Captain America- The First Avenger ReviewJuly 24, 2011
After a hell of a lot of anticipation from fans, Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger is finally in theaters. As it turns out, Captain America is among the best of the comic book movies released this summer. It’s a lot better than Green Lantern, and on par with Thor and X-Men: First Class.
The trail to The Avengers is blazed by director Joe Johnston, and he and Chris Evans bring style and substance to a character that I previously couldn’t give a damn about. I’ve always thought of Cap as just a bit too hokey, too much of a cookie-cutter symbol of USA patriotism and old-timey square-jawed superheroes. I remember smiling when I learned that Evans was cast in the role; if anyone could bring genuine charisma to the character of Steve Rogers, it was the former Johnny Storm (and Lucas Lee!).
Captain America: The First Avenger starts out in a barren arctic landscape, where a group of government officials have discovered something buried. The site is excavated, and before Cap’s shield is discovered, my brother turned to me and asked, “Are we in the right movie?”
Then Captain America smash cuts to WWII-era New York City, where we meet our hero Steve Rogers for the first time. If you haven’t seen the trailers (unlikely), you will be taken aback a bit by the CG wizardry put to work to attach the always-buff Evans’ head to a seriously scrawny, short body. Even as a gaunt punching bag, Evans imbues his character with a likability that is integral throughout the movie. With a lesser actor in the lead, this movie wouldn’t be half as good.
We are shown Rogers’ undying patriotism as he continually applies to be shipped overseas as a soldier. He is constantly turned down due to his tiny physical stature and myriad health problems. He is overheard by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) while talking to his buddy Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and defending his drive to join the army. Dr. Erskine sees the unwavering spirit of Rogers, and offers him a chance to fight for his country- a serum that he has designed, which can turn an ordinary man into the perfect soldier. Tucci does a great job making Dr. Erskine feel like a person, not a throwaway character, in the short screen time he is given. He believes in Rogers, and Steve spends the rest of the Captain America: The First Avenger trying to live up to his expectations and make him proud.
Dr. Erskine tells the story of Dr. Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), also known as The Red Skull, and Cap’s main enemy in this movie. Dr. Erskine’s super soldier serum was discovered by Schmidt, who, as a power hungry man, demanded to be the first test subject. It turns out that the serum brings out the inner qualities of the man; a good man’s qualities become better, while in the case of The Red Skull, he was horribly disfigured. Ever since Erskine defected to the US, Schmidt has tried to track him down and kill him, because he knows that if he is able to make another super soldier, it will be the one thing capable of stopping his plans for global domination.
Tommy Lee Jones is great as an Army Colonel that continually tears down Steve Rogers both before and after his superhero transformation. Hayley Atwell plays the romantic interest, and has great chemistry with Evans. Her character is there to comfort Steve when he is distraught about the fact that, after his transformation, he is relegated to putting on a silly spandex costume (the original Captain America uniform) and parading around in a stage show to help sell war bonds (some of the funniest scenes in the movie happen here). After being booed, humiliated and lambasted by troops serving in Italy, he decides enough is enough and to go on a one-man mission to rescue P.O.W.’s at a nearby camp, and finally gain the respect of his fellow soldiers.
After that, the movie is mostly just about Captain America taking down Red Skull, until a heartstring-pulling ending that sets up The Avengers. All in all, Captain America: The First Avenger was a great summer popcorn flick, and a real star-making vehicle for Chris Evans. Marvel has done a great job in casting all of the Avengers, and it’s one more movie I can’t wait for next summer. Great job, Marvel.