Review - Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), PG-13, 124 minutes - This new Captain America movie (there was a terrible one made back in 1990) checked in at #3 on my personal Most Anticipated Films of 2011 list. Cap also happens to be one of my favorite comic book characters so my hopes for this movie were pretty high. Much like Thor, I was quite satisfied with the end result.
Captain America: The First Avenger, as one would expect, tells the origin story behind the character. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny young American who attempts to enlist in the Army repeatedly in 1942. He keeps getting rejected due to his size and medical history. During one attempt, he is checked out by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Dr. Erskine is a German scientist who defected to the United States and is overseeing the Super Soldier Project in an attempt to help the U.S. fight Hitler's Nazi's. He offers Rogers the one thing he wants: an opportunity to join the Army and fight for his country. After showing many beneficial qualities above and beyond his physical size during boot camp, Erskine selects Rogers over more physically qualified soldiers to be the Super Soldier Program's test subject. As you could probably guess, the Super Soldier Project is a success and Steve Rogers is transformed into the perfect physical specimen. Just as the procedure ends, a Hydra spy (a splinter Nazi group) assassinates Dr. Erskine and destroys all of the equipment used causing Rogers to be the only successful test subject. Rogers chases down the spy and apprehends him, becoming a media sensation in the process. Thinking that he is just one man and not an entire army, Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) assigns Rogers and his new Captain America persona to touring the country hawking war bonds. After getting fed up that he is not able to contribute the way Dr. Erskine had promised before his death, Rogers eventually gets the chance to prove his worth on the front lines. That opportunity leads to his hunting down the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube powering Hydra's weapons.
When it was announced that Chris Evans would be bringing Steve Rogers to life on the big screen, I wasn't sure what to think. More often than not he has been entertaining in his previous films. What worried me was that his characters tend to be sarcastic and comedic, neither of which are traits of good ole Captain America. Then it was announced that Hugo Weaving would portray Cap's greatest villain, the Red Skull. Any trepidation I had about casting pretty much went out the window with that news. Shortly thereafter, more names like Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci were added and a pretty solid cast was assembled. As it turns out, Chris Evans makes a pretty darn good Steve Rogers. And just as expected, Hugo Weaving's Red Skull was great. Lesser characters help round out the feel of the film with good performances from Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), Toby Jones (Dr. Arnim Zola), and Neal McDonough (Dum Dum Dugan).
Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid movie whether or not you're a comic book fan or a fan of the movies based upon them. The story may be a little bit cliche (the rise of the little guy), but hey, this is America and that story never gets old. It also doesn't hurt when you use a Nazi splinter cell as your antagonist. Cap is yet another solo adventure in the Marvel Universe (Iron Man, Thor) that leads into The Avengers next summer. It will be interesting to see if they can all fit into one movie. Which reminds me...be sure to wait for Marvel's usual post-credits scene. Not only is there a scene but there's also a quick teaser trailer for The Avengers.
- There are a couple of cheesy moments, but they are obviously meant to be that way (primarily Cap's war bond selling tour). The best part of this campy stretch of the film is the ridiculous costume that Steve Rogers has to wear on tour, a nice nod to the original, classic, comic book design of Captain America.
- Stan Lee makes his standard Marvel cameo.
- While both were portrayed differently in the movie than the comics, I liked how the 'deaths' of both Bucky and Cap were handled. Cap obviously comes back at the end of the film and for The Avengers, but the way Bucky's death was shot leaves the possibility for him to return down the road as the Winter Soldier (as Ed Brubaker brought him back in the comics) and that would kick all kinds of ass.
- Speaking of deaths. It's obvious that the Red Skull didn't die, but was teleported elsewhere by the Cosmic Cube. Will he pop back up in The Avengers as it appears Loki (from Thor) will?
- Between the Cosmic Cube and the inclusion Nick Fury and a younger Howard Stark, they did an excellent job tying Cap into the Marvel Universe that was previously established in the Iron Man and Thor films (although I kind of wish that they had gone into the powers of the Cosmic Cube more. I guess that may be explored in The Avengers as it was part of the post credits teaser scene on Thor.)
- I really enjoyed the inclusion of Dum Dum Dugan, the Howling Comandos, and Dr. Arnim Zola. Nice nods to the comics.
- It will be interesting to see if Hayley Atwell is brought back in future installments to play Sharon Carter, Peggy Carter's niece. For those who don't know, in the comics years later, after being thawed out, Steve Rogers falls in love with Sharon who strongly reminds him of Peggy, his first love.
- I liked how they portrayed the relationship between Bucky and Steve: Steve being the scrawny friend who couldn't join the Army and Bucky being the best friend who was completely opposite in just about every way (in the comics, they don't meet until after Steve becomes Cap and Bucky is introduced as a sidekick).