Captain America, Heinz Kruger: first impressions

[This may be incoherent because I’ve been up for 18 hours now, but I’m going to be underway with my mom and nieces all day tomorrow, so want to get it out now before I forget stuff. Sorry, no time for pictures here.]

I. The crowd

Local premiere 3-D showing in the next big town over. Ticket was $13.50, which is a sky-high price for around here (normal would be $8-9).Theatre was about half full, and with one exception I was the only person in my demographic there; the vast majority of the audience were between 14 and 22 and I would say a third were Hmong-Americans (interesting to me given the status of race / ethnic relations here. I hope this means that the second generation has assimilated into the middle class), everyone else pretty much white (like most people here, snort). There were maybe five females in the theatre, total. One woman like me and clearly over thirty was sitting alone and I thought about going over to ask if she was there for Armitage and then decided I was too nervous to out myself. Now, this attendance makes sense insofar as this is a pretty high employment part of the country even now and most people here will be working tomorrow and not up for a midnight movie on a weeknight or taking their kids to one, so I would have expected the big crowds, including kids without drivers’ licenses, tomorrow anyway. Two young men came dressed as Captain America, which I thought was cute. So yeah — if the point was partially to get himself in front of another theatre demographic, this certainly qualifies. Almost no protective middle aged women to be found here.

II. The film

I liked this a lot, which surprised me. The last superhero film I saw was Spiderman 2, and under normal circumstances you wouldn’t have succeeded in dragging me to this one. I was expecting something that more closely resembled a video game, and what I got was something that was actually a lot like a comic book. That is: the narrative pacing is like a comic book; the way of telling the story is very story-boardish; the themes in the script are very much like a comic book, with spaces for the interjected comic frame and the interjected serious discussion interspersed with action scenes; and the visuals throughout are a lot like a comic book — Armitage was right that this is an art department that really knew what it was doing. My response to it is that I suspect fans of the comic might really like this film a lot for those reasons (I say suspect because I’ve never read these comics, something that Armitage and I apparently shared until recently). I think what makes it problematic is that the speed is thus off. The film feels like it moves a bit slowly — it neither has the speed of the grandiose summer action blockbuster, nor, because its narrative is so comicbooky in style and pacing, does it achieve a real dramatic depth. This latter issue becomes a sort of problem in the unrequited love scenes between the hero and Agent Carter — you look at it and it achieves all the depth of a comic book frame. So the film feels a bit adolescent without, as I say, ever really achieving the brio of the blockbuster that would make up for it. At the same time, it’s not boring, and I don’t need action scenes played at the pace of videogames to make me happy. On the plus side, it also really avoids melodrama, and what’s interesting about that is that the audience that I was with was clearly struggling with trying to figure out if / when they should laugh. Some moments are clear (boot camp, for example), but there are a lot of places that if they’d have been played either more ironically or melodramatically would have elicited a laugh or a snort. The film sits on an uneasy cusp in that regard.It’s the kind of thing that, if it came on during a lazy afternoon, I’d sit down on the sofa and watch again while I was folding clothes or mending or something — entertaining without being stunning. Anyway, Armitage’s got nothing to be ashamed of here — it’s not a dog, and it seems likely to do well at the box office. This is the kind of part I remarked I wished he would take when he dropped out of Charlie, and I think it would have had the desired effect: he would have been noticed for his association with the project. Now, of course, it doesn’t really matter because of The Hobbit.

Performances: Dominic Cooper and Toby Jones extremely strong, Chris Evans good, Hayley Atwell good but not outstanding in a very stereotypical role. Tommy Lee Jones just what you’d expect, Stanley Tucci okay but not as compelling as I’d have expected. Hugo Weaving strong when he’s using his own face, mediocre when in face mask (and oddly reminiscent of Jim Carrey in The Mask). Will remember Jim Morita and Natalie Dormer, but probably forget everyone else.

III. Mr. Armitage

We were warned this was a small part, and that’s true (in the credits he got 10th billing shared with three other actors, the last cast credit before “and Stanley Tucci” ahead of the production credits), but IMO it was totally worth his time to do it because it was indeed a truly memorable role. (I also think he did all his stunts — I’d have to check again, and he had a driver, but I don’t think the stunt credits included a “Kruger stuntman.” If so, impressive. You can see why they’d ask him to do action again.) There’s one point in it where his character does something really dastardly (I had to laugh because it cites Guy of Gisborne, probably unintentionally) and I heard a woman say out loud, “he’s evil!” and the kid next to me whispered “jerk!” under his breath. Hugo Weaving didn’t get that kind of response from this audience. Unfortunately, Armitage has only about four lines. One is delivered in American accent. Still not a winner, I’m sorry to say, but he didn’t sound English, either (man, Mr. Armitage, you’ve gotta relax that jaw when you’re doing U.S.), and I suppose it can be explained away by the fact that after all he’s supposed to be a German faking a U.S. accent. His German accent was neither the best in the film (Toby Jones — really convincing) nor the worst (Stanley Tucci, unfortunately).

All that said: he got the scene in the film IMO that made the most and best use of the 3-D medium, and the car chase scene is truly exciting to watch — I found myself jerking around in response to the screen. Boy, does he ever work his face in here — the glimpses you catch of it are quick but truly flash memories: terror, anger, determination, evil, etc. Lots to choose from on the negative palette. There are also at least five really great closeups of him (albeit brief, given that most come in the chase scene) that we haven’t seen yet, including one in the glasses for Frenz, so don’t worry that you’ve all seen all the good pieces already in the stills. And he really does get his expressed ambivalence as a Nazi across in the scene where he’s about to blow up the lab. Impressive how he can pack that so clearly into about five seconds. it’s going to be fun to cap this DVD for microexpressions, especially regarding his unbelievably effective employment of his jaw (and for costume commentary — that suit just fits so nicely, though you don’t squee when you see him) when it comes out. Finally, as he referred to himself, he does have a truly fantastic death. You will remember it.

IV. Miscellaneous

Does anyone who’s seen it think that the mysterious woman pictured next to Mr. Armitage in New York on Wednesday night was the actress from the penultamite scene of the film?

Nighty night. Talk to you tomorrow evening, I guess.

~ by Servetus on July 22, 2011.

32 Responses to “Captain America, Heinz Kruger: first impressions”

  1. Hi Servetus. I can’t believe I’m the first to comment. It’s been a while and I’ve missed being a part of the fun and analysis on this blog, although I’m probably your most faithful lurker!

    I’m glad the film seems to be worth seeing. It’s coming out in London next Friday and I’ll be there for my god-daughter’s eighteenth. Don’t laugh, but I wondered for ages if it’s the sort of film I could suggest taking her to, but settled for more traditional presents. I might have to brave being the only middle-aged woman unaccompanied by youngsters, too. The Norwegian premiere isn’t until 12 August which also has me tied up in knots as I won’t be back from England yet and I keep torturing myself with useless “What if Richard made it to Oslo and I’m not there to let me know that his many talents are greatly appreciated over here?”

    At least you’ve seen Richard on the big screen. I’m really looking forward to it, too.

    Have a lovely summer!

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  2. I’ve been eagerly awaiting your report since you said you would go and see a midnight premier. How much screentime to you think he had? I kind of think it is sad that the price for being in such a movie for a few minutes is training for weeks and doing nothing else for half a year. I hope it serves at least his reputation as someone who works hard and who does nothing by half. It is good to know that the movie is at least nothing to be ashamed of, even if it won’t become a classic.

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  3. Thanks for your review. Glad to hear he made an impact with the audience, even if a small role, but a key role in some ways. I’m going to see it on Sunday, I’ll see how many women over 30 are alone there with me in the audience 🙂

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  4. Just read your old post you’ve linked, and I think you put it perfectly. This is “where he could learn “how to be in a film” without gambling his entire reputation on a big screen lead role when he’s never had one before”. Perparation for bigger and better things, including getting a taste of the red carpet and PR machine without being in the limelight.

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    • This last sentence of yours makes a nice point, Jane. That’s the last topic in my “beard” series, so I want to explore it in a lot more depth soon.

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  5. Excellent review. I was looking forward to seeing RA in the theater but not all that excited about the movie itself so it’s nice going in with a little heads up. I agree with what everyone else is saying and will also keep an eye open for other over-30 women. I suspect the ones I do see will be like me and have their kids with them but they might be Armitage fans. 😉

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  6. It was a fun ride, like a roller-coaster. It’s not life-changing but enjoyable while you’re in the experience. I thought Chris Evans carried the movie very well. Obviously, Richard Armitage was incredible! To think he did so much research for such a small role speaks very highly of his talent and work ethic. I admire him more than ever, if that’s possible.

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  7. Interesting about the stunts new article in the Telegraph RA says ‘I’m not a water baby, i can swim but i just don’t. I did 4 weeks scuba training and made myself do 50 lengths every day’
    This in my book is dedication!
    Sounds as those he found the water stunts very challenging to the point of crying ‘ i can’t’ when he had to repeat stuff.
    My opinion of him has gone up a ‘notch’ he really is brave.

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  8. Glad to hear your thoughts – I’m not sure I would go to see this in the cinema without RA being in it, but I would certainly have watched on DVD or TV, with or without RA. So in a way RA is an added bonus. I’m not going to be rushing out on July 29th when it opens in the UK – going to prolong the suspense and see it with a group of other fans in London a few days later.

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  9. Great review, thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂 Shame he only has four lines, but still, seeing him on the big screen is going to be great. It opens here on Friday, so we’ll either see it next weekend or the following Wednesday. Ooh and I just saw another TV ad for it as well! 🙂 Ahh can’t wait!

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  10. Thank you for your review. Oh I can imagine how much RA had to be persuasive, since the kid called him a “jerk” 😉 And I admire him even more knowing now, that for several line in this film he put so many work to prepare to this role 🙂
    To tell the truth, still a wonder or watch the film in the cinema or wait for the DVD. There are so many reasons not to go to the cinema but one GREAT to go

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    • the reason to go is to see his face in such huge dimensions. I want to write about this some more. So many topics bubbling at the moment …

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  11. I just saw it today and he did a great job, but I felt really sorry for him in the water scenes. What a trooper!

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  12. Just saw it today. RA definitely did NOT have enough screen time or close ups for me. However, he did a great job and was an interesting character, so I’m glad for him. I admire all the work RA did for such a short part. Chris Evans surprised me — he maintained a sweetness and sincerity through the film. I enjoyed CA more than other comic based movies I’ve seen, but then, I don’t like fight sequences, etc.

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  13. […] sure she wants. Fans of Richard Armitage eagerly await the premiere of Captain America. The movie premieres. We see him on the red carpet. Savvier fans than I point out the manufacturer of collectible […]

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  14. […] to do this film in this way because he spends way more time watching this kind of thing than I do (just as I felt, at the Captain America premiere, that the film had been made for an audience that pl…). I’m papering over my anxieties with the belief that Jackson is going to obtain an amazing […]

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