Admittedly I watched it more as a “Joe Johnston film” and a “Hayley Atwell film” than as a superhero movie or as a Marvel Comics movie. That may be splitting hairs so that I don’t feel guilty about Marvel screwing over Jack Kirby (and the fact that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby may have received credit in the film but in tiny print in the end credits rather than front and center in the opening credits as it should have been).
I’m not a big fan of Joe Johnston’s work. I think he’s an interesting director with good taste, and I like his movies, but I’ve never loved any of them. It also stars Hayley Atwell, who I think is fabulously talented and has a great supporting cast including Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci.
One of the things that Johnston doesn’t get credit for but should is the female actors he casts. Look at his films and who are the female leads – Jennifer Connelly in The Rocketeer, Laura Dern in October Sky, Zuleikha Robinson in Hidalgo, and Hayley Atwell in Cap. Obviously all four are stunningly beautiful women, but none of them are typical anorexic Hollywood types. It would be easy to say that he casts women with “old fashion movie star” looks, which is true, but he casts gorgeous women who happen to have curves. Sadly, that stands out.
Anyway, Atwell who I remember fondly from Pillars of the Earth, Cassandra’s Dream, The Duchess, and Brideshead Revisited among other things (I also remember her from The Prisoner but I really didn’t like the miniseries, so I'm choosing to ignore it). She doesn’t have a lot to do but she makes the best of it. She’s an intelligent, capable woman who punches above her class and is more than the typical “girl” part in most action/adventure movies. She gets to machine gun bad guys, fall for the lead, take part in planning war operations and wear a red dress that, quite frankly, was stunning.
What surprised me about the movie was that I actually felt something. There was actual human emotion in this film. Maybe it’s unfair of me to be surprised by this, but past experience has taught me not to expect much from a summer movie except a theme park ride and the Marvel movies haven't been particularly impressive in that regard. The banter between Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in the Iron Man films may be fun, but it's just banter. There's not much real emotion in the films. This is a PG-rated film that’s very consciously aimed at an all-ages audience, and so the final scenes were all the more surprising. Everyone knows that Captain America survives in the end, but his death is still treated seriously.
Of course then he’s thawed out in a lame scene and there was a commercial for The Avengers. That kinda ruined the mood for me. Though to be fair, I think the ending and post credit sequences in Marvel movies tend to be poor.
Also I still don’t know what the hell that cube is or what the hell it means, but let’s be honest. No one else seems to know or care, either.
So Captain America is a Joe Johnston film that I like and respect and think is interesting–I'm sure that if we were to hang out we'd have a lot of interests in common–but I didn't love it. Of course much of what I hated were the elements that were required by the studio to be included. Anyway, I'm excited to see what Johnston decides to do next.