Expensive TV Movies

Captain America: The First Avenger: created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on comic-book stories by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Mark Gruenwald, Steve Engelhart, Steve Gerber, Jim Steranko and others; directed by Joe Johnston; starring Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Hugo Weaving (Schmidt/The Red Skull), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), Stanley Tucci (Dr. Erskine), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola) and Tommy Lee Jones (Colonel Philips) (2011):

Director Joe Johnston won an Oscar for his effects work on Raiders of the Lost Ark and directed the flawed but period-detail-rich Rocketeer movie; those two things seem to have informed this Marvel movie, which is flawed but rich in period detail, mostly old-fashioned in a good way, and possessed of a villain with a supernatural weapon that rivals the Ark of the Covenant, with Raiders alluded to early in the movie.

Like every Marvel Studios production I’ve seen, it plays as well or better on a TV screen that it did at the theatre. The stylistic blandness-bordering-on-inertness of the Mighty Marvel Movie Product makes the films into a series of really expensive TV movies, a fact which makes the failure of Marvel’s actual TV series about S.H.I.E.L.D. somewhat baffling. Captain America entertains without leaving much residue in the memory — like Johnson’s Rocketeer, it’s a competent gesture at adapting far superior source material. Lightly recommended.

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