Oh Captain, My Captain
Captain America: The First Avenger is directed by Joe Johnston and stars Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, and Stanley Tucci.
The first thing that I want to briefly discuss is the rather confusing title that is Captain America: The First Avenger. Strictly going by the MCU's time period, no question about it that Captain America was the first Avenger. This, however, is not the first movie in Phase One of the MCU, which had started with Iron Man back in 2008. So shouldn't Iron Man be considered the first Avenger, since he is the first one to be addressed in Phase One?
Water under the bridge. Let the misleading title not take away from all of the wonderfully good things that Captain America: The First Avenger does as a movie in and of itself, even though it can't help but be another advertisement for the first Avengers get-together. A superhero movie can do a lot of things, and as it normally is with Marvel, the end goal is to produce a fun and exciting adventure that doesn't attempt to be anything notably groundbreaking. And that's exactly what we get here.
At its core, Captain America: The First Avenger is a faithful origin story of Steve Rogers and how he came to be America's patriotic super-soldier. The plot begins in March 1942, where Nazi officer Johann Schmidt (Weaving) steals a valuable artifact called the Tesseract. Schmidt is able to harness the power of the Tesseract to create a series of advanced weaponry as well as enhancing himself with its energy. In New York City, we meet the paper-thin Steve Rogers (Evans), who, despite his physical setbacks, is passionate about serving his country. Rogers' passion catches the interest of German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (Tucci), who recruits Rogers into becoming part of his super-soldier experiment. Rogers successfully undergoes the experiment, being turned into a taller, beefy fighter. After Rogers rescues a child from a Nazi spy, he becomes a national icon going by the name Captain America. Rogers goes on tours throughout the country to promote efforts in fighting the war, until he is finally given the opportunity to use his newly acquired abilities to combat the enemy. This eventually leads Rogers towards a confrontation with Schmidt, who, after undergoing his own super-soldier experiment with the Tesseract, eventually takes on the name Red Skull.
It would seem quite easy for a Captain America movie to model itself on emphasizing American nationalism and ideas of justice and liberty, but that's not what's going on here. Captain America shows his passion for serving his country by being out there in the heat of the action, willing to take life-threatening risks when need be. We don't waste time with pretentious speeches about serving the men alongside you or about what embodies the spirit of the red, white, and blue.
- The action is fast and explosive, exactly what you'd want from a summer popcorn film like this one. Some might get turned off by the extended use of CGI, but the film is always moving along at a steady pace so as to never get bogged down with excessive fists and bullets.
- Hugo Weaving plays a surprisingly convincing Red Skull, being able to generate enough menace to come out as one of the stronger villains in the MCU, which has always been hampered by weak villains.
- The movie flirts with out-of-line humor, which is still to this day my biggest gripe with the MCU. This problem was its most tamed during the first go-around with the MCU characters and is far worse in later MCU films. And just to be fair, it's not like none of the dialogue is funny at all. I did get a few good laughs.
So while Captain America: The First Avenger is by no means a masterpiece of the superhero genre, it excels in the areas that it needs to, delivering high-octane action and an enjoyable story to boot. And with a nice villainous performance by Hugo Weaving, this early addition to the MCU is definitely one of its better ones. This is my personal pick for first film to watch if you happen to be brand new to the MCU.
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