of adventure which made the Indiana Jones movies so much fun. This is a science-fiction tale which is relatively light on the unexplainable 'magic' it needs to fuel the plot. A classic underdog origins story, Steve Rogers is the archetypal hero, empowered by science and morality, but completely unbound by ego and with an innate understanding of everything he's fighting to protect, pitted against a supernatural villain who feels like a genuine threat because he's a complete psychopath and a macguffin which could destroy everything. And from the sure-footed roller-coaster of a movie comes a victorious ending laced with an agoraphobic melancholy which hasn't been matched before or since. The 1940s setting separates the film both chronologically and tonally, and sets up (and ret-cons) events to come, while owing nothing to them. With the exception of the final five minutes, this is a true standalone feature and it still encapsulates the essence of Marvel.

So yeah, I've changed my mind. The First Avenger isn't a great film, after all.
It's a brilliant one.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Indiana Jones, The Rocketeer.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you can.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It may well be.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I very well might.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There absolutely is.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mace Windu's in it. And Richard Armitage from off of The Phantom Menace.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Sorry Clark and Bruce, you don't count. I wish you did, but there we go.

*2 Yup. Style over righteousness, I'm afraid. Every time.

*3 Although some movies just have that effect anyway, to be fair. But I try.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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