I have finally seen everything CE has ever made, so here's a quick write-up on my thoughts. (Also, rough draft for eventual tumblr post.) Am writing notes in segments. (I'm doing one next year for Kate Winslet.)
The recs are ------>. I rec them not only for him, but the entire movie being good, from script to cinematography.Ant-Man
Steve Rogers/ Captain America (uncredited)
Yes, it's a cameo, and it's probably a scene pulled directly from CACW, but can you imagine CE being able to pull this much emotion from you 10 years ago? 15 years ago? From a character as reserved and as internalized as Steve is with his emotions? Ofc, it helps we know Steve Rogers so well, but CE didn't used to be able to play this type of character in an awesome manner. He's come such a long way.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Steve Rogers/Captain America
Okay, I started counting jokingly at the bottom, and can't believe this guy has TEN comicbook films on his resume so far. TEN, and we know there are at least a few more to come before his MCU contract ends. Fandom's current thing is yelling about how only the Russo brothers got Steve right, and how JW allegedly messed up everything, but those screamfests always ignore one person-- CE himself. CAN WE PLEASE START GIVING CE THE CREDIT HE DESEVES FOR STEVE??? Regardless of who is directing him, regardless of what plot is surrounding him, he always manages to capture Steve's "man out of time" isolation, heartbreak, weariness, and his goodness. I think this film is weak, however, unlike the rest of fandom who are (lazy, inept, and never ever do their research) content to blame JW solely, I know Marvel Studios heavily interfered with the final product, both script and editing. I hope JW is able to release a director's cut cuz even it's still a terrible film with his director's cut, we'll know how it was intended to be. But more to the point: CE just isn't given his credit due for Captain here. This isn't a great film by any means -- but CE bring the same pain to Cap that he brought to Mike Weiss. He gave depth to a film where nobody would have been mad at him if he decided not to give any depth to his performance. So I give him kudos for that.
Playing It Cool (2014)
CE plays an unlikeable asshole of a writer, yet the film is self-aware about that (not his character, but other characters calling his character out). So his performance is tolerable -- the problem is the film itself is stagnant. It tries so hard to be clever and to reinvent romcom tropes, but it fails because it just subvert them far enough to make it feel original. Yes, it is ambitious and different, but ultimately -- it's stale.
Before We Go (2014)
His directorial debut. Did he play it safe? Maybe, but gone are the days where movie stars could get 15-20 million projects to direct to prove they had ambition: they have to start small, really small. CE has called this his "film school," which is actually quite touching -- and makes a lot of sense. Is it a badly directed film? No, but it is a cautious film. It's a film that's been done before, and will be done again, but it's a great start. I saw a few critics dismissing this saying CE doesn't dig into Nick's character -- that's he's an uncomplicated good guy. Yet -- that over-simplifies the role. Yes, he could have done more -- but it's only a first film, and many first time directors who are directors didn't even start out as good as this. I'm looking forward to more of directed films.
------->Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Steve Rogers/Captain America
His 9th comicbook film! Fandom loves this film, but fandom also forgets CE had two previous films to get comfortable with who he wanted Steve Rogers to be, and CE has even said as much in his interviews. His acting choices matter too. It's NOT all on JW or the Russos as far as Steve goes as a character. CE decides what layers to bring to this character, film after film. So, yes, I rec this as an excellent political thriller, and as an excellent comicbook film (based on a classic graphic novel of the same name --- fuck you fandom for overlooking Ed Brubaker who wrote the original CA graphic novel this film is inspired by) -- but also for his acting -- but I also don't forget he's had two previous films to assist in making Steve feel so multilayered here.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Steve Rogers/Captain America(uncredited)
A cameo but what a cameo! I would like to know if it was JW or someone else at Marvel who came up with this idea. (Recall the film had a messy filming production and JW was brought in to help do rewrites on script.) Because it clearly is poking fun at then fandom's perception of who Steve Rogers was. At any rate, it's brilliant.
His 8th comicbook film! His roles in "Puncture" and "Sunshine" won him this part, more than his lobbying did. But this is based on a French graphic novel. So clearly at some point in time, CE deciding to stop worrying about genre labels and starting worrying about film quality. Which comes across in his MCU interviews -- but maybe that's why his acting is once again stepped up? It seems appropriate that "Sunshine" helped get him this role, as this film belongs in that same scifi/fantasy category: existential, philosophical scifi that asks important questions about humanity. It's an imaginative, inventive film and I hope he's proud of it, both acting wise and film wise.
The Iceman (2012)
The film where I realized I was in too deep! CE's character wears a terrible wig, unflattering clothes, and is a murderer, and I'm just .... crushing despite all that. The film is a biography, and CE is just a supporting character. But it's a good film. Nothing new -- but still watchable. It's passable would be a better way of stating it. However, the things CE didn't bring to FP's Bryce, he brings in spades here. Don't believe CE can play a bad guy? Watch this. It's chilling (pun intended) the way he conveys Mr. Freezy's lack of concern about lives.
The Avengers (2012)
Steve Rogers/Captain America
His seventh comicbook film. I think fandom mischaracterizes this film. It's an ensemble film, yes, but it's also primarily about Tony Stark growing as a character. However, Tony's growth bounces off of other characters and affects them too. So Steve is primarily reacting to Tony -- but Steve reacting to Tony doesn't dismiss Steve as a character. Was CE holding back as far as acting choices go? Well, if you read the interviews around this press period, he jokingly wonders what Steve is doing there, so I would think yes. But I also think CE was still figuring out what he wanted to bring to Steve, the person, and Captain America, the persona. Also, fandom wants to blame JW for not getting Steve, but I very much do remember plenty of tumblr posts around this film acting like Steve was clueless about how the modern world worked. Own your bullshit fandom. This film doesn't dump on Steve -- you did. On your own --without help from JW (and you were dumping on Steve BEFORE this film came out, becuase nobody except for CE fans actually gave a damn about Steve Rogers). I think CE did exactly what he was supposed to do, and acted exactly how he was supposed to act -as part of an ensemble film. Last but not least, a tweet reminded recently: back when this film came out, nothing like it had ever been done before. We forget how groundbreaking it was that MCU was bringing 4 different franchises together. So, ofc, it's not going to be perfect, but it is ambitious -- and it mostly gets it right. Including CE.
------->What's Your Number? (2011)
Yes, Colin is serious eye candy. Yes, the film exploits that in every way possible. But what a difference a few short years make: for CE gives Colin substance he never gave Harvard Hottie. He also plays Colin in a wide range of ways: from comedic to thoughtful to doofus to assholey. Whatever CE might think about his movies, it's as if he realized he doesn't need to save the Acting for Important Films, but can act -- and act widely -- in all of them. Yes, this film is a tumblr fave, and a CE fan fave, but it is truly one of his best films acting wise.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Steve Rogers/Captain America
His sixth comicbook film, and first MCU film. I'm so glad Marvel Studio pushed him to be Steve Rogers. I do believe I have wrongly credited Marvel for stretching his wings as an actor -- he did that on his own -- but I do believe playing Steve has forced him to go outside his comfort zone and take more acting risks. He's said Steve is unlike him: Steve internalizes his feelings and can be on the very serious side. I find it hilarious that the way CE characterizes as "old-fashioned, traditional," etc (actual words from his interviews) and fandom completely ignores that. (CE's characterization of Steve is far closer to how JW talks about Steve than how fandom talks about Steve.) I do love his acting here. I do. It's not his first Good Guy role, but it's one of the first times he starts bringing depth and complexity to the Good Guy character. I don't rec this simply because the characters get no room to breathe between all the action sequences. (However, I think fandom vastly underrates this film especially given that is sets up the entire MCU universe backstory.)
CE has come such a long way since "FP" and "London" and it really shows in this film. Wheres in the earlier two, you could sense the "Take Me Seriously as an Actor!" motioning, here he's just the part, and he's not afraid to dig deep into the pathos of a messy, tragic, biographical story. This is probably his most underrated performance, likely because the film doesn't have a feel-good ending, likely because CE is stereotyped as a mainstream guy next door actor who does comedies and superhero films (never mind that he's never wanted that type of success but only to make good films). (It also may be underrated and not taken seriously cuz we get Shirtless! Evans here -- but I doubt you'll confuse this film with any of his other Shirtless! performances.)
------->Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
His fifth comicbook film. He's only in the film for like five minutes, but he owns every minute of it. The film is an ode to a certain type of male nerdery, and, yet, the film also side-eyes the nerds (and the villians) it puts forth to celebrate. It's a stylized film: mimicking videogames in setup and structure, which also makes it a very clever film. (CE's comedic films always seem to be about deconstructing or re-imagining tropes -- whether his romcoms or comedic roles within films that aren't romcoms.)
------>The Losers (2010)
His fourth comicbook film, and his first (and so far only) DC Comics film. Jake is everything people love about Colin -- except this is an offbeat, zany, violent film about anti-heroes being morally grey and not exactly winning. Real life tidbit: when his mother had a twitter, she said Chris is most like Jake. I've read some articles on this film being ahead of its time and I agree. It's where superhero films are evolving too: where there is a balance between gritty darkness and comedic lightness. CE steals the film, but the entire cast is excellent.
Perhaps CE is not taken seriously as an actor because so many of his films front the ladies? That is a thought that occurred to me throughout the year. He never really plays the hyper-masculine character. Hyper-sexualized -- yes, but not extremely violent. (Which isn't to say he doesn't play violent characters -- he does. But they typically aren't the heroes.) This is weak film and a weak scifi film, but I do think it shows him once again taking the craft of acting seriously. Gradually but slowly between 2006-2010, he just got really GOOD as an actor. No, I don't rec this film, even if I'll probably rewatch it again (Nick Gant is pretty!), but I do think he deserves kudos for it.
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2008)
CE has a terrible southern accent but, despite that, his acting is really on key. He's finally found the pathos he lacked in earlier films. We see Jimmy struggle and feel conflicted -- realize that there are no easy answers for many troubling relationships and legacies he has to carry. But this isn't really CE's film, it's Bryce Dallas Howard's, and she's a relevation. I love this film. I don't rec simply because I know I know I'm self-identifying w/ Bryce, but I do love it, and wish it was seen more. Also, it's CE's first period drama.
Street Kings (2008)
Detective Paul Diskant
CE himself wasn't bad, the film itself was. It's another one of his travels into playing morally grey characters, but he's very secondary, and doesn't get much to do. Also, the film spends too much time on "gotcha!" twists rather than attempting to delve into character. It thinks it's a deep, thoughtful, challenging film --- it's really not. But given the writers and director -- it's obvious why CE was attracted to the project.
Battle for Terra (2007)
Stewart Stanton (voice)
A foreign animated film dubbed for American audiences. His second and last animated film, and also very very forgettable. It deals with environmentalism, pollution, colonialism. It does some new things within those boundaries (it doesn't romaticize colonialism-- the war mongerers are called out) but I don't remember a damn thing about this film and I didn't care for it. I do hope CE does more voice animation though. (We all know he loves Disney! Hopefully that will pan out into an actual animated film someday.)
The Nanny Diaries (2007)
His second team-up with ScarJo. He's only eye candy here. Could he have made his role more? Yes, I think so. Harvard Hottie has his struggles with his class and family too so CE could have brought more depth to the role. However, this is a comfort food film. A film that really centers the women -- the men exist to cause problems (intentionally or otherwise) but the film is really about women's relationships to each other. So I don't fault him for his acting choices. If I were to rec this film, it would be for the women, not him. So even though I still enjoy the film, I'm not reccing it.
4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Johnny Storm/Human Torch
His 3rd comicbook film. Maybe it was working on "Sunshine" with Danny Boyle, maybe it was because he now had 6+ years in the industry, but his acting is acting good here. Unlike the first FF where he is uneven and obviously doesn't care, here you can see the emotional weight he tries to give to Johnny. Yes, this is stlll largely a popcorn film, and yes, his role obviously will never be a classic, but he brings depth that he lacked even just a few short years before in "London" and "Fierce People."
CE's first really good, really rec-able film. It's directed by Danny Boyle, who knows how to get good performances out out of actors. So the seed has been planted. A philosophical film about the end-of-earth's days and how a group of space explorers are trying to make that not so. This film is very underrated. I know CE wishes this had been a hit, so he could have a different career, but I'm sort of glad it wasn't: I like that his career choices range from indie to Oscar-bait, from action to romcoms. If this film had been a success, I could see him pulling a James Franco or Leonardo diCaprio career shift. I like that his career failures have forced him to be ambitious and not one-note. However, more ppl need to watch this film! (I will freely confess I do think he's one of the weaker links of the film but the film is too strong not to rec.)
One of two animated films CE has made. His second comicbook film. Forgettable, and yet maybe worth watching since CE has said he's a TMNT fan. This is a boring film. There's no zip, no jazz, nothing to get one excited, but it is his first animated film.
A terrible, flimsy movie. Yet, the seeds of CE's acting range can probably be found in this one. He's a drug addict, a man broken up about his girlfriend leaving him and moving on. He's an an asshole and total mess. The seed hasn't been planted yet: it's just there waiting to be planted. The growth came in later films, but I could sense the craft here. The film is only worth seeing if you want to see one of CE's first onscreen sex scenes. Also, lots of barechested scenes.
Fantastic Four (2005)
Johnny Storm/Human Torch
His first comicbook film. His first Marvel film. Not his first action film, but his first big blockbuster film. When asked about his favorite MCU character, CE always says Iron Man, but I personally think he's already played Tony Stark: here, and he has it better, for he's surrounded by family and friends, while still getting to be the cocky, suave jokester saving the world.
Fierce People (2005)
His first outright bad boy role. The film is too much a typical indie soap opera though. Not worth watching unless one is a die-hard CE fan. CE has always had an appetite for indie films and roles that aren't mainstream, but his acting hadn't matured enough to handle Bryce's characterization and make it compelling. Also, the other actors fail to make their roles compelling. Just a snooze of film despite the talent involved.
The first CE film I ever remember seeing. Forgettable. His acting choices remain interesting to me though. I don't think he would make the choice to play the character as a doofus if he made the film today. I think he would try to give Ryan more gravity and self-awareness. This film is famously remembered for costarring Jessica Biel, who he was dating at the time.
The Perfect Score (2004)
CE's conventional teen film with all the mid-2000 teen movie tropes. His first truly Nice Guy role. Completely forgettable, and only worth watching for his first team-up with Scarlett Johansson. Also, I think it worth noting: For a guy who complains about his filmography, he has very few Dues Paying films that actors has to do to build up their resume. Yes, he has bad films, but unlike Renee and Matthew, he can't say he starred in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation." Even his Dues Paying films are slightly more original and inventive that what most actors get.
Not Another Teen Movie (2001)
For those of us who remember 90s teen movies, this spoof probably holds up, but for CE fans don't remember that era, it's probably will be better remembered CE's first nude scene. I don't think the movie will hold up, but I like that he picked an unconventional teen film. I like that it turns the tables on tropes (and is generally self-aware about them) as well opens with a vibrator scene. I actually think a lot of what fans love about CE's later film roles can be found in this film, but the acting is soooooo painfully obvious. The acting seed is still in the package, on the shelf. Full of potential, but in a package.
The Newcomers (2000)
Halmarky-esque movie. CE really doesn't do much in his film debut except look pretty. I only remember this film took a dig at Boston, so clearly he only did it to pay his dues.