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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CAPTAIN AMERICA (2011)

More derring-do from the Marvel Comics catalogue, but without the usual self-referential snark, hip attitude or pointless CGI overkill. Instead we get, of all things, a ton of charm. It has to be squeezed in, between all the fights & explosions, but still . . . such a pleasant surprise. The prologue in particular is a dandy piece of pop entertainment, with Chris Evans proving the most winning superhero since Chris Reeve donned a Superman suit. As Steve Rogers, a patriotic 90-lb weakling who needs to pass the army physical before he can fight the Nazis, he ‘wears’ a remarkably convincing stunt body (with computer assistance) before getting pumped up permanently as Captain America. But the performance is all his. This early section is beautifully designed; layered with respect & affection for period style and even some old style filmmaking. (Are they really shooting such a big ticket item on Paramount's 'standing' backlot NYC set? Good for them!) There’s little chance of maintaining this level of innocence & heartfelt sentiment once our boy gets super-charged (the basic set up is completely tone-deaf with the ‘good guys’ beating the Nazis thru genetic engineering!), but everyone in the big cast is pitch-perfect, ‘kidding on the square’ to fine effect. (Kudos to Sebastian Stan as the best bud, he scores in a thankless part.) No doubt it’s helmer Joe Johnston who keeps things from overloading and, even more importantly, relocates the sense of visual fun he had way back on THE ROCKETEER/’91. NOTE: Our poster is from a 1944 15-part serial you can see on YouTube. The graphic style matches up with the cool period posters used in the film's nifty End Credits.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Watch for a ‘lift’ from Powell/Pressburger’s great WWII fantasy A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH/’46. It’s the scene where the plane’s going down, but the pilot keeps talking to the girl over the radio. The whole creative crew pitches in to make it sound just right and look just right, with deliciously rich color saturation levels that mimic TechniColor.

DOUBLE-BILL: Alas, this film is a big set-up for an upcoming super-colossal All-In-One Super Hero mega-pic, THE AVENGERS. Talk about overkill. Why not see how Johnston’s THE ROCKETEER holds up. Or check out A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH for the ‘lifted’ scene. (It’s near the opening.)

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