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Laramie Movie Scope:
Captain America: The First Avenger

A retro superhero story

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 23, 2011 -- This Marvel Comics retro superhero movie completes the run up to the release next year of “The Avengers,” a trailer of which follows at the end of the credits of “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson with an eye patch) also puts in an appearance in this film, as he did in the the “Iron Man” and “Thor” films. Fury is the director of SHIELD and a lead man in The Avenger Initiative. He is also the thread that will tie Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and Captain America together. In this origin story, Captain America proves a worthy addition to this group of Avengers by battling a super villain who is even worse than the Nazis, the Red Skull, in the midst of World War II.

The film has a great retro look to it with period costumes and a lot of art deco design touches thanks to production designer Rick Heinrichs, a great art direction team and costume designer Anna B. Sheppard. Art deco design is modern-looking, even by today's standards, and this is enhanced by the futuristic design of some of the aircraft in the film, including one that looks a lot like the classic Northrop “Flying Wing” design, and is also similar to that of some modern stealth aircraft. The contrast of futuristic weapon designs to the retro look of other parts of the film gives this movie a very intriguing look.

Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers (Captain America) a 98-pound weakling who is transformed into a powerful super soldier with the magic of science (and movie magic), which somehow changes his “cellular structure.” Evans is no stranger to superhero roles, having previously played the Human Torch in “The Fantastic Four.” The story spends some time explaining why a weakling was chosen for this experiment. The idea is that a weakling would be better able to resist the temptation to become a bully with his newfound strength. Captain America is, indeed, a man who hates bullies and dedicates himself to protect others from bullies, including the Red Skull. Other reasons he got the job include intelligence and courage.

Hugo Weaving (of the “Matrix” movies) plays Johann Schmidt (the Red Skull) a German officer in charge of securing supernatural powers to aid the Nazi war effort (as in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Hellboy”). He finds a mysterious cube of energy in Norway with some connection to the old Norse gods and uses it as the basis for a whole collection of futuristic weapons, like ray guns, advanced aircraft, tanks, and submarines. But he doesn't plan to use this to defeat the Allies. His plan is to take over the whole world, including Nazi Germany, as the head of a secret organization called Hydra. He's like a super Bond villain. He is even worse than the Nazis! Captain America has his work cut out for him. Not only does the Red Skull have advanced weapons, he also has super strength, thanks to exposure to that mysterious energy cube.

Also along for the ride is Howard Stark, the genius father of Tony Stark (Iron Man) and the sexy Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell of “Brideshead Revisited”). Howard Stark is played by Dominick Cooper of “An Education”). Gruff General Colonel Chester Phillips is played by Tommy Lee Jones (of “The Fugitive”). Captain America has to go through a lot before he finally gets to become a real hero. At first he is recruited to sell war bonds. He has to prove himself before he is allowed to become a soldier. General Phillips is a hard man to convince. Near the end of his personal journey is the expected big battle between him and the Red Skull. There is a bit more after that. This film is well-written and well-acted and it has plenty of action. It is a good superhero origin story, a bit better than the last Marvel movie, “Thor.” This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)