I saw Captain America last night and I have to say it was a wonderful experience. Phenomenal cast, exquisite performances by EVERYONE on screen, great sets, visuals, story, dialogue, the works. I highly, highly, highly recommend this film. It’s just such a wonderful pulpy slice of old-school American apple pie. Steve Rogers (played brilliantly by Chris Evans) really manages to capture the American ideal without being hokey about it. I have but two little criticisms of the film: there wasn’t more of it, and the ending.
BEYOND THIS POINT ARE SPOILERS
So, lets talk about how fast this movie was. Holy balls it was fast. It makes A New Hope look like a leisurely stroll through the park. Years of the Captain’s career are crammed into a mere 125 minutes, and it hardly leaves you with room to breath. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very very well spent time, but with so much crammed into so little it sometimes makes it hard for things to hit home. We barely have time to mourn the death of… well, anyone before we’re whisked away to the next action-packed scene. Massive military campaigns that would normally be filled with two-fisted Nazi punching are squeezed down into montages of Cap’ leaping off exploding tanks. The pace is almost too fast. This singular movie could have easily been its own trilogy, if not full out HBO miniseries. I’d loved to have seen more of the grueling campaign of Captain America one by one eliminating Hydra strong holds. I’d liked to have given Steve’s and Peggy’s doomed romance more time to be explored. I wanted to see Cap’ punch more Nazi’s in the face! But, given a single 2 hour movie, it was brilliantly shot and pieced together. No time was wasted, everything that needed to be there was there, and in the end you still felt the emotional impact of it all. And then you remembered to breathe.
Before I get into my other big criticism I’d like to say that I think I actually liked the proto-captain america combat we saw back in 2008 in The Incredible Hulk. Dunno what it was. Maybe it was the shield that made it look weird. But Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) made super-soldier combat look awesome where as Captain America was a discus champion. Maybe it was just me. The action was still good, just not as super amazing as I’d have expected. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by crazy-ass martial arts movies.
My other criticism, and the biggest, the one that actually hurt the film for me was how INCREDIBLY HARD they tied Captain America: The First Avenger into the upcoming Avengers movie. Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, it’s right there in the title: The First Avenger. Every other Marvel Studios movie has just been the name of the hero: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor. But not the Captain. He gets a subtitle. And in the end credits not only does it explicitly state “Captain America will return in the Avengers,” but the bonus after-credits footage is a god damn trailer for the upcoming film. This movie has too many endings, and none of them actually end the film ‘cept the first one.
Ending 1: Steve Rogers saves the world by crash-landing the Hydra super-bomber into the artic. He dies a hero.
This is, of course, the classical ending for a pulpy hero film. Hero dies saving the world. The world rejoices that it’s saved. Hero is mourned. Sad, but very solid and acceptable ending.
Ending 2: Steve Rogers is retrieved and revived from his arctic thaw (magic or super science?) and wakes up in modern day NYC realizing everyone he knows or loves is dead. The film ends with Nick Furry if Steve’s alright, to which he replies “Yeah. I just…had a date.” Roll credits.
This is a great ending. It hammers home Steve’s humanity despite his epic heroics. There’s something so terribly touching about the last line. Which is, of course, ruined by the prompt roll into very up-beat patriotic credits. Failure number one.
Ending 3: We see Steve duking it out with a punching bag. Bag looses. Nick Furry tells him he’s got a new mission: save the world.
This would be our normal tie in to the rest of the marvel franchise. Every Marvel Studios movie has had this moment at the end of the credits of their films. Hulk had Stark come in, Iron Man had Nick Furry show up, etc, etc. And since every subsequent movie pimps this Avengers initiative a little harder, this is no surprise here. However, what really irritates me is that this came right after a line in the credits: “Captain America will return in the Avengers” and further irritation is found in this clip rolling immediately into
Ending 4: A GOD DAMN TRAILER FOR THE AVENGERS MOVIE.
And not ONCE in any of these endings do we find any real closure for the film we’re watching. Which unfortunately makes the Captain America film feel not like the pulpy adventure goodness that it is, but rather one very long prologue to a movie that won’t be out for a year. Marvel’s been, thus far, very good at not pulling the hollywood three-fer and making movies that have endings in other movies. So far, they’ve been pretty self-contained. And now I’m starting to worry that they’re pulling the same cross-over bullshit they and DC have been doing for years with their comics. Movies MUST be self-contained or else they lose impact. Tell a story, end a story. Tie it in to another film? Sure. But make sure it stands on its own. And I feel that Captain America was weakened by not having a solid stand-alone ending in favor of it leading directly into the upcoming Avengers film.
All that being said, I enjoyed the film thoroughly. You should see it. And I might even be looking forward a bit to the Avengers film, if only so I can get more Captain.