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Captain America: The First Avenger

A 2011 film Based on the Marvel Comics Character

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The Nostalgic Marvel Comics Movie

  • Jul 23, 2011
Star Rating:

Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun slice of pop culture nostalgia – a 3D film that crosses the gee-whiz imagery of a yesteryear pulp magazine with the rip-roaring action and adventure of a Saturday afternoon serial. Adapted from the Marvel comic book, it evokes an imaginary, almost innocent world of fantastic technologies, sinister domination plots, and gung-ho characters, all of whom believe that good old American moxie can vanquish the forces of evil. Watching it, I saw echoes of films such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Speed Racer, visual treats that were also unashamedly entertaining. I’m not quite sure why it doesn’t quite reach the level of those movies. Perhaps it has something to do with being one of five interconnected films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; if it had stood on its own and not been tied to the other four plots, it might have been truly great.
One of the many ways special effects are typically used is to enhance an actor’s appearance. With the possible exception of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Captain America is the only film I know of in which special effects make the star look like less than himself. This would be Chris Evans; for the opening scenes of the film, his six-foot-tall muscular build had to be digitally manipulated to make him appear short and scrawny. According to director Joe Johnston, this required each of his early scenes to be shot at least four times – first on set with Evans and his costars, second with Evans alone against a green screen, third back on set with only Evans’ costars, and fourth with an on-set body double mimicking Evans’ actions. With this much work involved, it’s no wonder his character looks so small for only about a quarter of the finished film.

Taking place mostly in 1942, the film tells the story of Steve Rogers (Evans), a kid from Brooklyn who’s all pluck and naïve patriotism. He wants nothing more than to enlist in the army and fight in World War II, but he’s turned away at every recruiting station for his sickly build and long list of ailments. His tenacity catches the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), an expatriate German scientist working for the United States government. He recruits Rogers to a squad of soldiers led by the cantankerous Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), all doubt and pessimism. Rogers passes a psychological test – his willingness to take one for the team – and is selected by Erskine to take part in an experiment that will allow him to aide in the war effort. In a secret underground lab located behind a New York antique shop, Rogers is placed in a metal tube and injected with a serum concocted by Erskine, one that enhances his physical features and brings him to the peak of human perfection. He has become a super soldier.
In any good superhero tale, the villain is almost always an eccentric madman that upstages every other character. Here enters Johan Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a former Nazi whose dreams of world domination have far exceeded Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. He too has been injected with Erskine’s serum, but in his case, there were ... some unfortunate side effects. Obsessed with the occult, he’s looking to harness the power of a glowing blue cube, which is said to have been “the jewel of Odin’s treasure room” (I hope you all saw Thor back in May). Even before Steven Spielberg made Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazis have been among the most reliable of movie-serial villains; Captain America keeps that tradition alive, and it works beautifully.

After donning a hooded blue suit and adopting an impossibly strong red, white, and blue colored shield as a weapon, Rogers quickly graduates from war bond stage show celebrity to full-fledged soldier. At his side is Officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a British soldier who will inevitably become his love interest – although they will do no more than kiss. Despite her steely professionalism, it’s impossible for her to not look beautiful; in every scene she’s in, she looks as if she has been prepped for a magazine photo shoot. I’m not really being critical here. Even if it is incredibly silly, it contributes greatly to the stylized comic book atmosphere. The same thing applies to Tucci’s German accent. It’s not too phony, it’s just phony enough.
Along the way, we will meet the showy military inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), father of Tony Stark, who we know as Iron Man. You saw those movies, right? We will also meet Schmidt’s right hand man, biochemist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), who suspects his master may be einen Vogel haben. I think the main reason Captain America: The First Avenger is so much fun is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; it retains that air of heightened reality, and it does so with absolutely no apologies. Although not the best entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – that distinction belongs to the original Iron Man – it’s still a highly entertaining film. Note: All the recent films in the Marvel cannon have required you to sit through the end credits, and this one is no exception. This time, however, you will see a theatrical teaser instead of an extra scene.


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July 23, 2011
Nice review and I liked that commentary you had with the Peggy and Steve thing. In the comics, Steve dated both the mother and daughter...weird right? I really wanted to like this, but the plot was just pretty standard for me despite the services to tickle our love for pop culture. I saw the way it didn't take itself seriously as a weakness since they had originally wrote in the Concentration Camps (as they should've have) into the script. It may not be the definitive Cap movie for me, but it sure was better than the outings in the late 70's and the 90's.
July 23, 2011
I'm not at all familiar with the comic book, which is probably why I was able to get into the movie. I have to say, I think that writing in the concentration camps would have been far too dark. If it's a comic book adaptation, it should have some sense of fun; the real attrocities of the Nazi regime are far too serious, and in my opinion, not at all appropriate.
July 23, 2011
I see your point as to how an adaptation should be fun; and that is why I think comic adaptations have to be treated with the same complexities and sophistication in writing as the comics themselves. The comics do reveal the way Cap reacted to the atrocities committed by the Nazis and this was why he was what he is; he fought much harder to fight the Red Skull. In X-men, they also had mutant concentration camps, and this was the stage set for the mutant massacre. Marvel's appeal has always been how much closer they are to reality unlike DC's books.

I see how it can be inappropriate for commercial viewers, but comics these days have evolved to maturity since the 60's and 70's (which was why The Dark Knight was so successful, it took some risks). One day I wish that H-wood would pay real attention to storytelling rather than merely relying on the iconic status of a comic character.
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review by . December 11, 2011
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review by . August 29, 2011
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review by . July 23, 2011
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review by . August 23, 2011
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Quick Tip by . July 20, 2011
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Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Captain America: The First Avenger is a 2011 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Captain America. It is the fifth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by Joe Johnston, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and stars Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, and Stanley Tucci. The film tells the story of Steve Rogers, a sickly man from Brooklyn who is transformed into super soldier Captain America to help the war effort. However, Captain America must stop Red Skull, Adolf Hitler's ruthless head of weaponry and leader of a terrorist organization, who intends to use a mysterious tesseract energy-source for world domination.
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Director: Joe Johnston
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Drama, Thriller, War
Release Date: July 22, 2011
Runtime: 124 minutes
Studio: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures
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