Captain America: The First Avenger
Paramount Pictures / Marvel Studios
Directed by Joe Johnston
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Starring Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Hugo Weaving (Johann Schmidt / Red Skull), Sebastian Stan (James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes), Tommy Lee Jones (Colonel Chester Phillips), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), Stanley Tucci (Dr. Abraham Erskine), Toby Jones (Dr. Arnim Zola), Neal McDonough (Timothy “Dum Dum” Duggan), Derek Luke (Gabe Jones), Kenneth Choi (Jim Morita), J.J. Feild (James Montgomery Falsworth) & Bruno Ricci (Jacques Dernier)
This is how you do a Captain America movie.
More on that in a bit.
The Superhero Summer of 2011 rolls on with the latest entry from Marvel Studios’ growing shared universe of films. Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor– meet Captain America. (Not literally. That’s next summer.)
Back in 2008 when Iron Man was finding wild success all over the world, Marvel Studios announced that they were going to produce a whole slate of films that would introduce members of the Avengers which would then lead to an Avengers film. Iron Man? Already a success. Hulk? He’s got a track record with the general public. Thor? Everyone has at least heard of the norse god and people loved Lord of the Rings. Captain America? Um… you mean the guy wearing the American flag costume? The guy with wings on his head that flank a big white “A”? That Captain America? Clearly, this one was the riskiest of the bunch. Even the most die hard Captain America fan had to admit to feeling trepidation.
But then we learned that the film would be a World War II period piece.
Then we learned that The Rocketeer director Joe Johnston was going to helm the picture.
And then we learned that the immensely likable Chris Evans was going to play Steve Rogers.
The key to Captain America, to understanding who he is and what he is about, is World War II. The smartest thing that the filmmakers did was set the movie during the war. Sure, it’s not the World War II that happened in reality, but it is close enough that when we first meet Steve Rogers and see him as the skinny kid from Brooklyn that just wants to go and fight the Nazis with his friends, we get him. Steve becomes instantly relatable to the audience. We spend so much time with him before he becomes Captain America that we can’t help but like him and when he does don the costume it doesn’t seem as silly because it’s Steve Rogers under that mask, and Steve Rogers is awesome.
The one thing that Captain America: The First Avenger does better than almost anything else is nail the proper tone. It perfectly captures the feel of 1940s America, albeit 1940s America in the Marvel Universe (there’s even a pretty awesome and unexpected unspoken cameo appearance by a character from that era). Part war movie, part superhero movie, part period piece love story, director Joe Johnston and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have taken a lot of disparate elements and weaved them together into a cohesive and really fun film.
Marvel Studios’ greatest strength has been in its casting and that continues in Captain America: The First Avenger. Just about everyone in the film is great with the standouts being Chris Evans who absolutely nails Steve Rogers, Hugo Weaving who makes a guy with a red skull seem normal, Hayley Atwell who is the most kick ass love interest yet, and Tommy Lee Jones who quite unexpectedly nearly steals the entire movie.
There is no great secret to the storyline. Steve Rogers wants to fight in the war so badly, despite his 4-F status, that he comes to the attention of Dr. Erskine and his super soldier project. Given the super soldier serum Steve Rogers becomes Captain America, who then leads a ragtag group of soldiers against Red Skull and Hydra as they attempt to take over the world. The story is pretty straight forward and if there is any deficiency in the film it is that it very much serves to get Captain America from point A to point B. More so than Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger feels very much like a prologue to what’s to come (The Avengers). We know that eventually Captain America is going to get frozen and revived in the present day, it’s just a matter how and when that happens. There can be a certain lack of suspense when you know exactly how the story is going to end, and while the ride to get to point B was action packed and fun, Captain America: The First Avenger did suffer slightly in that sense.
Is Captain America: The First Avenger a perfect film? No. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, though. It certainly stands up next to Iron Man and Thor as another big creative win for Marvel Studios. Of the shared universe Marvel films it’s the one that gives us the most heroic lead, the most emotional love story, and the most poignant ending. Captain America fans will be really happy with the movie. Fans of The Avengers will be really happy with the movie. And people who aren’t into Captain America, The Avengers, or comics in general, but have enjoyed the Marvel Studios films so far will have a blast.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the most frequently asked question that we get with Marvel films: is there a scene at the end of the credits. Marvel Studios hasn’t made it any easier with their epilogue scenes by placing them all over the place — sometimes they are at the end of the credits (Iron Man, Iron Man 2), sometimes in the middle (Thor), sometimes before the credits (Incredible Hulk). This time around there is most definitely a scene at the very end of the credits and that scene leads to a button that gives us our first glimpse of The Avengers in action. Normally I wouldn’t reveal that much information but since the clip has leaked all over the internet it’s fair to say that it’s not a spoiler at this point. It’s also fair to say that it is as stunning as you might imagine to see Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all together on the big screen. Next summer is going to be insane.
(Out of 5)
(This review is spoiler-free and keep the comments that way too. Any comments with spoilers will be deleted. For a full-on spoiler filled review of Captain America: The First Avenger, go here and stay tuned for the iFanboy Special Edition Podcast.)