Captain America: The First Avenger - I loved it so much, I can barely type this
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.
Please see the comments for my fail on thinking critically about U.S. foreign policy and actions during World War II.
Dear Heroine Content readers,
I don't want to write this review. What I want to do instead is take you out for coffee, or brunch, or whatever works for your schedule, so we can hang out in person for a change.
Then I can say things like "Oh my GOD that was SUCH A GOOD MOVIE! OH MY GOD! Is Avengers going to be that good? I has no investment in this character and I FINALLY understand Steve Rogers now! And African-American actorDerek Luke didn't die first! And he spoke three languages because he was in college before the war broke out! And when someone assumes Kenneth Choi is a Japanese POW and he's all "I'M FROM FRESNO, ACE" it was totally awesome! Hayley Atwell may not have been all action all the time, but she was tough and smart and never got captured! And the woman guarding the secret lab is awesome! She has a machine gun and I know a Hydra agent got the jump on her but it's a Hydra agent what can you do?! And I really want them to do the Winter Soldier storyline later because Sebastian Stan will be PERFECT!"
Such things are fun to say in person, but they make a terrible blog post, so you can see why I'd much rather do this face to face.
Was Captain America a breakout film in terms of diversity in casting, challenging canon and assumptions, reaching the highest ranks of the Heroine Content pantheon? Of course not. It's the Captain America movie. It's full of white men. (Including Howard Stark, and now we totally see where Tony gets some of his issues with women.) Does it pass the Bechdel test? No, and it could have with just a little more effort. Could we have done with fewer dancing girls? Probably.
But does it treat the speaking female characters and people of color as people, not stereotypes or plot devices? Yes. Does it visually include some of the real history of World War II, which is that men of color were fighting? Yes, and I had been afraid it wouldn't. And it was GOOD. Really good. Good acting, good pacing, good casting. I am recommending it even to people I know who don't care about comics or action films. I thought Tommy Lee Jones would grate on me even though I love him. I didn't want him screwing with my suspension of disbelief by being Tommy Lee Jones. He was perfect. I was afraid Chris Evans would do Jensen from The Losers, in a Captain America uniform. He didn't. I was afraid that having Cap and Peggy start falling in love would render her character annoying, warp the storyline, or result in her turning into bait or a damsel in distress. It didn't.
It's also the origin story this character needed. It had the right tone. The 2002 Spider Man was the beginning of an epic, it felt legendary. But Captain America needed something more humanizing, honestly. Spider Man turned Peter Parker into a legend. Captain America needed to turn a legend into a human being you could care about. And it did. It's an emotionally honest vision of how one man went from being picked on himself, to standing between the aggressor and the victim.
Speaking of the victims, though, here is my biggest issue with the film: I don't take kindly to movies about Nazis that barely mention genocide. The evil of the Nazi regime went far beyond just trying to conquer the world. Not mentioning that is like having a Civil War film and not mentioning the evil of slavery, as if that's just a side note Badly done, y'all.
With that in mind, and because the film doesn't break any ground in casting diversity or a leading action heroine, I'm going to give it three stars.
And let me know when you're free for that brunch thing so I can gush about it some more.