MOVIE REVIEW: Captain America: The First Avenger (No Spoilers)

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.

4 Stars
(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.)

Comments

  1. I rarely go to the movies, and I’m actually not that big of a Captain America fan. I think he’s great in the Avengers books, and I’ve enjoyed some runs on his solo book, but I wouldn’t rank him in my top 10 characters or anything. however, something about this movie just appeals to me and I really want to see it. It just looks, from the previews and trailers, like a movie i would really enjoy. Based on the review here, I now want to see it more than ever. Maybe if I have an extra $10 next week, I’ll hit the theater Friday afternoon. 

  2. mrfrost mrfrost says:

    This review is great. I’ve always been a big Cap fan, back to the Kirby days, and I’ve enjoyed Brubaker’s recent stuff too. I’m going to see it anyway, but this review makes me even more excited to see it.

  3. KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

    (NO SPOILERS) I saw this at a press screening the other night (thanks to my LCS!) and I loved it! Chris Evans and the supporting cast were fantastic – I particularly enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones (Colonel Phillips), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), and Toby Jones (Arnim Zola) performances.

    The development of the costume is well handled and makes total sense. I loved the sound of Cap’s shield!

    Our screening was in 3D. The 3D in Captain America works – I didn’t experience any “OH SHIT!” moments with it, but it never took me out of the story. The movie is also bright enough on its own that the 3D luminance issue didn’t cause any big problems.

    I enjoyed this more than Thor, and maybe even more than Iron Man. It was just nice to have a hero that was free of snark, irony, or emotional detachment, but wasn’t some kind of angelic wet blanket. Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers is a legit role model.

    The post-credit scene was omitted from our press screening, so I’m gonna see it again! 

  4. ctrosejr ctrosejr says:

    @Conor: I posted a comment on a prior article on this site that I went to an advanced screening of this movie this past Tuesday.  During the screening I attended there was no post-credit scene. I stayed to the end, and I most assuredly did not see the Avengers in action.  I wish I had.  It is not unheard of for screener copies to be slightly different than the final distributed film.  So, I apologize if I caused some of the confusion regarding the post-credit sequence.  I am happy to hear that I have an incentive to go see this movie again.

  5. rottenjorge rottenjorge says:

    When is the podcast?

  6. mikegraham6 mikegraham6 says:

    The Cameo is Hitler right? I bet it’s Hitler ;)
    Seriously though, I’m so excited to this see this but i have to wait until Sunday when my buddy gets back from camping, i promised to go with him. This review has gotten me even more stoked! Good one Conor

  7. KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

    @mikegraham6 I’m not saying your cameo guess is wrong, but I think Conor is referring to something a little more Marvel-based. It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about, but it got a couple remarks from the super-ultra hardcore fans in my audience, so now it all clicks.

  8. srh1son srh1son says:

    Made me want to re-read marvels again

  9. brassai2003 brassai2003 says:

    ” (there’s even a pretty awesome and unexpected unspoken cameo appearance by a character from that era)”
    i won’t spoil it, but look for the cameo in the Worlds Fair scene…it’s a hot one ;)
    @srh1son: Ha! I did right after I saw it! Great book end.

  10. DarthDuck DarthDuck says:

    That cameo was one of the many times i made loud. embassaing noises during the movie.  so awesome and unexpected.

    i also loved the effect used for zolas reveal. 

  11. ato220 ato220 says:

    On my way to see it tonight. I really like the non spoiler reviews that you guys are doing.

  12. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    Because it had such a satisfying villian and climax, Captain America topped Iron Man for me. 

  13. Xeno Xeno says:

    Captain America doesn’t come out in our country until the 27th, so I’m just curious Conor, what do you think is better, this or Thor? I just want to know what to expect from this because I’m having a feeling that this would be a lot better than Thor, although Thor was also good.

  14. queenrikki queenrikki says:

    Great review but let me fix one thing for you 

    and Tommy Lee Jones who quite unexpectedly nearly steals the entire movie.” 

    I’ve read a couple of reviews and it seems to be going for exactly the tone I was hoping for.  So excited to see this movie. 

  15. lorddowney lorddowney says:

    my only issue issue is as cap is the leader of thr avengers i thought he would be smarter.

  16. BC1 BC1 says:

    I think there’s even a reference to another Paramount property set in WW2.  It’s a throwaway line, but I thought it was cool.  This was a very good movie.  I especially liked that it was respectful of the time period; the beginning of the end credits with the WW2-style art montage was very nice.

  17. @BC1  Yeah that was pretty funny.

  18. JNewcomb JNewcomb says:

    Good flick! Bombastic patriotism isn’t my favorite flavor though.

  19. Thor was better. Captain America for some reason lacks character development….and story. it was just blah..ofa movie..

  20. Gabe Gabe says:

    was awesome, but needed more nazis

  21. Rchapoteau Rchapoteau says:

    Personally this movie was a 5/5 for me.  It was the perfect summer movie thats on par with Iron Man 1.  

  22. LakeFToy says:

    Absolutely loved it…Ranks with Spider-man 2 and the first Iron Man in the “best of the best” Superhero movies  (Dark Knight is its own category).  Awesome tone throughout…5/5 from me too.

  23. Phillies64 Phillies64 says:

    The movie was a lot of fun. Conor already pointed out the things I loved about the film. Here are a few of the things I didn’t like…

    -The second half of the film seemed extremely rushed. In fact, I was almost bored with the second half of the film. I feel like a great Cap movie was sacrificed in order to hype up the future Avengers film.

    -The Red Skull was sort of just there. He looked awesome. Hugo Weaving did a fine job, but we got no character or background from him. If the Marvel studios films have one weakness in common, it’s the one dimensional villains.

    -It made sense in the context of the film, but Hydra’s technology bothered me at times. It seemed like something out of Star Wars or Power Rangers.

    I give the film a solid 3/5. It was a blast, but I feel like it played it too safe and stuck to the super hero formula. I also feel like the Avengers connections did more harm than good. I’d much rather have had a great Cap film than another solid piece of the Avengers hype machine.

  24. Now this is what Indy 4 should’ve felt like!

    Just  saw it today, and I loved it! Easily 4/5 (Possibly 4.5/5), I can’t really imagine a more fun time at the movies. I’m a big Chris Evans fan, mainly cause of Sunshine and Push, and he totally embodied Cap in this.

    The character FX e.g. Skinny Steve and Red Skull were fantastic. Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving and Stanley Tucci really delivered as usual. Just like everyone in this.

    The teaser at the end nearly made my jaw fall off, I’m pretty sure it un-hindged at least. Eeeep was all I could get out, though. Last time Whedon worked with Marvel he co-created my favourite comics, please let him do so with films as well.

  25. i just had the chance to see this (yeah yeah bad fanboy blah blah blah life). It was probably my favorite modern comic book movie to date. It really was everything was hoping and more. Joe Johnston really delivered and i thought the Hydra/Nazi thing was handled really well.

    I only have one minor gripe…as a baseball fan, i really wished part of that Brooklyn shootout could have taken place in a digitally recreated Ebbets Field. That would have been epic.