Film: 'Captain America: The First Avenger'; Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci; Director: Joe Johnston; Rating: ***1/2
The powers that maybe in the US have always understood the hold of the arts over its citizens and so used it for their own benefit. A comic book superhero was thus born in the 1940s, whose name had the name of the country and who almost wore the nation's flag.
The superhero, Captain America, featured in many comic books, short films and other promotional materials. He served patriotism on a star-spangled red and blue shield platter, sold war bonds and was thus actually instrumental in winning the war for America.
Quite coincidentally of course, as the debt-ridden US is going through financially warring times, Captain America marks his resurrection, for the umpteenth time, this time on the silver screen.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a lanky and weak young man who is perennially bullied. Yet he desperately wants to serve the country by enlisting in the army during the Second World War. He is rejected, till a scientist recognises his good heart and injects him with a serum that turns him into, well, literally a superhero.
It's but a matter of time before our lad saves the world.
The original character of Captain America had some interesting but predictable metaphors injected into it.
The skimpy little boy perennially bullied was supposed to be the world terrorised by fascism. The serum was America joining the war. And obviously, Captain America wearing the star spangled banner and winning the war was meant to depict America finally leading the world to victory.
The filmmakers realised that 70 years on this metaphor is no longer valid. Hence, though set during the Second World War the film creates a bigger enemy under Hitler's shadow in Hydra, who becomes Red Skull, a character from the comics.
It's a move that makes the film work.
Though linear, predictable and simplistic in its treatment, much like superhero films of yore, the attention to detail in aspects like special effect, cinematography and steady pace keeps the film ticking along to a decent finale.
Credit goes to director Joe Johnston who turns a simple script into a decent film. He has good experience serving him - having directed 'The Rocketeer' two decades back, which besides inspiration, provided a lot of visual reference points to another Marvel film franchisee, 'Ironman'.
After America had won the war, people overdosed on patriotism, rejected Captain America and the comic book died down.
A resurrection failed miserably, till 'The Avengers' comic series in the mid-60s made him the leader of a pack of superheroes. The world, unlike during his first birth, did not need saving anymore. Today however, the world does need a saviour, what with the American economy in tatters.
Thus in this resurrected avatar, the captain's prime job would be to save America. From whom, you'd ask? Well, obviously, from the bully stalking the planet - America itself.
(Satyen K. Bordoloi can be contacted at [email protected])