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“Captain America: The First Avenger” delivers despite problems: review

“Captain America: The First Avenger” delivers despite problems: review (photo)

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Captain America may be the first Avenger, but he’s also the penultimate test of a cinematic experiment that culminates in next year’s superhero ensemble film, “The Avengers.” Thus far, Marvel Studios’ plan has been a success, with Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor all managing to establish themselves with mainstream audiences individually, then transforming that success into anticipation for their return in “Avengers.”

However, after watching “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it makes sense that the studio would position star-spangled superhero Steve Rogers as the last character to make his solo debut before the big “Avengers” reunion. In many ways, the film feels more like a preamble to something bigger than a self-contained story – but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

At a time when every film is envisioned as one chapter of a 12-part franchise, it’s not always a deal-breaker to lean on what’s come before and what the audience knows will follow. The recently concluded “Harry Potter” franchise was proof of that, and “Captain America” taps into a similar self-awareness of its role in a larger story arc that will be appreciated by comic book fans without alienating mainstream audiences.

Read our 101 guide to Captain America and his supporting cast

Still, that’s not to say that “Captain America” is devoid of problems. Despite some ambitious use of effects, the scrawny, pre-superhero Steve Rogers created by digitally grafting star Chris Evans’ head onto another actor’s body never seems quite human, and the addition of Evans’ voice to the final product makes the entire character seem like an overdubbed mess. This is especially unfortunate, because it’s clear the screenwriters did a good job of showing you why he was a hero long before he gained all of that extra muscle. Sadly, the weird, mismatched visual distracts from their work and makes it difficult to connect with the character.

On the flip side, “Captain America” overcomes the obstacle everyone saw in its path: finding a way to realistically portray a muscle-bound supersoldier in bright red, white, and blue spandex hurling his color-coordinated shield at a crimson, skull-faced villain. To its credit, the film explains why its soldier-turned-superhero’s uniform makes perfect sense in the context of his adventures, and the Red Skull – while a bit more cartoonish than necessary – manages to seem right at home in the tale’s WWII setting.

What also came as a surprise in “The First Avenger” was how similar the film felt to director Joe Johnston’s first comic book movie, 1991’s “The Rocketeer.” The two comics-influenced period pieces share a similar tone, presenting their characters’ adventures through a more innocent, Disney-fied version of reality and tapping into the nostalgic fun of comics’ Silver Age heroes.

But even though the Walt Disney Company now owns Marvel, it’s worth noting that “Captain America” definitely isn’t just another “Rocketeer.” This Marvel film is a darker, more violent adventure than Johnston’s first foray into the comic book world (there’s one scene in particular that echoes Indiana Jones’ messy tarmac brawl in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), and it harkens back to the character’s original, gun-toting adventures that often left more than a few enemy soldiers dead in his wake.

Viewed as the explosion-a-minute, simple action film that it’s intended to be, “Captain America” delivers on what it needs to do: introduce the character to mainstream audiences while not offending longtime fans, and prime the public for “The Avengers.” Unlike prior Marvel movies, however, the film falls short in its effort to develop a character you’ll gladly see more of without his superhero teammates.

Fortunately for Steve Rogers, that won’t be an issue, as he’ll get another chance to win audiences over next year when “Avengers” finally bows on the big screen. When that time comes around, though, he’ll have to wrest the spotlight away from Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

It’s no small feat, but then again, he is “The First Avenger.”

What did you think of the “Captain America” movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…