World War Two infused with a star-spangled superhero, laser beams and plans for world domination can only mean one thing: a new Marvel comic film adaptation. Explosive and romantic all at once, Captain America: The First Avenger is certainly one of the best of Marvel’s class of 2011, up with X-Men: First Class and Thor.
Scrawny but determined, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) attempts to enter the US army despite numerous rejections, but a chance run into Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), puts Rogers in line to become the chief lab rat for Erskine’s Project Rebirth to create a superhuman army. After proving his courage, Rogers is injected with the serum that transforms his skinny body into a herculean frame. Meanwhile, crazy Nazi scientist Johann Schmidt A.K.A The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is creating weapons to wipe out major cities in the world. After initially being used as a cheap propaganda trick, Rogers, now Captain America comes to the rescue of his comrades in the pursuit to stop Schmidt.
Director Joe Johnston offers us a mouth-watering visual spectacle blending sci-fi with a 40’s backdrop, spaceships and tanks, lasers and bullets. In classic superhero style, Captain America has no problem storming a weapons factory by himself, and no matter how far fetched, the scenes were fast, exciting and always sweetened by the Captain’s trademark shield throw.
But Captain America: The First Avenger doesn’t just rely on firepower. Comedic moments courtesy of Tucci, and the romantic flame between the Cap and stern but sexy Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), means the film offers other dimensions. The romance is fiery as Atwell and Evans click well – obviously her interest in him has nothing to do with his god-like physique – but it is clear that the Captain has a thing for girls in uniform.
Plot-wise the film is a little shakier. Starting off in a fluid manner, Captain America lays the foundation and was set to charge on, but quickly begins to trip over its own bootlaces. The action becomes choppy, and jumped around too much making it difficult to follow at times. And as soon as the film jumps forward some 70 years, you lose the characters that the whole film has built up. There is also the sense that you need to be a bit clued up on comic books to understand some of the aspects, such as the blue glowing cube (of some sort of immense power), or who Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is in relation to the Captain, although a cheeky trailer for the new Avengers film sheds some light, if you can wait until the end credits finish.
One has to expect a fair sprinkling of cheese over a superhero movie, but handled right, and this can create some of the funnier moments where a film pokes fun at itself. The problem with Captain America is that these instances aren’t played up enough and those moments of potential cheese, become very cringy, and instead of poking fun at itself, the film seems to take these lines and scenes all too seriously.
But these shortcomings do not interfere too much with a film that ultimately has enough flare, romance, bad guys and swish action to leave you feeling fulfilled, excited and ready for Marvel’s next superhero crew, The Avengers.
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X-MEN: FIRST CLASS: Released 1st June 2011
Recharged and revamped, the X-Men franchise returns with the prequel, X-Men: First Class. Matthew Vaughn leads the fresh cast, having most recently directed superhero comedy Kick Ass. First Class does its best to continue the trend by, well, kicking ass.
Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, X-Men: First Class charts the beginnings of Professor X, Magneto and the rest of the heroes. Metal manipulating Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) is on a revenge mission to find Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), the man who killed his mother in a Nazi concentration camp. Along the way Lehnsherr meets Oxford genetics professor and mind reading mutant, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who is after the same man. With Shaw’s plan to begin a nuclear war, the CIA recruit the mutants to stop the imminent mayhem and along the road they discover their true abilities, personas and allegiances.
The visual effects in the film were truly impressive, meaning the big, loud parts were verging on believable. Tidy and well thought out, the action sequences in First Class were edge-of-your-seat good. The final scene was truly climactic, following multiple battles and storylines and bundling them all up into a big storm of awesome.
First Class relies heavily on the bromance between Magneto and Professor X, which was developed wonderfully. Sharing each other’s personal history in an affecting exchange, provided the tenderness that made these superheroes more human and identifiable with us, and when combined with high-octane scenes, created a brilliant balance of compassion and excitement. Even action fans like to be moved every now and again.
Raunchy and action-filled but still sprinkled with some more delicate scenes, X-Men: First Class provides a fast-paced and entertaining retake on 60s American history. They should be changing the history syllabus to include the antics of the X-Men – we bet it would reduce truancy.
(Originally published on itchy.co.uk)
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