Movie Review: Captain America

Movie Review: Captain America

Captain AmericaRating:  M Distributor: Paramount Release Date: July 28Marvel Comics continues it drive to assemble the characters necessary for the long-awaited Avengers franchise, and the next domino to fall is Captain America.Chris Evans (Fantastic Four, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) plays Steve Rogers, a scrawny Brooklyn man who’s desperate to enlist in America’s efforts to beat the Nazis, […]

By Mark HadleyMonday 1 Aug 2011MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

Captain America

Rating:  M
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: July 28

Marvel Comics continues it drive to assemble the characters necessary for the long-awaited Avengers franchise, and the next domino to fall is Captain America.

Chris Evans (Fantastic Four, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) plays Steve Rogers, a scrawny Brooklyn man who’s desperate to enlist in America’s efforts to beat the Nazis, but is constantly rejected for his many medical problems. When Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), becomes aware of Rogers’ determination to succeed he decides the stripling will be the perfect subject for his highly experimental gene therapy. Rogers is injected with the doctor’s secret formula that transforms him into a superhuman soldier and Captain America is born. But for every super hero there is a super villain and Captain America soon finds himself battling Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a mutant with more ambition than Hitler.

Captain America is a high-energy romp with plenty of battle scenes to fill its 125 minutes. It’s been rated M for the violence, though its setting in the 1940’s means the language is at a minimum. Now that the back-stories for Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) have been told, the stage is set for the release of The Avengers in 2012. The film about Marvel Comic’s legendary team of superheroes, written and directed by Joss Whedon, will also include appearances from characters ‘the Hulk’ (Mark Ruffalo) and ‘Hawkeye’ (Jeremy Renner). Maybe it’s for this reason that I found the production entertaining but ultimately uninspiring. I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a prequel that was destined to take me right up to the point of something interesting, then roll the credits.

However Captain America does have an interesting moral theme worth reflecting on. There are the usual motivations of sacrifice and justice – Rogers tells Dr Erskine he wants to go to war, “Because I hate bullies!” – but the best message is a lesson on character. Dr. Erskine passes over several promising candidates to choose Rogers because he displays a ‘good heart’. He says that the super abilities he can bestow will only amplify a person’s existing nature. If they’re self-assured or a bully then the gift will only make them worse. It reminded me of how much people strive to remake themselves through exercise, accessories or careers, only to discover that they are still the same selfish or insecure person inside. We might have some success dressing up our exteriors but no-one can make themselves a good heart. Science is at a loss; this is God’s gift to give. And since there are no magic formulas outside of Marvel’s comics, we’ll have to rely Jesus if we’re going to gain that transformation.

 

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Hanna

Rating:  M
Distributor: NBC Universal
Release Date:: July 28

Hanna is similar to several super-assassin films that have come before, but few have been so well positioned to criticize parenting that seeks to save children from all that ‘spiritual stuff’.

Hanna is the story of a teenage girl raised in the frozen wilds of northern Europe to become the perfect assassin. Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones) provides a convincing picture of a girl who’s at peace with the severe regimen set by her father Erik (Eric Bana) because it’s the only life she’s ever known. When the time comes for her to be unleashed against her target, Marissa (Cate Blanchett), she sets to her task with the same will any daughter determined to please her parent would display. However when Erik’s carefully laid plans go awry, Hanna finds herself in a world with which she has no experience, facing questions for which she has no answers, pursued by agents for reasons she is unaware. And it’s her ignorance of how she came to be who she was that provides the real tragedy as well as the spiritual content of the film.

On paper Hanna sounds like a cross between The Assassin and The Bourne Identity. Certainly director Joe Wright’s use of driving Euro funk and a washed out colour palette will remind viewers of Jason Bourne’s first screen appearance. But Wright manages to inject enough sympathy for his deadly-but-lost girl to turn the film into something else entirely. Hanna’s life has been stripped of everything that doesn’t contribute to her survival. Her complete ignorance of her own misfortune is at times funny. Sebastian, a concerned parent discovers Hanna is an orphan and asks, “What did your mother die of?” Without blinking, she replies, “Three bullets,” leading Sebastian to choke on his pity.

But at other times Hanna’s limitations are just sad. During one of the film’s few peaceful moments Rachel, Sebastian’s partner, strikes up a conversation with the wide-eyed girl.

Rachel: “I feel so grounded in the country, so close to God.”
Hanna: “God?”
Rachel: “Not in any monotheistic sense. Buddha, Krishna, the ‘god  within’. Whatever you believe in. What do you believe in  Hanna?
Hanna: (Silence)
Rachel: “Nothing.”

I can’t say I didn’t wince when Rachel’s pluralism casually combined the world’s four biggest faiths with New Age spirituality. But, however ill-informed, at least her character was aware of that side of her existence. Hanna’s life is more of a half-filled cup. She hasn’t been empowered by her ignorance; freedom from a seemingly irrelevant spiritual world has actually weakened her. Even her enemies come to pity her, realizing her father has, “… truly limited [her] from all the wonderful things the world has to offer.” Atheism may dream of a utilitarian paradise where people live lives unhampered by any suggestion of spiritual realities, but if it comes to be it will be populated by half-persons longing for things they can no longer put a name to.