Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci.

With The Avengers movie less than a year away from being released, the pressure was really on for Marvel to get all their solo projects out of the way, so that that film will make sense. With Captain America: The First Avenger, they’ve tied up the last of the loose ends, and done so with quite a bang.

The plot:
It’s 1942 and Steve Rogers is a skinny little streak of pathetic. Yet despite that, he’s got a hell of a moral code and is trying his damnedest to get into the U.S. army so that he can serve his country and fight the Nazi’s. Upon meeting Dr. Erskine in another futile recruitment attempt, he is offered an opportunity. He is entered into the top-secret Project Rebirth, which biologically enhances his physical capabilities and makes him a match for the real threat in Berlin, the demented Johann Schmidt A.K.A., the Red Skull.

D.C.’s answer to the Great Depression preceding WWII was Superman, an all American patriotic superhero who, on occasion, featured in comics which portrayed him fighting Nazi’s. You may or may not have known that. Marvel took this one step further and created Captain America. Losing any kind of subtlety, Cap’s enemies had a tendency to be based on the ideals generally opposed by American values, most obviously Nazism, as embodied by the Red Skull. The comparisons between Superman and Captain America are very apparent, more so in terms of attitude than in actual ability.

Captain America is the good guy, the straight-laced leader, with an exceedingly high quality moral system. And whereas this may seem a boring character arc on paper, Evans manages to portray him in such a way that conjures up a sense of intrigue. After all, it is an interesting premise. What would happen when the little guy, who is always shy and quiet, suddenly becomes a buffed up machine? As is pointed out in the film, the weak respect the value of strength, and it’s nice to see a super hero who is both humble, but also in full awareness of his capabilities. It is this quality that will distinguish ‘ol Cap from the likes of Iron Man or Thor in The Avengers.

We waste no time in getting to the good stuff here. There is no flashback detailing Steve Rogers’ family or childhood. There’s no need. We learn everything we need to know in the first few scenes. Rogers is a runt who is used to being bullied by big knuckleheads, but he refuses to let them overcome him. The only thing holding him back from being the full-blown super hero he is at the end of the film is his physical stature (which is in fact CGI at the beginning of the film, and so impressive you would never know, even if you were looking for it).

The supporting cast all do quite an impressive job as well. Atwell is the love interest and she’s just feisty enough to distance herself from the cardboard cutout girlfriend. And Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as the grizzled Col. Chester Phillips, fitting into the role beautifully with his naturally weary witticisms. One gets the feeling, however, that the Red Skull could have done with a little more development. As someone who has only glanced at the comics before, I know very little of this villain’s motivation or origins, what exactly it is that makes him tick. And after leaving the cinema, little has changed.

Overall:

The film works. It might be deemed a little cheesy, or too straight, but that works well considering the time in which it’s set. Early 1940’s needed an all American hero to look up to and admire, not to ponder over due to his faults. It will be interesting to see how the first Avenger, with his undying patriotism and unshakeable moral values, functions in a modern setting alongside the more flawed superheroes, such as Stark or Banner, in The Avengers next year.

Awful Rating: 7/10

Why someone weak? Because a weak man knows the value of strength, the value of power…” – Dr. Abraham Erskine

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • I really don’t know anything about Captain America…
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