IN A NUTSHELL: It’s like Indiana Jones mixed with Star Wars viewed through the “Marvel Studios” lens.
I guess whether or not you will like it depends on how much you like those movies. It 100% fits with the Marvel Studios Universe established in Iron Man 1 and 2, Incredible Hulk, and Thor but feels more like Indiana Jones and the original Star Wars trilogy in tone and style. The film is set mostly in the 1940’s but has very sci-fi elements thanks to the “Magic Tech” originally explained in this summer’s Thor movie also from Marvel Studios.
THE ACTING: Chris Evans is great as Steve Rogers/Captain America. He brings compassion and thoughtfulness to the role, showing lots with his face and body language. Evans also handles action quite well, also displayed by his previous movie roles. He displays natural charisma and leadership qualities as the good Captain. The various supporting roles were well acted and believable, from the Howling Commandos to Peggy, Bucky and Arnim Zola. I hope we see Zola again sometime is his bizarre Marvel-Comics look. Howard Stark is totally believable as Tony Stark’s Dad.
I actually thought the weakest link was Red Skull, which I personally wasn’t expecting. Hugo Weaving was decent as always, but didn’t really get all that much to do. He was more interesting in the film when he looks “normal”. I think buried under the Skull makeup some of his acting nuances got lost. Unfortunately, the makeup is probably the most out of place thing in this movie. It’s so bright and colorful in an otherwise fairly muted color scheme. I hate to say that, because it’s so SPOT ON to his comics appearance.
THE EFFECTS: Lots of CGI – as is expected. It is a standard in modern movies, and here it’s very good! There were a couple shots where I lament the loss of traditional stunt work, but that’s more of a personal hang-up. Steve at the beginning where he looks like a 90 pound asthmatic is quite stunning.
THE DIRECTION: Joe Johnston worked as the art director on Raiders of the Lost Ark, and this movie feels like it inhabits the same world Dr. Henry Jones does. It’s no doubt intentional, and there are even a couple nods to Indy in there. Johnston handles both the action and the drama deftly and the movie clips along at a brisk pace pausing briefly from the action from time to time to reflect on events or for humor. This movie is infused with a sense of fun that modern audiences aren’t used to. I heard lots of people in the theater snickering at the wrong times, mostly around the Hydra/Red Skull scenes. Captain America isn’t jaded and he has no “personal demons”, just a sense to want to do what is right and to be the best person he can be whenever possible. It’s extremely refreshing to see a superhero movie where the “super” is actually a “hero”.
Oh, and Cap’s shield! He gets to use it and HOW! It’s great to see on the big screen bouncing around knocking over HYDRA goons.
CAN KIDS SEE IT? I don’t know about all children, but my kids seeing this are going to be as blown away as I was seeing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for the first time as a kid. It really feels like an 80’s Spielberg/Lucas flick, with the “best parts” from other movies staged one after another. There is plenty of sci-fi action violence, mostly bloodless. There is light cursing, like “Hell” and “Ass”. No sex or nudity to speak of, besides some cloy dialogue that’s very 1940’s and some brief kissing. Red Skull may be frightening to little kids, but I kind of doubt it.
More importantly, it shows Captain America/Steve Rogers as a leader with strong ties of friendship, loyalty, honor, and self sacrifice. He does what he does to help and save people, and can put his ego in check when needed. This is the type of hero I want my kids to emulate. I consider it counter programming to the disturbing selfish behavior of Hal Jordan in WB’s Green Lantern movie.
AFTER CREDITS SCENE? Of course stay after the credits. AMAZING Avengers teaser at the end. I have goosebumps. Going to see this again this weekend with my boys in tow.