In addition to the critical hit “October Sky,” Joe Johnston has previously directed several fun action movies including “Jurassic Park III” and “The Rocketeer.” With that in mind, it’s difficult to see where Johnston went so wrong in directing “Captain America: The First Avenger,” a lifeless and clichéd action film that never lives up to its title or its title characters’ ideals.
“Captain America” tells the story of a scrawny kid named Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who wants to join the military during World War II. Rogers, who weights in at around ninety pounds, suffers from multiple medical conditions but his noble ambitions push him back time and time again to the recruitment office. Despite being rejected by the military repeatedly, he still wants to serve his country. After noting that people are dying in the war overseas, Rogers notes that he has “no right to do anything less than them.”
The story’s beginning has potential but the bizarre decision to use Evans’ head on a thin-rail body detracts from the film itself. It’s difficult not to focus on this “special effect,” which is awkward and out of place.
As the story continues, Rogers is recruited to be a test subject for a science experiment performed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a doctor who finally gets Rogers accepted into the armed forces. Erskine’s experiment strengthens Rogers and makes him a powerful physical weapon that can be used against the dreaded Nazis. When the experiment ends, Evans can start acting in his real body again, a welcome relief for viewers. At first, the military uses Rogers, who is now known nationwide as “Captain America,” to help sell war bonds but when he realizes that one of his friends is missing behind enemy lines, Rogers decides to take on the Nazis himself. He eventually goes up against Hydra, the Nazi’s science division, which is led by the repulsive Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving).
Although Rogers’ decency and nobility are impressive to watch, everything else in the story is completely unremarkable. None of the other characters stand out or help make this comic book story memorable. Even the villain is boring and easily forgettable. Tommy Lee Jones, as a colonel who helps train Rogers, and Tucci have good screen presence but neither of their characters stand out.
In fact, the whole story falls flat as the action scenes and the plot are both unimpressive. Aside from the decision to put Evans’ head on a scrawny body, the special effects are unusually weak and show a lack of imagination. I can see why the filmmakers chose some minimalist special effects to evoke the comic books and the era in which the story is set, but none of the action sequences are exciting to watch.
It goes without mentioning that the 3D is completely unnecessary.
I wish that this film could have fared better considering the strength of the lead character and Evans, who stood out in a supporting role in films like “The Fantastic Four” and “The Losers.” “Captain America” could have been a great movie for him but instead, it becomes just another tired superhero movie with little to offer and mediocre special effects.