Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving
Director: Joe Johnston
Chris’ Take: The big concern for me going into this film was that it would merely be a stepping stone to The Avengers. Marvel Studios knew that it had a large fanbase that would show up to this film and they probably knew that regardless of its quality they would still make bank off the aforementioned super-project that is going to be released next year. While there was a fair amount of effort to tie in this film to the other Marvel projects, Captain America was at least decent enough entertainment to leave the viewers salivating for more.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny and asthmatic young man who is desperate to join the U.S. Army and defend freedom and justice, but his conditions leave him marked as 4F despite several attempts to falsify his records. His determination attracts the attention of a scientist (Stanley Tucci) in an experimental branch of the U.S. Government, who is developing a serum to build super soldiers. Rogers jumps at the chance and is transformed into Captain America. His excitement is short-lived as he is instead used as a mascot for war bonds instead of fighting in the actual war. His powers are soon called upon when the looming threat of an underground group of Nazis, lead by the mysterious Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), harness the power of the gods and pose a greater threat than Hitler himself.
The Captain America comics were a very blatant attempt at propaganda during war time. Looking back the comics seem hokey, and the outfit is certainly ludicrous by today’s standards. I was expecting them to almost completely update it and try to provide a grittier film. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of cheesiness, it fit well within the context of the film and brought a certain nostalgia for the old comics, while simultaneously updating it for this generation.
Chris Evans is a charismatic guy and is a perfect fit for Rogers. The script really developed his character and made him relatable and sympathetic before he even became Captain America. I think what bothered me about Marvel’s last endeavour, Thor, was that it was hard to relate to someone that was a god and had always been a god. Rogers’ earnestness and appreciation of his powers makes the audience want to root for him, and Evans never made his ambition seem anything less than genuine.
A lot of the other superhero films focus heavily on how much the main character kicks ass, and how the fate of the world rests completely on their shoulders. In the final battle, Captain America was certainly the only one that could defeat Red Skull personally, but the film as a whole made it clear that he heavily relied on friends and his “team” to get him where he needed to be. I liked that aspect of the film, and in some ways it makes him seem that much more likeable as a character. It made him seem less egocentric than a lot of other superheroes. A lot of other Marvel films have some of those elements, but the characters only rely on friends when they actually need it, or it is almost too late for them to succeed on their own. Captain America plans on needing them, and works in conjunction with them, rather than seeming cocky by running in guns blazing on his own.
The action in the film was exciting, and while it was over-the-top at times, it felt more subdued than a lot of other recent action films. There was a scene involving a jailbreak that was particularly thrilling. Joe Johnston had shown glimpses of his ability to direct an action film, but he certainly was allowed a bigger budget for this one and you could tell he was just having fun with it.
While the film could’ve been better, and did feel a little rushed at the end, it certainly didn’t let me down. All the other heroes (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor), I’ve seen about as much of their course as I think I care to see outside of The Avengers. Captain America is the one character that I hope gets his own sequel once the major assembly is done. With as much money as that movie is probably going to make, I’m sure Marvel Studios will have some left over “change” to make it if they so desire. If they do, I’ll be there.
Pac’s Take: I was expecting to see a different film than the one Captain America: The First Avenger turned out to be. Knowing the film was going to be set during World War II and given the footage I saw from trailers, I was expecting more of a gritty war movie than I was a comic book movie. While at first I was disappointed by this curve ball and seeing this film play out in a completely different tone than what I anticipated, it quickly grew on me and I started to enjoy the ride. The hokiness of some of the film certainly fit in with the agenda of the Captain America comics (the early ones at least), as well as the character’s purpose in the beginning of the film. However, as Hydra emerged as a threat and Captain America’s role became more pivotal to the success of the war, the film did a great job of changing tone (which aided in keeping the pace) and keeping me invested in the story.
There were times where I noticed Chris Evan’s acting and delivery waiver, but I really have to hand it to him, Joe Johnston, and the screenwriters (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) for fully developing the Steve Rogers character and his relationships. Chris touched on this, but the humanization of Steve Rogers really made the Captain America character more likeable. Every sacrifice and effort Steve Rogers made for his friends and his country felt genuine because of this development and really made the film where it could have easily been broken. The chemistry was most evident between Rogers and Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), and it was a joy to watch these two on-screen together.
The fight scenes in this movie were captivating, and while we ultimately knew the fate of Captain America, his close relationships with the supporting cast created a great amount of suspense whenever they were in danger. There was one particular death that I really didn’t see coming, ultimately making it one of the best scenes of the movie. As for the fate of Rogers, though we all know he ends up frozen (this is no spoiler due to The Avengers and the foreshadowing in the first 5 minutes of the film) his self-sacrifice carried an emotional weight with the audience and felt like more than a stepping stone to The Avengers. With as much time as they invested in the emotional humanization of Steve Rogers, I really hope they spend some time at the beginning of The Avengers focusing on Rogers’s adjustment to the 21st century and coming to grips with the mortality of now aged or deceased friends. It would be a great waste to unravel all the work that was put into this film and ultimately diminish its quality.
Many have dubbed Captain America: The First Avenger the best superhero movie of 2011, I’m a little reluctant to give it that title considering how much I enjoyed X-Men: First Class. Still, it is a very good installment, certainly one of the best amongst The Avengers pre-films (it’s between Captain America and Iron Man for that crown). Marvel did a great job closing out the “prequels” for The Avengers, and I’m really excited to see them all come together next year.