Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell
Have I Seen it Before: With Johnston directing and his pedigree from the The Rocketeer (1991), this might have been the Marvel movie I was anticipating the most.
Did I Like It: For a long time, it remained one of the more mundane pictures. It didn’t live up to the jaunty humor of the Iron Man movies, nor did it have the breakneck pacing of the aforementioned Rocketeer, but upon this rewatch I’m realizing those comparisons are unfair. Cap isn’t supposed to have the same milieu as Iron Man. It’s why when they meet in Avengers movies of various sizes and shapes, their chemistry pops. Comparisons to previous Johnston pictures also doesn’t work, as this first outing with Steve Rogers (Evans) is more of a straight war picture, while Rocketeer is a pulp adventure that happens to involve nazis.
Also—not for nothing—I originally saw the The Rocketeer when I was seven, and the movies we see during our first decade may eschew any attempt at even honest comparative criticism.
This particular movie is kind of like the casting of Evans in the title role. On first blush, he’s sort of bland and too earnest for his own good, but there’s something impressive in that as well. If he can be entertaining without the jokes that a Downey, Pratt, Hemsworth, or others might bring to the proceedings, then that takes a lot more restraint than I might have originally granted him.
The rest of the casting works out pretty well for this movie. Tommy Lee Jones may be so perfectly cast that I’m not entirely sure he’s even acting anymore. This is a far cry from his turn in Batman Forever (1995), when he made a very competitive play for most miscast performance in a superhero movie. Dominic Cooper’s attempts to play a young Howard Stark effectively echoes
And still, there are things that work far less than they did in the early days of its existence. There are far too many shots artlessly designed to take a advantage of 3D projection. As I write that sentence, I can’t honestly remember the last time I went to go see a film in 3D. I’m only vaguely certain that they still release films in this fashion, but they certainly stopped having Cap fling his shield straight into the camera. For that matter, the scenes before Steve Rogers great becoming just look like Chris Evans’ head photoshopped onto a shrimpy dude’s body. The teaser trailer for The Avengers (2012) is a weirdly dated poor substitute for the fun that Marvel is known for bringing in its tag scenes.
So, while parts of the film remain planted in the year in which it is made, I’m a convert with this film. It’s one of the greats, especially because it doesn’t feel the need to be the movie I think I want it to be.