Let’s Hear it for the Red, White and Blue!

An Active3D Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger 3-D

Rating (out of 5 stars): ***½

Steve Rogers is a young bloke living in the US at the time that the country has just entered the Second World War. He is passionately patriotic, and wants to fight the Nazis, but is not considered physically up to the task. An interesting bit of CGI here: the filmmakers have taken the head – not of Alfredo Garcia – but of the movie’s star, Chris Evans, and digitally grafted it onto a body that is so skinny, so horrendously ectomorphic, that one expects him to implode at any moment.

I understand, of course, that the effects guys wanted to create a contrast to the muscled, looming figure that was to come, but this is as unsubtle as they could possibly be; one can’t help wondering how such a scrawny specimen even managed to make it past his first birthday, let alone attain adulthood…

The technology used is probably of the motion-capture variety (as was employed in ‘Lord of the Rings’ to create Gollum). Essentially, what happens is that the actor is covered with hundreds of sensors that convey his body movements to a computer, and this, in turn, informs the movements of the digitally-created body.

Poor Steve is turned down by military assessors, who – quite understandably – don’t believe that he’ll last a day in a combat environment. And you must remember that this is a good 70 years ago, when young Americans wanted to fight (unlike the 60s, when many guys would even self-mutilate rather than be called upon to face the atrocities of the Viet Nam war).

Dr Abraham Erskine (played by the marvellous Stanley Tucci), is a mysterious but warm-hearted academic who has helped the industrialist Howard Stark to develop a special serum… (dramatic chords, please!). Erskine has noted the young fellow’s courage and resolve – and offers him the opportunity of a lifetime. It involves being strapped to a laboratory chair and injected with the above-mentioned power-juice. And the result, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is a new Steve Rogers; towering, masterful, and with chiselled torso all a-glisten.

But this is only the first phase in the development of our soon-to-be avenger, as the US Army starts using him in ridiculous musical cavalcades which tour America’s military camps in foreign lands. Their intention is to build morale – but the only thing they inspire soldiers to do is taunt him for his silly outfit. However, when Steve learns one day of a friend who has been captured – and possibly killed – in enemy territory, he springs into action – and a hero is born!

Much as I’m not, generally speaking, a fan of movies that have been based upon superhero comics, this film is blessed with a strong cast and an engrossing and believable script – which is quite a feat when you consider the amount of disbelief that needs to be suspended…

Most importantly, the film’s a visual treat – and they keep the best for last, with a closing title sequence that parades a rapid succession of classic US WWII iconography. “Your country needs YOU”, Rosie the Riveter – all those familiar images pop up in colourful montage; all beautifully converted into super-immersive 3-D.

The film was post-converted into 3-D, but here’s the thing: (a) it was shot with the 3-D conversion in mind, and (b) the conversion was skilfully and carefully executed, unlike some of the awful rush-jobs of which Warner Bros has been guilty. (Can anyone say ‘The Last Airbender’?) My only beef with the conversion is that people’s faces suffer from front-to-back elongation. Evans’s face, in particular, frequently looks as if it’s been squashed between two aggressive elevator doors… And whilst we’re talking about Mr Evans’s face, perhaps he isn’t the ideal guy to play a superhero, as he lacks the square, granite jaw that I would’ve imagined to have been necessary for the role. But he’s not unbearable, and there’s enough whizz-bang going on around him to keep us entertained.

This is upbeat, old-style entertainment, and one would almost expect little American flags to be handed out to audiences, so that they’d have something appropriate to wave about at exciting moments!

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