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Captain America: The First Avenger

A 2011 film Based on the Marvel Comics Character

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Shields Up!

  • Aug 29, 2011
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Captain America:  The First Avenger is a solid action yarn that tries, at least in my opinion, to do too many things at once.

The plot of the film revolves around Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a scrawny wannabe soldier who gets turned away time after time when he attempts to enlist in the US Army to fight for the Allies in World War II.  His "never give up" attitude attracts the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German scientist who leads a US team of scientists in the creation of a super soldier.  Once he's part of the super soldier program, Rogers proves time and again that despite his diminutive size and weak abilities, there is no other soldier more deserving to become the "super soldier."

Meanwhile, in Germany, a super secret Nazi group known as Hydra have managed to capture the power of an otherworldly cube that allows them to make a super weapon.  The leader of Hydra, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), has plans to not only use the superweapon against the Allies, but against his leader, Adolf Hitler, and the rest of the world as well.

What is eventually revealed is that Schmidt was one of the first men to test the super soldier serum, and his violent and evil ways became enhanced, turning him into the super villain, Red Skull.  This makes him the perfect foil for Cap.

Without giving too much more away, Captain America is used as an icon for motivation.  He is paraded around the country in order to lift spirits and sell bonds.  Eventually he finds himself in the theater of war, and his true leadership and fighting abilities take over.  He handpicks a group of soldiers to help him wipe out Hydra.  This eventually leads to a face-to-face battle with Schmidt, and a last ditch attempt to save the world from Hydra.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I felt as if Captain America was cheated on his origin story.  As I watched the action play out on the screen, I got the sense that the producers and director Joe Johnston were doing as much as possible to get every single little hint and nod to the upcoming Avengers film in place before Cap eventually squared off against Red Skull.  In short, this film came across as more of a set up for next year's Avengers flick, instead of Cap's origin story as it should have been.

The action, albeit fun to watch, was very formulaic.  Even in these scenes, the viewer was fed hints of what is to come via the repulsor blasts that sounded so much like the ones fired off by Robert Downey, Jr. in the Iron Man films.

What caught me off guard, though, was how many nods to the classic Captain America comics were made.  If you've ever heard of the Winter Soldier, Union Jack, or even the Howling Commandos, you'll pick up on them in this film.  Even Cap's shield gets a bit nostalgic.  Had the moviemakers decided to go full bore into the comics world of Cap and leave the build-up to the Avengers film to the post-credits clip we knew was coming, I think Captain America would have been a much better film.

Instead, we get a mish-mash of Hollywood set-up and comic loyalty that doesn't quite work.  Had Thor been released after Captain America:  The First Avenger, I believe that it would have suffered the same fate as everyone's favorite patriot.   

So, why four stars out of five?  For the well choreographed action and, more importantly, the actors!  Not once during the film did I think, "Hey, it's the Human Torch wearing red, white, and blue tights!"  Chris Evans became Steve Rogers/Captain America and made me actually cheer for him.  I wanted to see the Cap succeed and when all was said and done, I felt pretty darn patriotic thanks to Evans' performance.  While Stanley Tucci's role wasn't very big as far as screen time goes, he also managed to win me over with his caring attitude and confidence in Rogers.  Tommy Lee Jones, who portrayed Col. Chester Phillips was very convincing as well, but I've always felt that Tommy Lee Jones is one of the best performers when it comes to portraying gruff, cranky old heroes.  Hayley Atwell was both believable and beautiful as Cap's love interest and fellow freedom fighter, Peggy Carter. 

Also of note are the men who (although not actually called this by name in the movie) would go on to become the Howling Commandos.  Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Kenneth Choi, and J.J. Feild all did excellent jobs with their limited screen time.  The same goes for Sebastian Stan, who portrays Bucky Barnes.

The only actors who suffered in this film were the heavily underused Hugo Weaving as Red Skull and Toby Jones as Red Skull's sidekick, Arnim Zola.  While both of them were convincing in their roles, neither one of them were fleshed out enough to really grab my attention.  Red Skull was merely there to get viewers and Cap to the end of the film so that the studio could promote the Avengers movie.  I do hope that Red Skull returns for that film, though, and is given a bit more depth.

Another reason that I enjoyed this film is its nostalgia factor.  Even though I wasn't around back during the 1940's, I felt like I was right in the middle of them while watching this film.  Director Joe Johnston managed to do this with another of his films which happens to be a personal favorite of mine, The Rocketeer.

Captain America:  The First Avenger
really is a good film.  What it gets right, it nails perfectly.  Unfortunately, it comes off so rushed and so crammed with "Ooooohh, get ready for Nick Fury and the rest of the gang in 2012" that it takes away from the Captain himself.  That, my friends, should be grounds for treason in the good ol' U.S. of A.  I still recommend this movie, and I wouldn't want to be caught watching the Avengers film without having seen this one first.

Recommended to comic book fans for what works in this movie, and action flick fans for everything else.


Shields Up! Shields Up! Shields Up! Shields Up!

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More Captain America: The First Ave... reviews
review by . July 23, 2011
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review by . December 11, 2011
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review by . July 23, 2011
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review by . July 23, 2011
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Kendall Fontenot ()
Ranked #16
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … 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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