Captain America: The First Avenger Review

I thought it was about time I finally watched the first three phases of the MCU in a … well, not a row as in daily or anything, but in order over a month or two. That means I’ll review the MCU films I haven’t reviewed yet while I go! Hooray! (and THAT means I’ll have all of the MCU films up by the end, take that Bond films! … *sigh*) I always start with Captain America before settling into release order, and now more than ever does the film feel like the true start as it mirrors the final scene in Endgame perfectly. Also, and most importantly, the film is really good in its own right! Let’s take a look…

Synopsis:

Steve Rogers, a rejected military soldier, transforms into Captain America after taking a dose of a “Super-Soldier serum”. But being Captain America comes at a price as he attempts to take down a war monger and a terrorist organization.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

There’s “From humble beginnings”, then there’s this…

There is a lot about Captain America the comic character that’s really cheesy and therefore hard to pull off in a live action reality, even one that would later go in very weird comic book-y way, and I love how they handle everything here. Chris Evans, who at the time was very much “that guy who played Human Torch?! Really?!” absolutely nails the role, he has a funny vein to him but mostly inhabits the role of Cap perfectly. It’s less “America is great” and more “I want to help save people in the war” so it doesn’t come off as … obnoxious as it could for those like me who aren’t from the USA. The CG effects on Steve Rogers as a scrawny short man is still impressive over ten years later and you do find yourself really routing for him as he tries his best to be a soldier despite all the setbacks. Rogers gets the Super Soldier serum and tries to avenge the scientist who gave it to him in a great chase sequence, then we get to what is still a really clever bit…

As a one off “freak experiment”, Rogers is instead used as a marketing gimmick, given a goofy costume and an all-American shield and used to try and enlist people and promote war bonds in stage shows and the like. It’s the perfect way to explain why someone in the middle of the WWII battlefield would wear such a loud and garish costume, which he does when he heads off to save his old buddy Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and his fellow men who are captured behind enemy lines. After his success he gets to fight alongside his commandos from the comics, attacking Hydra bases and the like, with several really good actions scenes, plus a fun scene where he chooses his shield that involves a classic romantic misunderstanding from his actual love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Peggy is a great character perfectly played by Hayley, it was a nice reminder why she got two seasons worth of spin-off. Tommy Lee Jones also plays a colonel who mostly acts as a drill sergeant to start with, then just becomes the go-to character to have in scenes where somebody with high rank is needed. He is, as ever, very good in the role!

Just think of everything Cap goes through before he actually gets that dance…

Hydra and their leader Red Skull (Hugo “Doing it for the money” Weaving) are good foils, starting off as the Nazi science division and then betraying Hitler when they get their hands on the Tesseract, what we now know as one of the Infinity Stones. It’s here with both Hydra and an Infinity Stone that I had to just think about all the films and TV shows that appeared after it and just go… wow. Anyway! I also have to tip my proverbial hat to Toby Jones as Arnim Zola as well, playing a more rational scientist working directly under Red Skull, he manages to ground scenes where a man with an entirely red head is talking about magic cubes, and that takes a lot of talent!

As the film draws to its end we see Bucky get lost on a train infiltration mission (never to be seen again! … Oh yeah, right…) and eventually Cap lead a major assault on Hyrda’s main complex, which sees our hero board a large plane with Red Skull on it, have a bit of a punch up and then watch as he gets flung into space by the Tesseract (as we now know, this is my first time watching this film after Phase 3, so it was fun seeing how it all links up!) Cap has to tank the plane into the icy waters in order to save his country, and Peggy Carter mourns her loss in a beautiful, yet painful scene as she talks to him over the radio about going on a date.

What I haven’t mentioned is the framing scenes, the opening one being people discovering the crashed plane in modern times, and the final one being Cap waking up in the same time period, I guess the ice combined with the Super Soldier serum kept him going, though it’s never stated (that’s certainly the case in the comics). He’s in a room made to look like the 40s but he soon figures it out and runs out of the room and into modern New York, causing him to stop in his tracks. Nick Fury (good old Samuel L. Jackson!) tells Cap that he’d been asleep for 70 odd years, leading to our hero mentioning “he had a date…” with sadness in his voice. Good stuff, and given Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter kept mentioning going dancing, it all makes a lovely full circle with that final scene in Endgame…

The Bad:

At least when someone has a literal RED SKULL and wears a Nazi-like uniform you know he’s not someone you should trust…

Honestly? Not much! It’s full of great characters, fun one-liners and plenty of well shot action scenes. I mean, maybe at a push Red Skull is a bit generic, but then he always was in the comics! Any villain whose entire character is “I’m a Nazi with Nazi ideals” is never going to be very interesting, though I do appreciate that given he has an exposed, well, red skull they wrote it so that Hitler no longer favoured him due to his different appearance, which certainly makes sense, and given everything Hydra ends up being in the MCU, separating them from Hitler gave them more scope without bringing up Nazis in modern times, which would, sadly, hit too close to home at the moment…

Overall Thoughts:

It’s the star-spangled man with a plan!

Although it was Iron Man (up next!) that actually kicked off the MCU, watching this retroactively first works just as well. The 40s setting is well realised, the characters are all really well developed and genuinely fun to watch, and the action scenes are well shot and exciting. A bit of a wooden villain is a small issue (much bigger in later films…) but in this case I feel the film is a genuine delight and highly recommended.

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