7 February 2011

The Captain America Super-Bowl Trailer: 5 Encouraging Things, 5 Discouraging Things.

No. 5. Encouraging: The general visual look.

The palette looked right, so did the lighting.  I could have done with a little more World War grit--that shot of Cap and the Howling Commandos walking through camp is pitch perfect (1/3 Guns Of Navarone, 1/3 Inglorious Basterds, 1/3 Raiders Of The Lost Ark).  Still, the retro look of the Rebirth lab was spot-on and the castle-ish battle setting is vintage-perfect from countless comic books.

How high do you think the lifts in his shoes are for this shot?


No. 5. Discouraging: Slo-frickin' motion.

All those slow-mo shots are very worrying.  Slo-mo is the lazy director's first choice.  One of the shots--Cap swinging on the chain--looks like it might be a Zack Snyder-esque ramping effect.  (For those of you unaware of this procedure, it's the flashy, douche-y cousin of slow-mo.)  In The Incredible Hulk, Louis Leterrier, of all people, showed up what a real time Captain America action scene should look like when he turned Tim Roth loose on the Hulk.  Joe Johnston take note: one should not be beaten to the punch and schooled by the guy who made Clash Of The Titans.


 


No. 4. Encouraging: Really good CG.

The pre-serum Steve Rogers looks scary-good.  Considering that trailer effects usually look like unfinished video game garbage (see Green Lantern) this indeed bodes very well.  Still, I don't think we should be subjected to too much of the Benjamin Button effect.  Hopefully they'll do shots of the pre-serum Steve from the back and use stand-ins and other stuff we wont notice, but it's nice to know they can pull this off when they have to.

No. 4. Discouraging: Not very much Red Skull.

Sure, it feels good while you're tearing, but then you're all raw, dude!

Nerds everywhere are pausing and vid-capturing like mad just to get the lonely, sad image above.  Really, how could there not be a lingering shot on the Skull and a line-reading?  I didn't need any mustaches to be twirled (honestly, can you grow a mustache on a skull-face?) but something more was needed.


No. 3. Encouraging: Laying the groundwork early that Cap is not a steroid jerk.

The first line in the trailer belongs to the super-soldier serum's creator, Abraham Erskine, and he reminds Steve--and us--that Captain America needs to not just be a good soldier, but a good man.  This, along with the way they're clearly letting Chris Evans have a little breathing space with the character (see below) reassures me that there wont be a bombastic, tough-guy Cap in our future.  However...

Where is he now that professional baseball really needs him?


No. 3. Discouraging: No "impressive" Captain America line-reading.

I think from a marketing sense it's probably a very smart move that there isn't a definitive "impressive" Captain America line reading.  ("We have to win this...", "Follow me, boys...", "I'm dedicated to the dream", etc.)  It's becoming clear Marvel's doing their darndest to think of international markets. 

Still, it feels like some part of the impressive, intimidating Captain America should have made it in there somewhere.  And it remains to be seen if Chris Evans can be commanding in a way that will let him awe the generally un-awe-able Tony Stark that we know from Iron Man.  Of course, a screen hero needn't be a John Wayne war-movie type for other males (or the audience)  to feel impressed by him.  I for one think it can be done, and has been done, by an "aw shucks" lead.  Jimmy Stewart pulled this off excellently in the fifties in a series of fairly gritty Westerns made by director Anthony Mann.  I just don't know how easy it would be to be pulled off today, jaded as we are.


No. 2. Encouraging: Ferr-i-ners.

Hayley Atwel's playing a Brit and the multi-ethnic Howling Commandos were very prominent.  This is another wise move on Marvel's part, even if it does feel a little Inglorious Basterds-esque.  If the Commandos manage not to be ridiculously broad stereotypes, so much the better.  And think of the eventual Commandos/Basterds mash-up that some nerd will eventually make.

(Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan against the director of Cabin Fever and the little guy from The Office?  The Basterds would be toast...)


No. 2. Discouraging: He didn't throw the bleeding shield.

True, the shield's displayed prominently, at least at the end, but a thrown shield would've been the money shot.  Oh well, I suppose it's for the best that we don't get this served to us right away--maybe not even until the film itself--but darn it, the twelve year old in me wants to see it now!

Hold on to that if you screw this up, pretty boy!


No. 1. Encouraging: Evans's portrayal.

Somewhere along the line somebody (rightly) pointed out to Marvel that the uber-serious, haunted, and somewhat humourless Cap from the recent run of comic books might not be ideal, at least not for this first movie.   Cap needs to start from a place of human warmth and charm--an underdog even--and definitely an everyman. 

No doubt Cap's toughening will be part of the movie's journey, but what we get from Evans in the trailer is very much in the manner of the traditional "aw shucks" American cinema hero I mentioned above.  Hopefully, the character ends up in a middle ground.  The last time a balance between "aw shucks" and "alpha male" was pulled off to perfection was Indiana Jones.  Since then, it's been hard for any actor to do what Harrison Ford did (and could only do briefly, as it turns out).  In the interim we're had leads tipping one way or the other.  Willis was too smirky, Costner too dull, Swartzeneggar too ridiculous, Hanks too boyish, Crowe too thuggish, Cruise too insane, etcetera.  It would be nice to see Evans pull this off, but it's very long odds, isn't it?


No. 1. Discouraging: A lack of gravitas.

Maybe it's because our first look at this movie comes in the form of  a TV spot and not a cinema trailer, but just as I'm happy to see Chris Evans project charm and  humanity through the trailer, I'm annoyed that the trailer provided zero build-up and tension as counterpoint to those light moments.  There's no surging music, no title cards, no stings... no size whatsoever.  It all just goes by in a flash... and a fairly breezy flash at that.  Just as a ridiculous comparison, the Super-Bowl spot for Transformers 3 had a lot of good, atmospheric "pumping up", a good sense of being epic, even though we all pretty much know by now that nobody but a lobotomy patient would go see a Transformers movie. 

The proof in this particular pudding will come with the full length theatrical trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger.  If the epic shows up to counter balance the fun, I for one can't wait.

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